Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. (Psalm 86:11)
Psalm 86 is a prayer for help from a specific threat, namely “a band of ruffians seeks my life.” But before the writer ever names the threat, they spend many verses praising God and declaring their confidence that God will answer their prayer. The writer seems fully and completely devoted to God and trusts God alone will help.
Yet still they pause in the praise and pleading to ask God to “teach me your way” and they pray for “an undivided heart.” It’s as if they know how quickly and easily one can be pulled away from God and look to other sources for their help.
Our hearts get pulled in many different directions. Our love for helping others may come up against our love of money. Our love for our family of origin may not always square with our love for our family of marriage. Our love of sports or other leisure activities may draw us away from our love of God and church.
We live in a world full of demands, each constantly seeking our full attention and devotion. Work, family, friends, hobbies all take up time and call us to serve each of them first. Our hearts can be quickly divided with God and faith pushed aside.
The Psalm recognizes an important truth, and that is that a heart centered in God and God’s ways lets us keep all those other demands in perspective. With hearts united in a love of God first of all, the rest of life falls into place and even the threat of “ruffians” doesn’t seem so threatening.
The heart of this prayer for help is for help in keeping our lives centered in God. With such an undivided heart, any challenge can be met.