“Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore. For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” Psalm 86:11–13

Refreshing your prayer life is a good habit to maintain throughout your life. When prayer lists grow stale and hearts grow spiritually cold, it is a necessary time to adjust your thinking. Psalm 86 is a good model for revitalizing your prayer life.

David is the author, the small print of the first verse tells us so. I like the title that the MacArthur Study Bible gives to the chapter: “Prayer for Mercy, with Meditation on the Excellencies of the LORD.” The footnote describing the psalm tells us that there are fourteen prayer requests included in David’s “Individual Lament” psalm. You may find more as you reflect on its verses.

There are six sections to this psalm. In verses 1–5 we read David’s confession of personal, spiritual poverty. In verses 6–7 we find David’s full trust in God’s practical help. In verses 8–10 David exalts God in His attributes. The fourth section contains the verses quoted above (11–13) with David’s confession of total commitment to God. The fifth section is verses 4–15 where David compares his enemy’s ill-intent with God’s faithfulness. Finally, in verses 16–17, David expresses his personal request for aid in his time of trouble.

The overarching theme of the chapter seems to be the mercy of God. Certainly, David was no exception to the human race. We all grow stale in our spiritual life through habit, distraction, and forgetfulness. Often, as in David’s life, fresh trials come our way by the hand of our merciful God and serve to remind us of our total dependence upon Him. God is all majesty that is made visible to His saints through the lens of His sovereign mercy which He bestows upon His children.

It is instructive to list God’s excellencies found in Psalm 86 and then to list David’s requests. These are the excellencies of God that David lists:

  • God’s superiority over all,
  • God’s superlative nature,
  • God’s redeeming power,
  • God’s character of goodness, forgiveness, and mercy,
  • God’s personal interplay with His own,
  • God’s incomparable nature and handiwork,
  • God’s prevailing and eternal victories,
  • God’s acts in direct accord with His superiority, and
  • God’s acts of compassion—gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in mercy and truth.

This list above encompasses the scope of David’s foundation of faith in God, come what may.

In light of what God has revealed concerning Himself to David, David’s requests take shape:

  • hear me,
  • preserve my life,
  • rescue me,
  • be merciful to me,
  • bestow joy upon me,
  • hear my requests,
  • answer me,
  • teach me,
  • unite my heart to fear Your name,
  • turn to me,
  • have mercy on me,
  • give Your strength to me,
  • rescue me, and
  • show me a token for good.

This list gives us a window into the soul of David as an avid student of God and shows his total dependence, expectation, and allegiance to God.

The lesson for the godly heart is that prayer lists are not to be the soul of your prayers, but your prayers are to be a careful weaving of your prayer needs into God’s self-revelation of His nature. God is the “living Soul” of your prayer such that your prayer requests become humble solicitations for His glory to be seen among men!

Here is how David saw God as the living Soul of his prayer. As David starts his prayer, he is yielded to God’s sovereign care (verses 1-5). His words reflect the fact that God’s interests have become his. David’s highest desire is to be God’s servant, to be devoted to God, to trust expressly and completely in God alone. His words rely on God’s goodness, forgiveness, and His abounding mercy.

Next, David asks for practical help in his present troublesome need. He has unshakeable trust that God will answer him (verses 6–7).

His certainty of an answer from God is evident in the content of David’s worship in verses 8–10. He has nothing but superlatives to describe the Lord. Twice he calls God his Master. God is the living Soul of David’s prayer! His words echo our Lord’s Model Prayer in Matthew 6: “You are God alone!”

From adoring worship, David returns to his complete submission to his covenant-keeping God. His words in verses 11–13 strike familiar cords in the heart of every believer! An undivided heart in loyalty, rapt attention to God, and long-term commitment, is a prayer request God is sure to answer! The One who has delivered your soul from death and Hell deserves your undivided heart.

The cornerstone to David’s last two sections is found in verse 15. God is full of compassion, graciousness, longsuffering, and He abounds in covenant love and faithfulness. Think on these things and enjoy a revitalized prayer life today! Trust and obey.