Psalm 86

Read: Psalm 86:7, 14; Psalm 20:1, 50:15, 59:16, 77:2

Psalm 86 is one of five psalms identified as a tephillim, which is the general Hebrew term for prayer. All psalms can be used as prayer; this psalm is prayer, and as such we can learn about prayer from it. Verses 7 and 14 tell us the occasion for this prayer: it arose in a day of trouble, when the proud had risen against David, and violent men sought his soul.

Think About It: What are some circumstances in David’s life that fit this description of such a “day of trouble”? From what we know of David’s life, was he the type of person who prayed only when he was in trouble?  What is my first response in the “day of trouble”? Is prayer a last resort for me?

Prayer: Commitment to call on God at all times, and in my day of trouble.


Read: Psalm 86:1, 2; Isaiah 64:6; Luke 18:9 – 14; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9

The first two verses of Psalm 86 tell us what the suppliant, David, recognized about himself as he called out to God in his day of trouble. First, v. 1, he described himself as “poor and needy.” If we don’t recognize our need, we have little motivation to ask for God’s help. Second, in v. 2, David described himself as “holy.” This sounds proud, until we see that this holiness is linked with a plea for salvation based on trust in God. David came before God wrapped in the righteousness that comes through faith. We can have no standing before God, no hope of being heard, if our plea is our own righteousness, for no one is perfectly righteous, and such righteousness as we have is to God as filthy rags.    What a privilege it is for us to stand before the throne of grace clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

Think About It:  What are the chances of a suppliant who approaches God with a prayer that boasts in self-righteousness, or gives God orders? What kind of prayer does God accept?

Prayer: Praise God for the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ.


Read: Psalm 86:3, 4; Matthew 6:7; 26:39 – 44; Luke 18:2 – 8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Verses three and four of Psalm 86 tell us about David’s actions in prayer: he cried unto the Lord daily; he lifted up his soul.  Augustine compared the act of lifting up the soul to storing grain in the loft, where it is warm and dry, rather than in the cellar, where it becomes moldy and worm-eaten. Spurgeon notes that lifting up the soul to the Lord is a long way to lift; fortunately, in verse 1 we learn that we have hope that God will bow down His ear to us.

Think About It: What in my life is the “cellar” where my soul is in danger or rotting? What is the difference between “vain repetition” in prayer, which Jesus forbade, and persistence in prayer, which He commended?

Prayer: Pray for persistence; lift up your soul to God.


Read: Psalm 86:5, 8, 10, 15

In Psalm 86, David reflected at length on the character of God. “Lifting up the soul” to God involves thinking about who He is.

Think About It: What are some of the characteristics of God according to this Psalm?  What most encourages me when I think about these characteristics of God?

Prayer: Praise God for His greatness.


Read: Psalm 86:1 – 4; 6; 11; 16 – 17

David made many specific requests in Psalm 86.  

Think About It: List the requests that David made in Psalm 86, given in the verses for today. What does it mean to ask God to “unite my heart”? Why is it that David desired a “token” for good?  Which of these requests is nearest to the need of my heart right now?

Prayer: Ask God for what I need.


Read: Psalm 86:7, 11- 12; John 7:17; Psalm 25:12

David made commitments to God in this prayer. In verse 7, he commited himself to pray. In verse 11, having asked God to teach him His way, he commited himself to walk in God’s truth. In verse 12, he commited himself to praise God and to glorify His name forever.

Think About It: Why is a commitment to walk in God’s truth important to make for those who want to know the truth? Will God confirm His truth in the life of someone who is disobedient?  What does this suggest about the origin of at least some spiritual doubt and confusion?   Have I committed myself to obedience to God?

Prayer: Commitment to obey the truth.


Read: Psalm 86:7, 13, 17

David affirmed what God had done and would do in this prayer.  The psalms frequently contain affirmations of God’s response to the prayer of faith.

Think About It: According to Psalm 86, what had God done and what would He do to answer the psalmist’s prayer? How have I experienced these same actions of God in my life?

Prayer: Praise God for His salvation, His help, and His comfort.