Psalm 86

The Word Made Fresh

(A prayer of David.)

1Listen to me, LORD, and answer,
for I am poor and needy.
2Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.
Rescue your servant who trusts in you, for you are my God.
3Be good to me, LORD.
I cry out to you all day long.
4Give joy to your servant
who lifts up his life to you, LORD.
5You are good, LORD, and forgiving.
You are filled with steadfast love for all who depend on you.
6Listen to my prayer, LORD.
Hear my cry for your help.
7Whenever I am troubled I need only call on you,
for I know you will answer.
8Of all the gods others may worship, none are like you.
None are able to do the things you have done.
9All the nations you have established will come to you.
They will bow down to you, LORD, and praise your name
10because you are mighty, and you do wonderful things.
You alone are God.
11So, teach me your ways, LORD,
so that I might live as you want me to live.
Give me a heart that is not distracted so that I will always follow you.
12I raise my thanksgiving to you, LORD God, with my whole heart,
and I will lift up your name forever
13because your love for me is great.
You have rescued my life from the grave.
14Insolent people are plotting against me, O God,
and ruffians are looking for a way to end my life.
They do not acknowledge you at all.
15But you, LORD, are a merciful and gracious God.
You are slow to anger, and your love and faithfulness never fail.
16Come to me and help me, and give me strength,
for I am the child of your maidservant.
17Give me a sign that I am in your favor,
so that my enemies will see it and be ashamed
because my help and comfort come from you, LORD.


Superscription: this is the 56th of the 72 psalms of David. Two of them, this one and Psalm 17, are styled “a prayer of David.”

1-10: As in Psalm 17 the psalmist is careful to point out his devotion to God. Emphasis is also placed on the psalmists’ status of being poor and needy. But primarily the psalm is concerned with the attributes of God: God is good and forgiving and abounding in steadfast love. Therefore, the psalmist is confident in God’s help.

11-13: The psalmist continues with a petition for God to strengthen his character and with thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love.

14-17: Now we come to the immediate situation: The psalmist’s enemies threaten. The psalmist asks for a sign of God’s favor that will shame the aforesaid enemies and reward his confidence in God.


As the king sitting on Israel’s throne, David always felt threatened by plots to unseat him. Notice, though, that the first thirteen of the seventeen verses in the psalm express confidence in God’s help. That’s about 75%. Maybe that’s a good rule to follow when we pray for God’s help: three words of praise for every word of petition.