“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” This expression simply means, I’m about to pray. David is setting in his own mind a posture of prayer, expressing confidence in a God who will receive it. David’s words express beauty and anguish as he makes a request unto the Lord. He then states the character qualities about God or the theological basis by which his requests are made. David has confidence in prayer, because it’s almost as if he’s making a request and then telling God why he’s going to answer it. God is faithful and when a person prays in light of God’s promises, he will answer. Pay attention to the imperatives (Do not let (2), Make (4), Lead (5), etc.), these are the requests, while the non-imperative verbs are giving us the truth upon which David is relying.
This kind of intentionality in prayer is impressive; we can clearly see David has given this prayer a lot of thought. However, in Hebrew, his intentionality becomes far clearer. This psalm is an acrostic where each poetic line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet—from aleph to tav. This poetic form is used in a variety of passages Pss. 9–10; 25; 34; 37; 111–112; 119; 145; Prov. 31:10–31; Lam. 1–4. All that to say, beyond what David says in his prayer is a lesson on prayer. How much time do we spend crafting a prayer? That is, creating a prayer that is beautiful, precise, and heart-felt.
In terms of the content of this prayer, in verses 1–3 David declares his trust in the Lord as one who pursues righteousness because, “Those who deal in treachery will be thwarted and humiliated” (NET).
In verses 4–7, David prays for right understanding and right direction. The guys in my Colossians summer study have been properly pummeled with the primary lesson we’ve been trying to impart, for which there is another example right here—orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy, right-belief leads to right-action. What a person believes about God effects how they live; in this sense, David is asking to “know your ways, O Lord,” in order that he may learn God’s “paths” understood as the moral principles by which he should live. David understands God’s forgiveness in his covenant relationship with Israel and with David himself. This is witnessed in the term hesed or lovingkindness, which is the special covenantal love that God has for his people. David has faith in what God said he would do, trusting in the character of God that he will indeed follow through.
In verses 8–22, “the psalmist reiterated his prayer for instruction in the true way (cf. vv. 4–5) and pardon (cf. vv. 6–7) for his afflicted soul, but now his prayer was grounded on the revealed character of the Lord” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).
A couple points of application from Psalm 25: First, pray honestly. Verses 16–22 describe David’s situation, and his anguish at the circumstances. Secondly, pray intentionally. As stated above, this prayer took time to write down. Yes, it is an honest prayer, heart-felt, which is not always the case for what one might call a ‘poetic prayer.’ However, David uses poetry to communicate his anguish as well as the theological truth of a God who cares and who will respond.
Take a few minutes today to pray on purpose, maybe create an acrostic of your own using God or Jesus rather than the whole alphabet. For example:
G- God I praise you for your glory and grace,
O- on your promises I will stand,
D- defend me, O Lord, from that which would distract, deter, or diminish my desire for you this day.
By: Tyler Short