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Crying Out To God Together As A Christian Family: Prayer Tips From Psalm 86 // Episode 126

Prayer is central to the Christian life, and the Christian family. These insights from Psalm 86 help your family pray together.

family folding their hands together over a Bible in prayer

Is it really necessary to spend time crying out to God as a family?

A Christian is someone who has given their life to Jesus. Is this you? Have you heard the truth of the gospel and decided to follow Jesus? When you cried out to God to save you, He did!

But this crying out to God did not end on the day you became a Christian.

In fact, as the Holy Spirit helps you to know God more and more, you will probably find yourself crying out to him more and more! And as a wife and mom, you start to pray for your family too. You want them to also draw closer to God and know him better and better.

Prayer is your connection with God. It is central to the life of a Christian. But it is not only an individual act. Prayer is also central to the life to a healthy, happy, and holy Christian family. 

As a family, you can confess sin, experience forgiveness, and live out the fruit of the Spirit in unique ways. There is an intimacy to family life that allows for the Christian life to be lived more fully. IF that family is crying out to God for help and guidance! 

So today, we’re continuing our Summertime in the Psalms series with a look at Psalm 86. Let’s seek out biblical tips for how your family can seek God through pray together.

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What can family prayer time look like?

If you struggle personally with your prayer time, it is a fair guess that you struggle with family prayer time. So let’s paint a picture from the Scriptures together of what this time should look like!

While the Bible is the best place to start with understanding what prayer is and how to do it, many of us like to have practical tools also. If that’s you, grab my popular prayer template to give you some structure and guidance to your daily prayers.

(And if you aren’t even comfortable yet with a daily Bible and prayer time, start with my FREE Holy Habits 45-Day Bible & Prayer Challenge to get you going!)

Today, let’s look at what Psalm 86 teaches us about prayer time. 

Digging into Psalm 86

Psalm 86 is introduced as a “Psalm of David.” It is not known if David wrote this psalm while he was still a young shepherd boy, if it was during his time running from King Saul, or if he wrote it after he became king himself. 

But as we read the psalm, it doesn’t matter. As David prays in this psalm, he is reaching out to God. This is needed during any season of life! And his focus is far more heavy on who God is than what David’s problems are. 

There is a lot we can learn about crying out to God in prayer. Let’s dive in.

Verses 1-5

1 Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
2 Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God;
3 have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.
5 You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.

These opening verses show us the pattern of prayer in this psalm. David is crying out to God (v. 1-4) and then pausing to focus on God’s character and praise him (v. 5).

This is exactly what your prayer time needs to include! 

As an individual, you follow this pattern. And as a family, you can do the same.

While prayer time might sound different with more voices around the tale, this psalm makes clear that God responds to ALL who call on him. Christian parents have a special opportunity to model prayer for our kids and also to lead them into calling on him for themselves. 

David spotlights several elements of God’s character here that are worthy of praise. God hears us and answers us; He guards us and is merciful to us; we find joy in him. And then in verse 5, it focuses specifically on praising who He is: forgiving, good, and abounding in love. 

Clearly, prayer is important. The psalmist does this all day long (v. 3) and recognizes that God is loving “to all who call” on him (v. 5).

Verses 6-10

6 Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
7 When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.
8 Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
    no deeds can compare with yours.
9 All the nations you have made
    will come and worship before you, Lord;
    they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
    you alone are God.

Do you notice the same pattern? The psalmist (David) again calls out to God (v. 6-8) and then pauses to praise God for who He is (v. 9-10).

In these verses, we see the prayer deepening. As David acknowledges his distress, he is crying out. No one can help him except God (v. 8). And he knows that God answers him (v. 7). 

God answers your family’s prayers too. 

As verse 9 then widens the reach to include “all the nations” coming to worship God and glorify him, we can see clearly that our Christian families should do the same. If all the nations will praise God, our little “nation” should praise God too!

We continue to see God’s character praised throughout Psalm 86. The Lord listens (v. 6), answers (v. 7), and He is praised for being great and doing marvelous deeds that no one else can do (v. 10).

Verses 11-13

11 Teach me your way, Lord,
    that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
    that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
    I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me;
    you have delivered me from the depths,
    from the realm of the dead.
14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
    ruthless people are trying to kill me—
    they have no regard for you.

Finally! A specific prayer request.

This is usually where we start in prayer: asking God for the thing we need. Yet, David has waited this long to get specific. And even when he is specific, his prayer request is for spiritual growth. 

David acknowledges his hard situation here, that he is being attacked and targeted by “arrogant foes” (v. 14). Yet David simply focuses on seeking to know God better and committing to praising him. 

Everything that the psalmist asks for is connected directly back to who God is. The psalmist is crying out to God during a very difficult situation, asking for an “undivided heart” (v. 11) while praising God for his great love and deliverance (v. 13). 

When your family faces a difficult circumstance, Psalm 86 gives a beautiful and clear picture of how to pray. You don’t need to pretend that you aren’t struggling. You just need to focus on the One who is far bigger and better than the struggle.

Verses 15-17

15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;
    show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you
    just as my mother did.
17 Give me a sign of your goodness,
    that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
    for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

David closes this psalm with more praise for God’s character (v. 15), and another request for God to show himself to David (v. 16-17). 

Yes, David acknowledges what he needs from God. “Save me,” he asks in verse 16. “Give me a sign of your goodness,” he continues in verse 17. But as usual, these requests are weaved into a beautiful prayer of praise for who God is. David can only ask these things because of who God is.

Throughout this psalm, we have seen a pattern of prayer that can guide our families. In crying out to God together, we focus on who God is and we offer him praise. Yes, we acknowledge our pain and hardship, and we ask for what we need. But ultimately, what we need is God himself. 

Let’s take a look at a few big take-aways for how Psalm 86 applies to Christian family life and our prayers together.

Crying out to God: Take-aways for Family Prayers

In Psalm 86, there are 3 repeated elements of prayer. As your family comes together for prayer, these 3 elements will guide you.

Whatever your family prayer time looks like, these 3 elements need to be included. Prayer is not a magic wand that changes everything instantly. And it may not always feel easy or powerful. 

But it is incredibly important. 

Family prayer will shape your family’s heart and attitude toward God. Let’s look at these 3 take-aways from Psalm 86 for how your family can come together in prayer.

1. Recognize your need for God together.

David starts his prayer by recognizing “I am poor and needy.” And we must do the same!

David is crying out to God because he sees his need for God. Is this true for your family? Do your hearts recognize that you need God?

Jesus starts his famous Sermon on the Mount in the same way. Matthew 5:3 starts this sermon with the beatitudes, and the first one that Jesus highlights is “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

You and your family are blessed when you recognize and confess that you are “poor in spirit.” Whatever situation you are facing – in the good seasons and the hard seasons – you need God. So tell him that. Confess that truth in your prayer. 

In a practical way, you can help your family recognize their shared need for God by:

2. Recognize God's character and praise him for it.

There is no end to the qualities of God that are worthy of our praise. In this psalm alone, we are reminded that God is merciful, forgiving, god, abounding in love, trustworthy, great, slow to anger, and so much more. Could you ever stop praising him?

And when your family joins together in prayer to praise God, there are several benefits to your family. Among other things, humility, wisdom, gratitude, compassion, and patience are all a little easier when we are focused on God’s greatness and glory.

3. Turn your family problems into family prayers.

While writing this psalm, David was struggling with some very serious problems. He was in distress and under attack. He had some very real problems and needed some very real help from God. 

Yet, he did not spend his prayer time here complaining. He avoided giving a big list of things that he needed God to do. Instead, David focused on crying out to God. He sought mercy, help, and deeper intimacy with God. He praised the Lord and put his trust in God’s character, not his solutions.

Your family can do the same thing. 

Every family faces struggles. There are seasons in most families’ lives that are very, very difficult. There are problems that must be dealt with. 

But when your family is in that season, your best course of action is to cry out to God together. Seek God’s face. Ask him for what you need, but not without highlighting his greatness along the way.

Listen to Episode #126

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