This psalm is called a “Royal Psalm” because it celebrates the King. These would have been used on special occasions, such as the coronation of a new monarch. Notice that this psalm is different from the others we have read. While most psalms take the form of prayers asking God to help the worshiper, this psalm is a prayer by the worshiper for someone else - the King.
The first half of the psalm is a series of requests that the King be successful, that God would look out for him, and that God would “remember his sacrifices” - which is another way of saying that God would forgive the King when he made mistakes. In essence, this psalm is a prayer request from David to his people. David is telling them that he needs their prayers, and to ask for these specific things when they pray for him.
One thing this psalm reminds us is that we, as followers of Christ, ought to pray regularly for our leaders. We live in a complex society with many levels of leadership. We have national leaders, like the President and congress, as well as local leaders like governors and mayors. Most of us also have more personal leaders, like parents, coaches, principals, pastors and teachers that influence our lives in profound ways.
We are called to pray for them all. Note that this expectation isn’t conditioned on our liking a particular leader - the psalm wasn’t just written for good kings like David, but intended to be used as a prayer for all of them - godly and ungodly, wise and foolish. Christ commands us to “[L]ove your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt 5:44 NIV) We ought to pray for those leaders we despise as much or more than those we appreciate.
After beginning with a long prayer in support of the King, the psalm ends with a reminder that, while we are called to pray for our leaders, we are not supposed to rely upon them. Victory and prosperity don’t come from the King or his army, but from God. As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, who are only temporary guests on this earth, we don’t put our trust in “horses and chariots,” but in “the name of the Lord our God.” (Ps. 20:7 NIV) Our leaders deserve our prayers and our love, but our trust is in God, not in the humans who lead us.
As we enter what is bound to be a contentious election season, I urge you to pray for the leadership of our country, our churches, our cities, our states and our schools. But as you do, remember that it is God who deserves our worship and it is in Him that we place our trust.