The psalmist exposes the desire of their heart here. It’s not exactly a prayer, more of a wish, a wish that they can keep God’s statutes.
The Hebrew word translated here as “O that” is ‘ahalay. (As you surely realize by now, it must start with the letter Aleph to begin a verse in this Aleph section of the acrostic.)
The only other place the word ‘ahalay appears in the Hebrew Bible is when the unnamed Israelite servant girl tells her mistress, Naaman’s wife, “O that my Lord were with the prophet in Samaria. Then he would cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3). Naaman, the Aramean general has leprosy, and in the spirit of Jesus’ command to love your enemies (Matt. 5:43), this servant girl wishes (the NAS translates ‘ahalay here as “I wish”) that the man who kidnapped her and took her from her family gets healed. Naaman listens to her and eventually gets healed (2 Kings 5:4-15). An amazing story.
Similarly, the psalmist wishes to remain captivated by God’s laws. What does that tell us about the psalmist?
1) The psalmist prefers captivity to God’s statutes over freedom.
2) The psalmist knows that help will be needed to keep God’s statutes.
3) The psalmist believes that God is interested, willing and able to help the psalmist fulfill their wish.
God, make me more like the psalmist. What wishes do you express to God?