David’s repentant prayer

Posted Oct 27, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Psalm 51:1-17

1 Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
    Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
2 Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
    purify me from my sin!
3 Because I know my wrongdoings,
    my sin is always right in front of me.
4 I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
    I’ve committed evil in your sight.
   That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
    completely correct when you issue your judgment.
5 Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
    you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.
7 Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
    wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and celebration again;
    let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
9 Hide your face from my sins;
    wipe away all my guilty deeds!
10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
     put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
     please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
     and sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach wrongdoers your ways,
     and sinners will come back to you.
14 Deliver me from violence, God, God of my salvation,
     so that my tongue can sing of your righteousness.
15 LORD, open my lips,
     and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
16 You don’t want sacrifices.
     If I gave an entirely burned offering,
     you wouldn’t be pleased.
17 A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God.
     You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.

Reflection Questions

After Nathan’s challenge (cf. 2 Samuel 12:1-13), David didn’t make excuses, but decisively turned away from his reckless, destructive course. He couldn’t undo his actions—Uriah was dead—but he could again become the God-honoring king Israel had come to love. Psalm 51 reflected the inner spiritual dynamic it took for this bold man of action to “own” his serious moral errors. It’s impossible to accept God’s forgiveness while stubbornly denying that we’ve done anything that needs forgiveness. David cast himself utterly and unreservedly on the mercy, not of the court, but of his God. He found his clever striving to cover things up replaced by a renewed peace with God and others.

  • A central gospel truth is that God loves us just as we are, and loves us too much to leave us as we are. Pastor Hamilton wrote, “Don’t pretend you’re seeking forgiveness if you’re really not. The kind of half-hearted apologies we sometimes offer don’t cut it here.”* What does Psalm 51 teach you about whole-hearted repentance? When have you been able to talk to God in that forthright, unqualified tone? If you struggle to admit to yourself, others or God that certain actions or attitudes were wrong, read Psalm 32, which many believe David also wrote after he gave up his efforts to hide his wrong actions. If necessary, ask God to help you stop concealing your guilt, and to restore you to joy and wholeness.


Jesus, I join David in praying, “Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.” “Create a clean heart for me, God; put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!” Amen.

Family Activity

As a king, David could use his power wisely or unwisely for God. As a family, discuss how you prepare for making choices that honor God. Do you save money for a vacation, study for a test, or walk often to build stronger muscles? Typically, when we prepare, we can handle the event or activity in a more healthy and helpful way. Since life will bring about times of struggle and challenge, we can prepare now by growing stronger in our faith. Talk about how you might do this together (consider learning Scripture, being in prayer, serving others, being in worship and sharing in Christian community). Then choose one or two ways to build your “family faith muscles” over this next year. Ask God to help you use your power and strength for Him and remember He is always with you!

* Hamilton, Adam. Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go. (Kindle Locations 255-256). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

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Addie Layne

Addie Layne

Addie uses her project management and marketing skills as a part of the Communications team at Church of the Resurrection. Outside of work she likes to bless others by volunteering with Junior League and Central Methodist University (her alma mater). Mugs of hot tea fuel her adventures to explore new places and try new recipes to share with her family and friends.

My high school Sunday school teacher Mrs. Wilson first explained sin in a way that I was able to understand for my life: Sin is separation from God. Not all sins are equal, but all sin does separate us from our open relationship with God. Which sounds a bit intense, but the good news here is that when we humbly repent all our sins to God we’re forgiven. Super easy, right?! 

Well, I don’t know about you, but having to admit to anyone that I have screwed up is not an easy task for me. I like to internalize my faults and figure out ways to solve these issues on my own before vulnerably admitting them to others. But this lack of vulnerability causes an issue with my relationship with God. I should want to eliminate any degree of separation that I’ve created through sin, not wait to talk to God until I can receive an “A” (or at least a solid B+) on my spiritual report card. 

In this passage David is really laying out his sin to the Lord. Verse after verse David pours out to God what he’s done wrong and the separation he feels from God because of it. This is much deeper than the repentance portion of the prayers that I often find myself praying: “…and forgive me for my all sins against you.” And I then move right on to the easier parts of prayer--to glorify God for things He’s doing, or praying for others. Because, Lord knows, I’m perfect and don’t need to ask real forgiveness for specific sin, right? Or the more classic, "God knows all my sin, so why should I have to confess it?" 

Trying to deal with sin and shame by only coming to God when things are “good” or glossing over sin in prayer leaves us separated. When the reality that I have to remind myself of is, God loves me just as I am right now--even IF that current state is a hot mess express. There’s nothing I can do that would make God not love me. So why would I want to create separation from a God filled with so much grace and love, by hiding these uglier parts of life? 

The redeeming part of David’s psalm that really spoke to my heart was the final verse of chapter 51: “A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God. You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.” When I show God my brokenness, He will not turn away from me. There’s no sin that can keep me separated from God, if I trust in His grace and repent these sins to Him. 

That IF is something I admittedly struggle with. I’m trying to talk to God about my sin the way I would talk about a time I’ve screwed up when talking with a friend. I wouldn’t tell a friend, “Hey, by the way… sorry I screwed up. So same time tomorrow?” I would provide details and really work to try and figure out how I hurt the other person. This closes the separation that my actions caused. Remembering that God is a friend has helped me when repenting of ways that I have sinned, because after all--God is the best friend I have!

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