Very few things can wake me up in excitement at 2am as Psalm 51 with king David’s brokenness and God’s tender yet mighty response. I hope this will speak to you as it did to me. Blessings! -Petar
The world would be completely different if no one was honest. So would your repentance and prayers. In fact, one’s repentance and prayers are so different when they are not honest, that it is as if they weren’t there at all. There is no faked repentance, neither is there faked prayer. They are either real or no such at all. However, let us pay some attention to the sincere repentance and prayer. Psalm 51 is one of the most powerful and descriptive texts from the Bible on this topic.
The whole story behind this psalm you can read in the book of 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. To summarize it, the story goes like this: king David is walking on the roof of his house and sees a beautiful woman showering – Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. He sends people to bring her and he sleeps with her. After this he sends her back home. Soon enough, however, she lets David know that she is pregnant. As a response to this David sends her husband, Uriah to the first line of the military fights that are going on at the time, and gives instructions for him to be left alone so that he can be killed. Once Uriah is dead David takes Bathsheba for his wife and she gives birth to a son. “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord” (2Sam. 11:27, NIV). Then God sends the prophet Nathan, who reveals to David his sin. Seeing it David repents. Psalm 51 is David’s repentance and prayer to God.
Perhaps the first thing which is striking in this psalm is David’s acknowledgment of his own sins and his prayer for God’s cleansing. Sadly, it is not the majority of people today that have the courage to confess their sins in such a way. Our culture and society continually introduce new norms of tolerance which render the need of forgiveness and repentance non-existent. Before God, however, these norms have no validity. In our relationship with God, the only way of dealing with sin and wrong choices is our sincere prayer of repentance. Knowing this, how much more powerful are David’s words: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1, NIV). God’s love and compassion never fail and never end!
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-11, NIV). So continues David his prayer. These words say not only how deeply he desires God’s presence, but also are a testimony of David’s faith in God’s ability to do it all. Moreover, David knows that God will not leave him. The confirmation of this you can find in verse 17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (NIV). David is praying with faith namely because his spirit and heart are both broken. God’s word, as well as the life of each believer is the testimony that God will surely not despise our sincere and honest prayer and repentance. So, do pray sincerely! Repent at this very moment if the Holy Spirit is leading you to a prayer of repentance for whatever sin there has been in your life!
David’s prayer is not over yet. Verses 13-15 without a doubt place an important question before me, you, and any other believer: “Why do I pray?” David’s prayer does not finish with his petition for forgiveness. Let our prayers continue on as well – according to the Spirit’s leading and king David’s example. Let us continue praying and in our prayers surrender our lives in God’s hands for him to make use of. And still, it is not time for Amen! David finishes his prayer with a request for blessing upon the people whose trust he betrayed through his sin – verse 18.
Do not forget this vivid example of prayer. May psalm 51 continually remind you of the fact that our prayers don’t work like a snack machine where we stick our coin and get what we’ve requested in a matter of seconds. May our prayers be honest, thirsty for the fulfillment of God’s will, and not in last place – not for our own convenience but for God’s glory. As you pray for forgiveness, do not forget to pray for the people that may have felt the consequences of your sin, for there is no sin which affects the sinner alone.
“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”