Recently, I spent some time meditating on Psalm 51. It is one of the most extraordinary of all David’s songs. I have gone back to this beautiful Psalm so often through my Christian walk. It paints a beautiful landscape of what confession looks like in our spiritual journeys.
What’s amazing about this Psalm is that David wrote it for all the world to sing after having an immoral affair and having a man murdered. David knew he was guilty. In repentance, he went before the Lord and poured out his heart. He didn’t hide his sin. He laid it all out before the Lord and before his fellow mankind. His Psalm is still sung and read in churches today! What an example of vulnerability David is for church leadership today: honestly admitting and repenting for sin. All of us have our weak moments and times when we completely blow it. God is a God of mercy, and He always forgives. However, God calls us to live a life of humility and vulnerability. That’s the place where His mercy meets us.
Tucked into this beautiful song are 4 prayer requests that God delights to answer, even when we’ve messed up:
Have mercy on me, O God (Psalm 51:1). All of Scripture teaches us about the mercy of God. He doesn’t dish out the judgment we deserve because He dished it out on his Son, Jesus. As a loving father, He has a heart of compassion. When we are guilty and cry out for mercy, He lavishes forgiveness on us. As David wrote in another Psalm, God is mindful that we are just dust (Psalm 103:14). He knows that you and I are not perfect. We’re going to mess up every now and then, so there’s no purpose in hiding our sin. We are deeply loved and so we can bring our sin into the light of God’s grace and receive His loving forgiveness.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10). In His masterful sermon on the mount, Jesus reminded listeners that those who have a pure heart will be blessed. Purity is a rather old-fashioned word. It isn’t talked about in many circles, yet God cherishes a pure heart. What is a pure heart? I would define a pure heart as one without mixed motives. A heart that is set on one thing: pleasing God. When you possess a pure heart, you don’t look to justify your actions. Defensiveness goes out the window. You simply admit what you’ve done iswrong and ask God to create in you a pure heart. This is a prayer request that God delights to answer.
Restore to me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit (Psalm 51:12). It’s easy after we’ve sinned to sink into a pit of shame. We beat ourselves up and wonder, how could we ever have done that or said that? Here’s the thing: once we’ve asked the Lord to forgive us, we’re forgiven. When shame comes knocking. we need to whisper, “Lord remind me of and restore to me the absolute joy of my salvation. Let me celebrate the joy of my salvation and let the Holy Spirit stir up within me a willing spirit. A heart that longs to please and honor you.”
Open my lips, LORD, and my mouth will declare your praise (Psalm 51:15). After David confesses and asks God for a restored heart, he returns to the place of praise. In your life and mine, after we confess our sins, we need to begin to praise God; otherwise, the enemy will taunt us with shame. As you praise God for being good, loving, kind, and merciful, the Holy Spirit strengthens your heart to greater faith. As a result, you can stand confident in your forgiveness.
Friend, the next time you mess up, let go of defensiveness. Ask God for mercy and forgiveness. Ask Him to create in you a clean heart and to restore the joy of your salvation. Then, praise Him with your whole heart and stand in the freedom of forgiveness.
I will be at Family Life Today in Little Rock, AK this week recording several sessions on How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk. I covet your prayers!
Coming in June!
The Extraordinary Power of Praise: A Study of the Psalms for the Anxious Heart releases in June! This is the perfect Bible study for you to do personally, or in a small or large group Bible study. It is a six-week Bible study with videos available from Moody.