David’s Prayer of Repentance

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Psalm 51:1-3
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

Repentance is a topic that is often avoided, much like tithing and giving. It’s not very popular these days and many church goers are not interested in it; they would rather hear topics like receiving God’s blessings, God’s promises, etc. But as believers we need to understand that repentance is important in our lives.

Psalm 51:1-3 talks about David’s prayer of repentance after Nathan the prophet confronted him on his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Here, we can see David’s outpouring of his heart. It’s a sin that tortured him and he suffered deeply over it. He kept on thinking about it with sorrow and shame. It’s interesting that David uses three different words to describe it:

  1. Iniquity – [Hebrew, “avon”] – perversity, a twisted or distorted view of what things should be
  2. Sin – [Hebrew, “chattaah” or “chata”] – miss the way, go wrong, or miss the mark
  3. Transgressions – [Hebrew, “pasha”] – rebellion against God’s law and authority

David lusted after Bathsheba, a married woman, and therefore it was a perverted view of what God had in mind about the union between a husband and a wife. As a king, he had access to unlimited single women in his kingdom. But for some reason, he chose a married woman and then murdered her husband by placing him in the frontline of the battlefield to cover up his own misdeeds. Tragic. Perverted. Shameful to say the least.

Let’s look at the pattern of David’s prayer of repentance for practical application:

  1. Identify the sin in your life – this is the first step to a meaningful repentance. By realizing that we have sinned against a holy God leads us to godly sorrow. And godly sorrow leads us to genuine repentance.
  2. David invoked God’s tender mercies – right here, David begs for forgiveness by appealing to God’s inexhaustible mercies. A heartfelt prayer of asking forgiveness can move God’s heart. Because God is merciful, He will show mercy to us when ask Him wholeheartedly.
  3. Don’t make excuses – David faced his guilt squarely like a man. By admitting our own faults and taking personal responsibility over them allows God to break us. When God reveals our sin to us through His word or through other believers around us, it pains us and grieves our conscience (much the same way that the Holy Spirit grieves over our sins). What’s good at this point is that we are now able to hate those sins that God hates and there is an earnestness to turn away from them and turn towards God.

Once we are truly broken of the sin, that’s the only time God can truly heal us.
When we repent wholeheartedly, we will receive forgiveness and peace. It reconciles us to God, to ourselves, and to those that we may have hurt.

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