King David’s Prayer of Repentance

King David’s Prayer of Repentance

Psalm 51 is the first of fifteen consecutive psalms in Book Two attributed to David. It is also the fourth of the penitential psalms (see Psalm 6; 32; 38) and it is King David’s prayer of confession and repentance at the time that Nathan the prophet confronted him with his sins.

It must be noted that during his lifetime, King David did what was pleasing to the Lord; he had been walking uprightly with God and had done everything the Lord has commanded him to do, which is why God called David “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 & Acts 13:22).

However, this was not the case with Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5) and his wife Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-5). King David clearly despised the commandment of the Lord and did evil in His sight when he took Bathsheba to be his wife after having her husband Uriah killed (2 Samuel 12:9).

King David and Bathsheba
Photo Credits: Free Bible Images

After Bathsheba mourned for the death of her husband Uriah, David took her home to the palace and she became one of his wives. Bathsheba bore him a son and David thought everything went well as planned. But the Lord was displeased with what David had done so He sent Nathan to him (2 Samuel 11:26-27).

*Read more about Bathsheba in: The Women in the Lineage of Jesus Christ

King David’s Requests

After committing adultery with Bathsheba, God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sins. And as soon as David realized how dreadfully he had sinned, he confessed and asked forgiveness from God.

In his prayer, David expressed three major requests:

  • cleanse me
  •  restore me
  • use me

Cleanse Me

Psalm 51:1-7

After realizing that he had sinned, David asked for God’s mercy and asked God to blot out his transgressions. “Blot out” refers to a debt that must be paid (Psalm 130:3 & Isaiah 43:25) and “wash” refers to the cleansing of dirty clothing (Isaiah 1:18; 64:6).

In the Jewish society of that day, to wash and change clothes marked a new beginning in life (Exodus 19:10). So in asking God to blot out his transgressions and wash him from his iniquities, David was asking God to help him make a new start.

What dirt is to the body, sin is to the inner person. So it was right for David to feel defiled because by committing adultery and murder, he had willfully rebelled against God. David knew the truth of God’s word and loved it, yet he deliberately broke God’s Law.

And because no atonement was provided in the law for such deliberate sin (Leviticus 20:10; Numbers 35:31-32), David could only appeal to God’s grace, mercy and love (Exodus 34:6-7).

Psalm 51:1-2

*Upon realizing that we have sinned, do we ask mercy from God like King David did? Or do we blame others, give all sorts of excuses, try to avoid God or try to cover up our sins? David could have blamed Bathsheba for tempting him; he could have tried avoiding God by refusing to see the prophet Nathan.

But David didn’t do any of the above. Instead, he acknowledged his sins, cried out to God and asked for God’s mercy and forgiveness. David exemplified “true repentance” by getting right with God the moment he realized what he had done.

“True repentance leads a person to acknowledge his sin and prove he’s sorry with a 180-degree change in direction.”

If we claim to be a “true child” of God, we must cry out to God and beg for His mercy when we commit sin. First, we must acknowledge our sins, confess them to our Heavenly Father whom we have sinned against and receive His forgiveness.

We can be confident that God will forgive us if we acknowledge and confess our sins because He has promised in His word that He will (1 John 1:9) and because of the finished work of Christ on the cross (John 19:28-30).

Restore me

Psalm 51:8-12

David knew such a high cost of committing sin because it had affected his whole person; his eyes, mind, ears, bones, hands, lips, heart and spirit, so David asked for more than just cleansing; he wanted his entire being to be restored so he could serve the Lord acceptably.

He wanted the joy of the Lord in him which he had lost as a result of his sin and rebellion against God. So David asked God for truth and wisdom in his innermost being and asked that the Holy Spirit be not taken from him.

Psalm 51:10 is the central verse of this psalm which expresses the heart of David’s concern. David was aware that the inner person – the heart – was the source of his trouble as well as the seat of his joy and blessing. But David also knew that he was incapable of changing his own heart for only God could work the miracle (Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:25-27).

*When we have committed sin, we feel burdened as with a heavy load. We feel depressed, weary and tired. But after receiving forgiveness, we feel that the heavy load has been lifted, we feel free and can once again rejoice.

But there are times when even after God has forgiven us, we still find it difficult to forgive ourselves. We tend to beat ourselves up and keep on thinking how stupid of us to have done such a thing. This guilt is what makes us uneasy and troubled deep inside.

Christians who feel undeserving of God’s mercy and forgiveness are struggling spiritually, which is hindering them from effectively serving the Lord with joy and gladness. If you have truly repented of your sins, receive God’s mercy and experience the liberating effects of being forgiven.

During the Old Testament times, prior to Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, it is believed that the Holy Spirit had a “come and go” relationship with people. This is quite evident in the lives of King Saul and King David (1 Samuel 16:13-14).

Today the Holy Spirit abides with (genuine) believers forever; to comfort, teach and guide them into all truths (John 14:15-18; John 16:13). What a joy and encouragement knowing that the Holy Spirit takes permanent residence in our lives.

*Read more about the Holy Spirit: Understanding the Personality of the Holy Spirit 

Use me

Psalm 51:13-19

After receiving God’s forgiveness, David wanted to be used by God as a witness to the lost and wandering and bring them back to the Lord, and he wanted to sing praises to the Lord. Although David was wealthy enough to bring many sacrifices to the Lord, he knew that this would not please the Lord.

David was not denying the importance or validity of the Jewish sacrificial system; he was affirming the importance of a repentant heart and a spirit yielded to the Lord (Isaiah 57:15). God could not receive broken animals as sacrifices (Malachi 1:6-8) but He will receive a broken heart.

*As a result of being forgiven, we can now joyfully sing aloud the righteousness of God, declare His praises and offer sacrifices to God. We will also have that burning desire to help others repent and turn to God by sharing with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let us offer our lives as a pleasing sacrifice unto God and allow Him to mold and use us for His purpose and glory.

God is loving and forgiving, yet He is just and righteous. Let us not fall into the lie that we can keep on sinning because God will always forgive us anyway. God doesn’t let sin slide and God’s forgiveness doesn’t come cheap for Jesus Christ had to pay the price with His own life on the cross.

Do we only give praise to God when we come together for worship once a week? God deserves our praise and adoration not only for the good things He has done and is doing for us, but because He is great and He alone is worthy to receive honor and glory (Psalm 96:4; Revelation 4:11).

Let us learn to sing praises to God every day for His greatness and love in forgiving our sins.

The Lord is pleased when we offer sacrifices in the right spirit, which means God does not desire our sacrifices when our sins remain unconfessed. God can only accept our sacrifices after we have come before Him with a broken and a contrite heart and have cried out to him for forgiveness.

Conclusion

This psalm shows how deep David’s repentance was, how he cried out to God and how much he valued the forgiveness of God. So whenever we sin, our only recourse is to confess and cry out to God for His mercy and forgiveness.

Whether we have committed sin against our brother, sister or neighbor, our greatest responsibility is to the Lord because all sins are primarily offenses against the Lord. The Bible defines sin as “breaking God’s Law” (1 John 3:4 NLT).

When confronted with sin we should never give any excuses or alibi. Instead, we must acknowledge right away and make things right with God. Let us come to God with a broken and contrite heart and a spirit that is completely surrendered to Him.


*Recommended Resource: Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel

By Richard Owen Roberts

It is a serious problem when society misunderstands or disregards sin and repentance. But when the church neglects these doctrines, the impact is profound. This book unfolds the nature and necessity of biblical repentance, but for the church in particular.

Roberts’s in-depth study heavily references both the Old and New Testaments, and includes chapters on the myths, maxims, marks, models, and motives of repentance, as well as the graces and fruits that accompany it. There is also wise warning about the dangers of delayed repentance.

6 Replies to “King David’s Prayer of Repentance”

  1. I found this piece of work just at the right time when I needed to talk to God about my sins. I was praying how I can start with it but great is our God who always enlighten us even during our darkest hours.

    1. Indeed, Bani! Great and awesome is our God! He meets us right where we are whenever we need Him and speaks directly to us.

      Becoming a new creation in Christ does not automatically make us incapable of committing sin. Due to the fact that we are still living in the flesh, we are prone to making the wrong decisions, hence, violating God’s laws.

      The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit residing in us and it is He who will convict us.

      I’m so glad to hear that you have been enlightened and eventually made things right with God.

      God does not expect us to live perfect lives and He surely does not delight in sin. However, He longs for us to come to Him, acknowledge our sins and repent.

      God bless you Bani!

  2. Thank you for your words of encouragement. This remind me that we all fail but our God is a loving God who will accept us back and all we have to do is to repent.
    My question is How many of us remember to do this regularly? I will admit I do fall short at times.

    1. You’re welcome and thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

      Indeed, we all fail God at some point in our lives but praise God for His love, mercy and grace. No matter how weak and sinful we are, God is always faithful. He always welcomes us back into His loving arms when we truly repent of our sins and turn from our wicked ways.

      While God is loving, merciful and forgiving, we cannot fool Him by committing the same sin over and over again with the hopes of being forgiven repeatedly. True repentance is when we are sorry for our sins, ask for God’s forgiveness and not do it again consciously.

      But in order to be aware of our sins and immediately repent, we must always be sensitive to the Holy Spirit for it is He who convicts us of our sins and will lead us to repent and cry out to God.

      Blessings!

  3. Amen. Wonderful reminder of the fact that even great men of God can fall, and that the great God of men can forgive.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. Many times I will remember to ask God for forgiveness and cleansing, and neglect to ask him to use me even after I’ve messed up. It’s something I’ll definitely be thinking and praying about in the future.

    1. Hi Cyrus,

      King David’s sins of murder and adultery are indeed reminders that even the people who are closest to God can fall. The great news is that God will not allow us to linger in sin for so long. He will not only find a way to let us know exactly how much we have sinned against Him and gives us a chance to own up to our sins but more importantly He gives us the assurance that we can come to Him to ask for His mercy and forgiveness. What an awesome God we have.

      Thank God for the Holy Spirit living in us who convicts us whenever we commit sin. Let us then listen to Him and immediately come to God, cry out to Him, confess, repent and receive His forgiveness. A repentant heart is what the Lord seeks, not burnt offering and sacrifices.

      Shalom and God bless!

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