Opening Prayer

God, you are so great. You are mighty and worthy of all my praise.

Read PSALM 51

Psalm 51[a]

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.


  1. Psalm 51:1 In Hebrew texts 51:1-19 is numbered 51:3-21.
  2. Psalm 51:17 Or The sacrifices of God are

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


If you can remember it or find it, repeat slowly the words of the General Confession.1

Think Further

This psalm is credibly identified as King David’s response to the prophet Nathan’s direct exposure of his sin. He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and, even worse, when she became pregnant he schemed to make sure that her husband Uriah, a brave and honorable soldier, was killed in battle.2 By now David was a successful and admired king of Israel who had everything he could ever need. His actions were utterly selfish and cold-blooded. He hoped nobody would notice. The guilt exposed by Nathan was deep. After this, David’s reign turned sour. The psalm uses the language of deep repentance. It is sufficiently general that any guilty person could use it: and we are all guilty.

Repentance involves facing the truth about ourselves and feeling the depth of the wrong we have done (v 3). This is not pathological but realistic. The apostle Paul calls it ‘godly sorrow’ because it leads to changes of behavior.3 If we never feel sorrow over our sin, this itself is a form of hard-heartedness or self-delusion of which we need to repent. Sometimes we need to be brought up with a jolt (as David was) to face the truth. Sometimes, however, we are so shaken that it seems that our whole lives, from our mother’s womb (v 5), have been wretched and worthless. Sometimes the sense of guilt does not easily disappear but needs to be deeply purged before we gain release (v 7). We feel the stain of sin.

Release is possible. God is our Savior, who stands ready to hear our confession and to respond to it, not with further recrimination but with mercy, compassion, and cleansing (vs 1,2). Christians know this because God’s own Son has ‘made intercession for the transgressors’4 and God’s own Spirit can truly make us clean (v 10).


‘But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.’5

Closing prayer

Lord, I know sin can enter my life and be allowed to settle down and stay. I pray for a sensitivity to sin and an eagerness to repent when under your conviction.

Last Updated on June 25, 2023 by kingstar

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