The Prayers We Should Pray
Ephesians 1:17-I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Ephesians 6:18-And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
A Confessional Prayer-Psalm 51
David teaches us several things about confession in Psalm 51. It is more than a prayer of admission of guilt. It is more than a prayer of confession. It’s more than a quick, “I’m sorry” deal. Let’s look into this Psalm to see what we can evaluate the components of David’s prayer of confession.
David got it right a lot in his life. He was someone the Lord tapped early. As a young man, he was anointed King of Israel. He had high integrity as he waited for his turn to become king. Even when he was done wrong by King Saul, even when he had to live on the run in fear for his life because King Saul was out to get him, David never compromised his integrity. When under tremendous emotional pressure and real physical danger, he never did the vindictive thing or the easy thing or the self-preservation thing. He could keep his cool when life wasn’t unfair. He could maintain his commitment to God and his heart for God, even when he was being attacked.
But there was a time when his flesh got the best of him. There was a moment of compromise that led to a series of moments. One bad decision, one weak moment, led to him looking longer than he should have at a beautiful woman who wasn’t his wife. That lingering look led to adultery with someone else’s wife. That woman became pregnant with David’s child. To try to cover up what he had done, David assigned the woman’s husband to the front lines in battle in order to have him killed. No small mess up. No small sin. No small deal. What began as a weak, lustful moment and a one-night-stand led to major failure, guilt, heartache, and sickness of soul. Listen, if it could happen to David, a servant of God with high integrity and great commitment, it could happen to anyone. We are so blessed that we have a record of his road to recovery and restoration with God. It begins here in Psalm 51.
Psalm 51:1-19 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. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 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, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, 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 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Notice first that David didn’t try to convince God that 9 out of 10 was good enough. He didn’t say, “Well, God, I know I messed up, but look at the totality of my life. I have had a pretty good run. For the most part, I have towed the line. Can I just get a pass since I was a good guy until now?”
David wasn’t just sorry he got caught. David was truly repentant. He had sinned against God. He had sinned against his family. He had sinned against his country. He didn’t try to minimize it or sugarcoat it. David was willing to come clean in order to get clean. “Confession is not saying, “I’m sorry”; it is openly admitting, “I did it.” (Neil Anderson, The Bondage Breaker). David was ready to be gut-level honest with the Lord.
David understood what he needed. He didn’t just want to put the past in the past. He didn’t just want to move on with his life. He didn’t just want a new opportunity or a clean slate. He understood that he needed some things from God in order to recover, to heal, and to appropriately move forward. When we sin, we don’t just need forgiveness. We need understanding. We need healing. We need strength to withstand the next temptation. We need direction to know how to make things as right with people as possible. We need perspective and heart change, but often, we just want a pass. We just want the ticket of forgiveness. What gets swept under the rug just piles up under the rug. What gets dealt with gets removed, and the person who deals appropriately with sin undergoes transformation and gains a testimony.
David essentially prayed, “God, cleanse me.” (Vs. 1-7)
You see, sin is like dirt on the inside of us. When we sin, our soul becomes dark. We need to be cleansed. When we sin, and we have an appropriate guilty conscious because of that sin, we need to be washed and made clean. So, this Psalm is filled with a lot of language that shows us that David understood his need for cleansing.
In the Jewish society of that day, to wash and change clothes marked a new beginning in life (Gen. 35:2; 41:14; 45:22; Ex. 19:10, 14), and David made such a new start (2 Sam. 12:20). When we are repentant, when we are heartbroken over sin, God will hear our cry for forgiveness and cleansing.
“Hyssop” (v. 7) was a shrub with hairy stems that could be dipped into liquid, and the priests used hyssop to sprinkle blood or water on people needing ceremonial cleansing (Lev. 14:4, 6; Num. 19:6, 18; see Ex. 12:22). David knew he could never find cleansing in himself. David knew if God would cleanse him, he would truly be cleansed. (Vs. 7)
Today’s Christians find their cleansing in the work Jesus accomplished on the cross (1 John 1:5-10; Heb. 10:19-25). “And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stain! Lose all their guilty stain, lose all their guilty stain. And sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stain.”
The things about God’s love and His cleansing power is that it doesn’t matter how much you have done, and for how long you have done it, if you are sorry over your sin, God can cleanse you of it. David had gone from zero to sixty and committed some heinous sins, but he knew God wouldn’t reject his prayer.
One of the most beautiful and reassuring passages of Scripture is 1 John 1:7-9-7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
God’s cleansing is powerful. We sing a hymn called “To God be the Glory,” and in it is a line that says, “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus, a pardon receives.”
Evangelist Charles Finney preached on 1 John 1:7 “….The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” A stranger asked him to walk home with him, and against all advice he did. Ushering Finney into the rear of a building, he locked the door and pocketed the key. “Don’t be afraid, I just want to ask you some questions,” said the stranger. “Do you believe what you preached tonight?” “I most certainly do,” replied Finney. The stranger continued, “We’re in the back of a saloon and I’m the owner. Mothers come in here, lay their babies on the counter and beg me not to sell liquor to their husbands. I turn a deaf ear to their cry. When a man leaves here we see to it that he’s well under the influence. More than one man has been killed on the railway tracks after leaving here. Can God forgive a man like me?” “I have only one authority,” replied Finney. “‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.'”
The stranger went on, “If a man doesn’t spend all his money on liquor, we take him to our gambling hall and fleece him of his last dollar with marked cards. Can God forgive a man with a heart like that?” Finney repeated, “I have only one authority. The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.'”
The stranger had more to say, “Across the street is my wife and daughter. Neither has heard a kind word from me in five years. Their bodies bear the marks of my brutal attacks. Can God forgive a man with a heart like that?” Finney lowered his head and said, “You’ve painted one of the darkest pictures I’ve ever seen. But still I have only one authority. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin'” That night, that man became a new creation in Christ.
Perhaps there is a secret stain in your heart this morning; secret only to your family and friends as God knows everything that has happened in your life.
Also, inside of this prayer, David prayer, “God, teach me.” (Vs. 6)
Look again at verse 6: 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
David had a teachable spirit. It was actually the prophet, Nathan, who first confronted David about his sin. It can be hard to hear the truth sometimes, but when we hear it and receive it, it can be healing. David knew that truth was important. He learned quickly that our sin is never hidden from God. We can never cover up our wrongdoing. God always knows, and in David’s case, God made it known to the Prophet Nathan so that David could deal with it. Isn’t it awesome that God loves us so much that He will put people in our path to confront us when necessary? May we have a teachable spirit to receive those God might send to speak to us.
David was teachable. I think David didn’t just want to move on, but he wanted to learn something. He wanted wisdom to avoid making himself vulnerable again. He wanted to understand why he gave into physical temptation, when after all those years, he had taken the high road, he had towed the line, he had done the right thing. Why compromise? Why give in to sexual sin? Have you ever been there? Have you ever been in a place you never thought you would find yourself and then asked yourself, “What have I done? How did I get here? How could I have sunk so low?”
It’s a first step to admit that we have done something wrong. It is a second step to want to understand why and to learn how to safeguard ourselves from repeating the same mistakes. David wasn’t just aware of his sin, but he desired to be self-aware. Understanding our frailties, our weaknesses, the potential openings in our lives to the things of the flesh and the things of the world is important if we are going to have and maintain victory in our lives.
If we truly want to live God-honoring lives, we will pray the “teach me” prayer on a regular basis. I love how it is expressed in Psalm 119:33-37 33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them TO THE END. (not 9 times out of 10; not the majority of the time)
34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with ALL OF MY HEART.
The Psalmist was saying, “I don’t want to live a half-hearted life, God. I want to learn what it means to honor you with every fiber of my being.
35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD. (Not, according to my desires and aspirations and perceptions, but according to Your Word, O Lord!) There are many people who are claiming to be Christ-followers who are twisting and perverting the Word of God to support lifestyles that are not God-honoring. When we give our lives to Christ, we must ask for His Spirit’s help to obey His Word fully and not try to use His Word to support what feels or seems good to us.
A teachable spirit is important if we are going to learn from sinful mistakes and if we will be kept from repeating sinful patterns. We have to desire to be taught to follow the Word of God and the Heart of God entirely and not just when it suits us or “fits in” with what we have already planned to do. Confessional prayer involves a willingness to learn what went wrong and why.
“God, cleanse me,” and “God, teach me” were followed by, “God, restore me.” (Vs. 8-12)
Sin costs us. It not only impacts us spiritually, but it can also cripple us emotionally, relationally, financially, and physically. David’s sin was affecting his whole person. In verse 8 he says he could no longer hear joy and gladness. Others may have been joyful around him. There could have been many reasons to celebrate and enjoy life, but his sin kept him from experiencing joy. You might say it brought a cloud of depression over his life. In the second part of verse 8 he speaks about how his bones felt crushed as if they were broken and won’t support his frame. He was weak in his physical body. In verse 10 he said he had lost purity in heart. He had lost a passion for the things of God. His heart and spirit were suffering. In verse 14, he claimed to have blood on his hands. At the end of verse 14 and all of 15, he says worship was a struggle.
Anyone know that kind of experience following an episode of sin? Can you identify with David? Life becomes more of a chore. Relationships are harder to maintain. The silver lining in every cloud disappears. We lose a passion for Bible study, we lose a passion to be involved in ministry, we feel like we don’t have what it takes to make it through the day, and we fake it more than we make it as we go through the motions without joy and without the ability to authentically praise and worship God.
David wanted his life back which included his passion for God. David had been anointed for ministry, empowered by God, and set apart for service. He had seen what happened to the King before him when he sinned against God. The blessing and help of God’s Spirit had been withdrawn from King Saul (I Sam. 16:1, 14; II Sam. 7:15). When the Holy Spirit departed from Saul, a different kind of spirit attended to Saul. He was tormented by an evil spirit. David was already being tormented by feelings of guilt. He wanted his life and anointing back. He wanted that closeness with God back.
When you lose your anointing, when you lose your passion for God, you might as well have lost it all. David understood the real spiritual danger he was in.
The final component of David’s Prayer is found in verses 13-19 where he prayed, “God, use me.” (Vs. 13-19)
To be used of God is a special privilege. Once you have had the experience of God working in you, speaking through you, guiding your steps, opening doors, and in David’s case, anointing you as King of God’s people, you realize that to lose those blessings would be to lose pretty much everything.
When we fail, when we sin, there is often a sense that we are now broken, unfit, unworthy to serve the Lord. That is often our view from where we sit in our sin. David was desperate to reclaim his role as a servant of God. He wanted God to use him again. He said in verse 13 that he wanted teach other sinners about God and His ways. He desired to warn others of what can happen if you just let your guard down for a second. Who better to teach sinners than someone who has fallen so low, who knows the way back up, who knows the way out of sin and back into fellowship with God? Who better to minister to someone in their brokenness than someone who has been broken by the effects of sin himself or herself?
In verse 14 he asked for God to save him from the sin of murder, from what he called “bloodguilt.” He wanted to worship God again in freedom. He wanted to be able to raise his hands unto the Lord without being reminded of the blood on his hands. He wanted to be able to openly declare God’s praise, Vs. 15, without being a hypocrite. He wanted to be used by God to help Israel come to God in authenticity and brokenness and honest worship.
Remember that the way to deal with sin back in the day was through an animal sacrifice. Why didn’t the wealthy King David just slaughter every animal in his command? David understood it wasn’t about an outward ritual that he could perform himself, but it was about an inward work that God would have to do in order for him to be truly clean. He knew he couldn’t get by with slaughtering some bulls, goats, and lambs, but he knew God would receive a broken and contrite heart. That is what a confessional prayer really is; it is offering God our broken and humbled hearts. Confessional prayer is about giving God access to our whole beings, that He might redeem us, restore us, and reclaim us for His purposes once again.
Can you see that confession is a gift? God gives us the opportunity to come to Him in brokenness and humility, so that He might remove our sin from us and repair us once again.
It was a few years ago and just in one sermon that I shared about the biggest hurt and pain of my life. It involved betrayal, deceit, and unthinkable things in the life of someone I loved deeply. It was about my dad. I was forty years old before I found out about all of the details regarding the double life my dad had lived. He was my ministry mentor and my hero up until that moment. Uncovering his duplicity, his sick sin, and his lifelong struggle which was really a series of coverups, was disturbing, disappointing, and crushing.
I remember thinking to myself and I remember telling God, “Why did we have to find out? Why couldn’t he have just died without me ever having to know the truth?” As soon as the thought crossed my mind and heart, the voice of God spoke so clearly. “Why did you have to know? Because I love him so much that I wanted to give him the opportunity to confess and repent before He met me in eternity.” Wow. Confession, for my dad, became another gift of God’s relentless grace that was given to him just a few years before his passing. How dangerous it would have been for my dad to go into eternity without coming clean.
And oh, the weight that instantly came off of my dad! He had new spiritual breath, fresh spiritual air, for the first time in years. The lies he had told, the secrets he had kept, the scheming he had done, had all taken their toll. He had experienced what it feels like to live a lifetime with the crushing weight of sin, but in one big confessional episode, he experienced the relief and joy of having that burden lifted off of him forever.
God loves us so much that He invites us to confess our sin to Him. In my dad’s case, I wish it would have happened sooner. I truly believe unconfessed sin is what compromised his physical body and his emotional well-being. The stress of living two lives was just too much, but the good news is, he was restored, renewed, and remade as he entered his heavenly rest with Jesus.
I don’t know what lurks in your past that is still part of your present. I don’t know what you are working hard to keep under wraps. I don’t know what you are trying to keep on the down-low, but I assure you God already knows it all. Would you accept this opportunity to cry out to Him sooner rather than later? Don’t let years pass while your soul and bones are crushed under the weight of your sin. Ask God to cleanse you, to teach you, to restore you and to use you.
Maybe you have already prayed that “cleanse me” prayer, but you haven’t gone to the next level to ask God to teach you how to avoid falling back into those old patterns. Maybe you didn’t know you could be restored. Maybe you thought you were just doomed to live in some state of brokenness because of sin in your past. Maybe you have felt disqualified for ministry because of sinful choices. God is here, offering you a chance to take the next step with Him. Would you join me this morning in praying one of the prayers we should pray?
The Prayers We Should Pray