Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
2 Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
purify me from my sin!
3 Because I know my wrongdoings,
my sin is always right in front of me.
4 I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
completely correct when you issue your judgment.
5 Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.
7 Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and celebration again;
let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
9 Hide your face from my sins;
wipe away all my guilty deeds!
10 Create a clean heart for me, God;
put a new, faithful spirit deep inside me!
11 Please don’t throw me out of your presence;
please don’t take your holy spirit away from me.
12 Return the joy of your salvation to me
and sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach wrongdoers your ways,
and sinners will come back to you.
14 Deliver me from violence, God, God of my salvation,
so that my tongue can sing of your righteousness.
15 Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will proclaim your praise.
16 You don’t want sacrifices.
If I gave an entirely burned offering,
you wouldn’t be pleased.
17 A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God.
You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.
18 Do good things for Zion by your favor.
Rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.
19 Then you will again want sacrifices of righteousness—
entirely burned offerings and complete offerings.
Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.
This psalm is attributed to David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. This is why David is considered a man after God’s own heart–not because he was perfect or sinless, but because he truly repented from his sins.
Repentance is not simply feeling sorry for our sins. That is conviction. Repentance also involves a complete turning around from sinful ways and no longer committing those sins. The Christian life is one of repentance and return to God. By the Holy Spirit living within a Christian, God gives us the power to truly turn away from our sins and overcome the temptation to commit them. He enables us to have true repentance.
If you have a sin that you are especially struggling against in your life, try reading Psalm 51 each day in the evening as a part of your prayers before going to bed. Then ask God for the power to overcome that sin.