We all mess up, don’t we? Life is difficult and living a righteous life is even more difficult. David understood and thankfully we have his prayers recorded to help us through our own trials. These Psalms for forgiveness and repentance will encourage you, guide you, and give you the tools to come into right standing with God.
I’m not going to sugarcoat anything in this post. I mean, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t looking for Psalms for forgiveness. I want to dive in with honesty, maybe make you feel a little uncomfortable, but hopefully bring you to a place you need to be.
If you are doing research on the topic of forgiveness and repentance, grab a cup of your favorite drink, get comfortable, and let’s get started.
Psalms for Forgiveness and Repentance
I’m so glad you are studying Psalms for repentance with me! First, why do we need repentance. Or maybe we should begin with what is repentance?
According to Merriam Webster repentance is defined as:
- to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life
- to feel regret or contrition
There are two main themes to repentance.
- Asking forgiveness from God for a wrongdoing
- Turning away from that sin and not repeating it.
But how do we go about repentance? How do we remove this burden from our hearts? Why is not simply saying “I’m sorry” always enough? We can learn a lot about repentance from David. He shows us five steps to repentance.
- acknowledging the sin
- confessing the sin
- asking forgiveness
- turning away from the sin
- restoring the wrong done
I’m not going to go into detail here because I explain them in 5 Steps to Repentance: David as Our Example. Be sure to check it out!
Our goal here is what scripture calls a “pure heart”. This doesn’t mean perfect, but it means that we are willing to go to our Heavenly Father and ask for forgiveness of sins, embrace God’s mercy, and accept His steadfast love. The book of Psalms is a perfect place to start!
David’s sins are on display for all to see and praise God that he was willing to do this because it is one way we can see the forgiveness of God. His honesty helps us repent of our own sins and accept God’s grace.
Psalm 51 finds David on his knees before God. One of the penitential pslams that bears his soul. He pours his heart out in this chapter and thousands of years later we are blessed to see the humanity of David. We are blessed to see God work in his life and to use him as an example that we also need to follow.
God calls David a “man after God’s own heart” and this is saying a lot because David was far from perfect. What did David do right that gave him this title? He was humble and willing to ask for repentance when he sinned; he sought the Lord and tried to serve Him with his whole heart.
God knows we are born with a sinful nature. He made allowance for that sin on the cross. What He does not want us to do is become comfortable and accepting of our sin.
Psalm 51 is a good place to start for this study on Psalms for forgiveness. Let’s read portions of it together and then I will give you some background as to why King David wrote it.
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge. (verses 1-4)
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. (verses 7-14)
Why Did King David Write Psalm 51?
So, what was David’s sin that penned such dramatic phrases as “blot out my transgressions” and “purge me with hyssop”?
David’s men were out to battle fighting against the Ammonites. David stays behind and one night walks out onto his balcony and sees a beautiful woman bathing. He lusts after her and even after discovering that she was married, the wife of Uriah, calls her into room and sleeps with her.
Several weeks later he receives a message from her stating that she is pregnant.
David has a problem now. Uriah, is out on the battlefield. David is without doubt the father. So, David sends Uriah home confident he will sleep with his wife and no one will be the wiser. It turns out that Uriah is much more dedicated to David than David is to him and Uriah refuses to go to his home, but remains outside the palace. Why should he enjoy being home when his brothers are living in tents, defending Israel?
After a second botched attempt to get Uriah to “lie with his wife” David becomes desperate and has Uriah killed on the battlefield.
And now David has sinned multiple times. He lusted, committed adultery, and murdered an innocent man. God is not pleased. He sends the prophet Nathan to tell David of His displeasure.
Psalm 51 is David’s response to that conversation.
Can you see David’s willing spirit? He longs to be right with God, exposing his inner turmoil. His confession of sin results in one of the most beautiful psalms because it is so relatable.
A Study of Psalm 32
We can learn a lot from Psalm 32 about sin, what it does to us and its counterpart grace, and the freedom found therein.
David begins the Psalm with an acknowledgment that those who repent and find forgiveness are happy.
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit. (verses 1-2)
Next, David goes into detail about how sin weighs heavy on us. How it makes us miserable and unhealthy. Unfortunately, many people feel this burden, but do not come to the Lord with it. They try to find happiness and contentment in other ways. Futilely seeking to remove a burden that is impossible without bringing it to God.
When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah (verses 3-5)
By the conclusion of the Psalm, David is feeling joy and relief and is praising God.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked;
But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (verses 10-11)
Psalms for Forgiveness, Mercy, and Favor
I have found that reading Psalms for mercy and favor has two positive effects on me. First, it gives me confidence. Scripture tells us over and over that God’s forgiveness and unfailing love are there for those with a contrite heart and broken spirit.
We are not meant to live under the weight of sin. We serve a gracious God who loves us and wishes to deliver us.
Secondly, Psalms of forgiveness help me want to be more merciful and forgiving to others. Just like Jesus’s teachings on the unforgiving servant, prodigal son, and other parables, it is necessary for us as followers of Christ to share the mercy and grace shown us.
A Psalm of praise for God’s unconditional love and and great mercy.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)
Many of these verses are really songs of deliverance. Deliverance from darkness of all kinds, not just sin.
Unless the Lord had been my help,
My soul would soon have settled in silence.
If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up.
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul. (Psalm 94:17-19)
God is our hiding place, our only hope, our fresh start after a life of sin (or a really bad mistake).
The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
In those who hope in His mercy. (Psalm 147:11)
We can sing a new song from personal experience with the joy of the Lord because we have been redeemed. Our sins are forgiven. He has seen our hidden part and through the lord Jesus Christ, we are set free.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. (Psalm 86:5)
Using Psalms to Pray for Forgiveness and Repentance
What is the point of studying Psalms for forgiveness and repentance? I think there are a few good ones.
- David is an important example
- The Psalms reveal the sin in our hearts
- We are inspired to go to God with confidence rather than fear
- David shows us how to repent, giving us the words we often lack
Have you ever prayed a Psalm of David? This is something I discovered last summer and have found a lot of comfort in. If you want to check out how to go about this, read Why Praying the Psalms is a Blessing and How to Go About It
Using Psalm 32 to pray for forgiveness would go something like this:
Lord, your hand is heavy upon me, I am groaning and hurting. I acknowledge my sin to you (confess your specific sin by name) and in faith believe that you forgive me. I rejoice in your grace and mercy.
Obviously, simply saying the words and separating emotions and personal responsibility from them would be pointless. These prayers must come from your heart with humble abandonment.
How are you feeling about these Psalms for forgiveness? Which ones resonate with you? Which ones do you need to write down and put somewhere you will see it often?
Before you go, be sure to check out these posts!