A Prayer for Pardon

Bible Reading: Psalm 51

It was a little more than a year ago.  Challenging circumstances in my life had worked to put me in a very needy state.  I was broken hearted, discouraged, and lacking the motivation to do much of anything.  But God was graciously working to get my attention and I began to pray.  At first all I could muster up was a simple cry for help.  But then as I continued praying, day-after-day, I grabbed a hold of this verse in Psalm 51, “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).  I claimed that verse as a promise and prayed that God would work to lead me in a new direction and give me a purpose.  Some weeks later I was at the grocery store checkout.  I had bought some groceries and was given fifty-two cents in change.  I don’t like to keep change in my pocket, so I put the two cents in the penny jar and spent the fifty cents on the Heppner newspaper (something I rarely do).  I was reading the Help Wanted section and came across a listing for a part time Hospice Chaplain.  The job was only 10 hours per week–perfect!  And it was a job in which I had both experience and interest.  I called the number listed in the ad.  I was hired within days.  I’ve been a part time hospice chaplain ever since.  I work with wonderful co-workers and have been privileged to visit dozens of homes of folks who are much in need of a comforting presence and encouraging word.  The job has since led to other opportunities to assist those who are dealing with grief in suffering loss.  From the depths of my despair, God heard my prayer.  David was likewise brokenhearted, and there’s much we can learn from his prayer here in Psalm 51.

You know the story.  David saw Bathsheba, for she was beautiful, and he sent for her.  He had relations with her, and she became pregnant.  David then conspired to hide what he had done, first by bringing home Urijah from battle that he might have relations with his wife.  But Urijah didn’t do that, so David devised another plan.  He had Urijah sent to the forefront of a battle, then had his army withdraw its troops.  Urijah then died in the battle.  When Bathsheba’s mourning period was over, David sent for her, and she became his wife.  Nathan confronted David.  David subsequently suffered much evil as a consequence of his sin. 

Psalm 51 is “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba.”  John MacArthur summarized David’s situation: “If I were to sum up what David was feeling, I might say it like this: Sin had made him dirty, and he wanted to be clean. Guilt had made him sick, and he wanted to be well. Disobedience had made him lonely, and he wanted to be reconciled. Rebellion had made him fearful, and he wanted to be pardoned.”

So how did David pray?  He understood the seriousness of his sin and knew that it demanded judgment, so he appealed to God’s mercy (Psalm 51:1-4).  His was more than a mere earthly sorrow in being caught, he possessed a godly sorrow which led him to repentance. Sin brought guilt; God alone could wash that guilt away.  And that could happen for him only because God is a God who is rich in mercy.

David accepted full responsibility for his sin (Psalm 51:3-4).  He didn’t make excuses.  He didn’t blame anyone else. He acknowledged his sin to be a sin against God Himself (Psalm 51:4a).  The word translated confess in 1 John 1:9 means literally “to say the same thing.”  In confessing his sins David was agreeing with God about the nature of the evil acts he had committed.  Note all the words used by David in describing his offense: transgressions; sin; evil; iniquity.  David held nothing back in confessing his sin.  In fact, he acknowledged that the sin principle had been at work in him since birth (Psalm 51:5; 1 John 1:8).

David looked to God for a cleansing of his innermost being (Psalm 51:6,10).  Sin reminds us of our human weakness and frailty.  It confronts us with our own shortcomings, and in humility and desperation we then look to the sole remedy, God.  God is able not just to forgive us, but to “create in (us) a clean heart” (Psalm 51:10).  It is as the hymn says: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save me from its guilt and power.”  

David looked beyond forgiveness to how his usefulness to God might be restored.  He prayed for a clean heart, restored joy, and a willing spirit–that he might reach sinners and worship God with a cleansed heart.  David, that man after God’s own heart, that writer of all those Psalms, was a worshiper of God by heart.  Sin had gotten in the way.  In confessing his sins, David was looking to God for the cleansing and restoration that every one of us needs.  And God answered his prayers.

“A Broken and Contrite Heart, O God, You Will Not Despise”


Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul,
Break down every idol, cast out every foe;
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow,
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies,
And help me to make a complete sacrifice;
I give up myself, and whatever I know,
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. [Refrain]

Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat,
I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet;
By faith, for my cleansing I see Thy blood flow,
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. [Refrain]

Lord Jesus, Thou seest I patiently wait,
Come now, and within me a new heart create;
To those who have sought Thee, Thou never saidst “No,”
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. [Refrain]

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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