Psalm 51: The Prayer of a Repentant Sinner bible study

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In psalm 51, we were told of the prayer of a repentant sinner which was David, on this article is a detailed study of David Prayer for mercy.

David is probably one of the best-known biblical characters. Surely you have heard at some point in your life the story of young David and his victory over the giant Goliath. David’s life was one of many actions, dedicated to the service of God.

David was the youngest son of his family, a sheepherder, and a musician. Despite the normality of his existence, God chose him from a very young age for a special task: to be the second king of Israel. His brothers were bigger and stronger, but God chose David because he had a good heart before him (1 Samuel 16:7).

David is credited with the authorship of 73 of the Psalms that we have in the Bible. The Psalms are poetic compositions that express the joys or sorrows of their authors and their experiences with God. For example, in Psalm 51 David clearly expresses the deep sadness he felt when confronted with his sin, one that brought heavy consequences and marked his family forever.

What is salvation

The story behind the Psalm

In 2 Samuel 11 and 12 we read that one afternoon King David got up and went up to the roof of the palace where he lived from where he could see the roofs of other houses. In one of them, he observed a woman bathing, Bathsheba. She was very pretty and David asked for information about her. She told him about her family and about her husband Uriah who was in the battle along with almost all the men of the town. David sent her to the palace and slept with her. The woman became pregnant and he realized that she was in trouble.

David made a plan. He gave Uriah permission to come back for a few days and tried to make him go to his house and sleep with his wife. But Uriah was loyal to his fellow warriors and did not want to enjoy privileges that others could not enjoy at the time, so he did not.

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As this plan did not work, David sent a letter by Uriah’s hand to Joab, the commander of the army. He ordered him to put Uriah on the front lines, in the most dangerous place. He instructed him to abandon Uriah when the battle was at its most intense so that the enemies could kill him. In other words, he plotted the assassination of Uriah. After Uriah’s death, David married Bathsheba, but this did not please God.

When Bathsheba found out that her husband, Uriah, had died, she mourned him. After mourning, David had her taken to the palace and took her as his wife. In time, she bore him a son. However, what David had done displeased the Lord.
(2 Samuel 11:26-27)

God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke David. The baby had already been born, God had waited to see if David would reconsider and repent, but that did not happen. Nathan went and told David a story about two men, a rich man and a poor man, and how the rich man took his most precious possession from the poor man. David was very angry when he heard the story and declared that the rich man must die.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!” Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: “I have anointed you king over Israel, and delivered you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s palace, and placed his wives in your arms. I also allowed you to rule over Israel and Judah. And as if this had not been enough, I would have given you much more. Why, then, did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what displeases him? You murdered Uriah the Hittite to seize his wife! You killed him with the Ammonite sword! That is why the sword will never depart from your family, because you despised me by taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite to make her your wife.
(2 Samuel 12:7-10)

The consequences of sin

David would lose some of the blessings that God could have given him. By sinning, we always lose some good things that God wants to give us because we deviate from His plan.

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We also see that David’s family would be in war and disunity and so it was. Several of his children were involved in horrible plots of jealousy, envy, incest, and desire for power, and died violently. All of this could have been avoided. David’s sin opened the door to many calamities within his family.

What we can find in Psalm 51

Psalm 51:1

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.

(Psalm 51:1)

This is a Psalm of penance expressing the sorrow and repentance of the psalmist.

Confession and request for forgiveness

David begins by asking God for pity and mercy. He acknowledges and confesses his sin as rebellion against God knowing that only he could forgive him. God is the only one who can give us a new beginning. No matter how big our mistake is as we come before God in humility acknowledging that we have failed him, he forgives us, restores us, and helps us move forward.

In verse 6 David expresses the importance of our intimate and secret life being directed by God.

I know that you love the truth intimately; in secret you have taught me wisdom.
(Psalm 51:6)

When the truth of God and his wisdom reign in the depths of our being, we make wise decisions that glorify him and save us a lot of problems.


Cleaning and renewal request

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew steadfast spirit within me .
(Psalm 51:10)

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.

(Psalm 51:11-12)

Verses 10 to 12 are a prayer asking for a new heart, clean and right before God. God can always create something new and beautiful even from our mistakes. David pleads with God not to cast him out of his presence or take away the Holy Spirit. We need to make time to listen to the Holy Spirit and live within his will. The joy we feel in obeying confirms that we are on the right path, while the loss of joy is a good indicator that something is wrong.

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The result of the restoration

David commits himself to be a witness of the Lord, to teach others the right way, and pleasing to God (verses 13 to 15). He decides to live a praise-filled life. He was not going to allow his sin to ruin the rest of his life, he knew that in God there is always a new beginning. He would use him by talking about God’s love and forgiveness. David longed to see the fruit of salvation, repentant sinners transformed by the power of God. God’s restoration brings meaning and new purpose to our lives.


Psalm 51:17

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
a broken and a contrite heart, O God,
thou wilt not despise.
(Psalm 51:17)

David realizes that humility draws us closer to God because it expresses our submission to and dependence on him. When we think we know everything, we fill ourselves with pride and do what we think is best. We begin to trust in our strength and make decisions without first consulting God in prayer. We must grow in humility, recognizing that God knows what is best for us. By obeying him we will enjoy the fullness of blessings that he wants to give us.

Let us seek to live lives that glorify our Lord
. Let us acknowledge our mistakes with humility knowing that the path that God takes us is the best, one full of peace and fullness of him.