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With New Testament Eyes: 58 - The Sinner's Prayer

By Henry Mahan


      Psalm 51

      William Plumer said, 'This Psalm is fitly called the sinner's guide.' Luther said, 'No other Psalm is oftener sung nor prayed in the church.' Thomas Chalmers said, 'This is the most deeply affecting of all the psalms, and I am sure the one most applicable to me.' There are many ways to consider the Psalm; but its being the sinner's prayer, let us look at ten pleas or petitions made in this prayer.

      1. 'Have mercy upon me, O God' (v. 1). Even before David mentions his sins, he appeals to the mercy of God. We do not deserve to be pardoned nor forgiven; we deserve to be damned, so David does not ask for justice, but mercy. Pardon of sin must ever be an act of sovereign mercy (Exo. 33:18-19). Mercy is born of God's lovingkindness (1 John 4:10). Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve, and mercy is God NOT giving us what we do deserve.

      2. 'Blot out my transgressions, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies' (v. 1), the multitude of our transgressions from the womb to the grave. But here is comfort--our God is plenteous in redemption and has multitudes of mercies. David pleads guilty of many sins but asks that the record be obliterated, erased, blotted out, so that nothing remains. He desires not only pardon, but that there shall not be any remembrance of sin forever (Isa. 43:25; Isa. 44:21-22; Heb. 10:17).

      3. 'Wash me throughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from MY sin' (v. 2). Sin defiles soul and body, makes us foul and filthy, separates us from God, and corrupts even our good works (Isa. 64:6). Laws, works, and legal washings will not help; God himself must wash us in his own blood (Acts 20:28). David pleads to be washed and cleansed. Richard Baker says, 'Washing has to do with the work a-doing, and cleansing with the work done. Washing is done by the Lord; cleansing is the result.' Most people are concerned about the punishment of sin; David is concerned about the guilt of it. In Verse 4 David acknowledges that his sins are against God, justifies God in condemning him, and clears the name of God of any injustice when he is judged. This is true conviction and repentance.

      4. 'Make me to know wisdom' (v. 6). True wisdom and understanding of the righteousness of God, the nature of sin, and the necessity of regeneration and the new birth are essential to faith, forgiveness, and salvation.

      Our sins are against God, and he must be just and punish sin. 'He is a just God and a Saviour' (Isa. 45:21-22). Christ's life and death in our stead enable God to be both just and justifier (Rom. 3:25-26).

      We were born in sin (v. 5); sin is our nature. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked; therefore, only the Spirit of God can teach us this truth and bring us to own it by giving us life and a new heart (v. 6). The wisdom of God in the inward part is Christ, Who is made unto us wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30; John 6:44-45). We see the wisdom and power of God in the cross of substitution (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

      5. 'Purge me with hyssop' (v. 7). This is what the publican prayed, 'Let thy blood be propitiation for me on the mercy-seat.' Let the sin-offering purge my sin, and I shall be whiter than the snow (Heb. 10:11-14). All blood sacrifices sprinkled and offered in the Old Testament point to Christ, the Lamb of God (Heb. 1:3). Here is faith in Christ's atonement, its power and efficacy.' 6. 'Make me to hear joy and gladness' (vv. 8-9). There is no greater misery than the guilt and fear of sin before God, and there is no greater joy than the joy of forgiveness and acceptance in Christ. He says, 'Lord, you speak peace, joy, and gladness to my heart;' for faith, assurance, and joy spring only from God. Set the bones which you have broken in revealing my iniquities by blotting them out and being reconciled to me. Then I shall know joy and gladness.

      7. 'Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me' (v. 10). Sin has so destroyed us that the Creator must come and, out of the death, darkness, and ashes, create a new heart, a new nature, and a right spirit (Eph. 2:10; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). David did not pray, 'Make my old heart clean;' he was too experienced in the helplessness and hopelessness of the old nature (Jer. 13:23). None but God can create a new heart or a new earth. 'Salvation is of the Lord' (Jonah 2:9). What a complete prayer in two sentences! 'Create' what was not there and 'renew' what is there but in constant need of renewing.' 8. 'Cast me not away from thy presence' (v. 11). Do not throw me away as unprofitable and worthless; banish me not from thy presence like Cain. Don't give me over to a reprobate mind (Rom. 1:24-28). Thy Spirit is the spirit of life, light, and truth. 'Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.' Permit me to be among those who share thy love, if only I keep the door (Psalm 84:10). 'Lord, if you will, you can make me whole' (Matt. 8:1-2).

      9. 'Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation' (v. 12). This sinner had known the joy of the Lord, but through sin he had lost that joy and longed for its return. Joy always follows pardon; it is presumption to think otherwise. None but God can forgive, give joy, or restore it. 'Then I will teach others thy ways' (v. 13).

      Huntingdon said, 'The degree S.S., or sinner saved, is more needful to teach others than an M.A. or a D.D.' A man cannot tell what he does not know anymore than he can come back from where he has not been.

      10. 'Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God' (v. 14). He had been the means of the death of Uriah, a faithful friend. Honest penitents do not cover their sins but own them before God as they are. David's sins, whatever they were, are no more heinous than ours, committed in the heart. 'Open my lips to show forth thy praise. The formality of sacrifices and burnt offerings do not please thee' (v. 16).

      'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit . . . and a contrite heart' (because of sin), and a heart of faith in Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God which taketh away our sins (Acts 20:20-21). Can you pray 'the sinner's prayer,' which may be (as some say), 'Lord, be merciful to me, the sinner,' but contains all that David has set forth in this Psalm? (Rom. 10:13).

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See Also:
   Foreward & Acknowledgements
   1 - The Fall
   2 - Abel's Offering
   3 - The Ark Of Noah
   4 - Sarah and Hagar; Law and Grace
   5 - The Lord Will Provide
   6 - A Bride for the Heir
   7 - Bethel - The House of God
   8 - Peniel - The Face of God
   9 - Joseph Opens the Storehouses
   10 - Joseph and His Brothers
   11 - Shiloh
   12 - The Passover
   13 - The Manna
   14 - Water from the rock
   15 - The Blood Before the Lord
   16 - The Ram of Consecration
   17 - The Day of Atonement
   18 - Caleb - The Faithful Dog
   19 - The High Priest Intercedes
   20 - The Brazen Serpent
   21 - A Prophet Like Moses
   22 - The Cities of Refuge
   23 - Joshua
   24 - The Scarlet Line in the Window
   25 - The birth of Samson
   26 - The Kinsman Redeemer
   27 - The Song of Hannah
   28 - Give us a King
   29 - Saul's Great Sin
   30 - David and Mephibosheth
   31 - Why God Permitted David to Fall
   32 - Comfort from God's Covenant
   33 - I Will Not Offer to God that which Cost me Nothing
   34 - The Queen of Sheba Comes to Solomon
   35 - Three Examples of Faith
   36 - Where is the Lord God of Elijah?
   37 - Empty Vessels Filled
   38 - Naaman, the Leper
   39 - Open his Eyes that He may See
   40 - Four Lepers Teach us a Lesson
   41 - Nehushtan--A Piece of Brass
   42 - Bringing Back the Ark
   43 - Uzziah's Great Transgression
   44 - Four Things Learned in Trouble
   45 - How Can Man be Just With God?
   46 - Three Vital Questions
   47 - I Know that my Redeemer Liveth
   48 - Now Mine Eye Seeth Thee
   49 - The Psalm of Messiah the King
   50 - God's two great books
   51 - The Psalm of the Cross
   52 - The Lord is my Shepherd
   53 - True God - True Israel - True Redeemer
   54 - Eight Great Precepts
   55 - My Hope is in Thee
   56 - Many, O Lord, Are Thy Wonderful Works
   57 - A Song of Love
   58 - The Sinner's Prayer
   59 - My Rock and my Salvation
   60 - Our Lord's Sufferings for Our Sins
   61 - Mercy and Truth are Met Together
   62 - The Victory of the Messiah
   63 - Bless the Lord, O my Soul
   64 - Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So
   65 - The King-Priest
   66 - The Chief Cornerstone
   67 - The Observer and the Observed
   68 - Praise the Lord O my Soul
   69 - Wisdom in Christ
   70 - The Conclusion of the Whole Matter
   71 - Remember Now Thy Creator
   72 - My Beloved is Mine and I am His
   73 - What is Thy Beloved more than Another Beloved?
   74 - The Lord Our Righteousness
   75 - The Believers Hope
   76 - From Nothing to Everything
   77 - Lost, Driven Away, Broken, Sick
   78 - Can These Bones Live?
   79 - Four Things God Taught Nebuchadnezzar
   80 - Thy God Will Deliver Thee
   81 - Hosea--Type of Christ
   82 - A Famine to be Feared
   83 - Salvation is of the Lord
   84 - A Fountain Opened for Mourners
   85 - The Messenger of the Covenant

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