Prayer of Presence:
Tender Shepherd, bring to my awareness your constant companionship, to my weariness your matchless strength, to my brokenness your healing touch, and to my joy your blessing. Amen.
Scripture: Today’s reading is from Psalm 51:1-12
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
You desire truth in the inward being; therefore, teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right 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 sustain in me a willing spirit.
This psalm is an individual prayer for help from God. The psalmist understands that all of creation and life is under the oversight and just judgment of God. As such, he has a serious existential and spiritual problem. He has sinned against God and done evil in God’s sight (Ps. 51:4) and experiences the crushing weight of guilt and unworthiness. He is desperate for God’s mercy and for a restored relationship with God from whom he also experiences alienation. He acknowledges his predicament and turns to God for salvation from himself. He is not petitioning and appealing to God for mercy and pardon for one or a multitude of sins he has committed. And, he is not petitioning God for deliverance from the serious consequences he has created and inherited stemming from sinful acts. His petition goes much deeper than that. He petitions God for mercy, forgiveness, and deliverance from the predicament of his human nature and existence as a sinner. He pleads with God for a new heart and a new spirit so his mind and his will could be open and oriented to God.
Perhaps you have experienced the depths of spiritual desperation expressed by the psalmist. There may have been a time in your life when you felt unworthy of being loved by God. The good news is that the nature of God is first and foremost love, mercy, and grace. The basis of the psalmist petition was based on this truth about God’s nature as he appealed to God for cleansing, forgiveness, and restoration.
“God so loved the sin-bent world that he gave his only Son, Jesus Christ so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16) Christ came, suffered and died on the cross because no one’s life is worthless; all life is precious, of sacred worth, and worthy of redemption in God’s eyes. The awareness of our sin and the desire confess it is a sign of God’s Holy Spirit at work in our lives, liberating us from the slavery to sin, establishing our worthiness to God, renewing our hearts, and leading us back to a right and joyful relationship with God, giving us a fresh start open and reoriented to God. The assurance of God’s love, mercy, and grace is good news worthy of hearing about, knowing of, and petitioning upon this Lenten season. In turn, the witness of your life will help others return to God (Ps. 51:13).
Question for Reflection:
Prayer Focus: For the grace to claim our worthiness to God and an openness and oriention to God’s will and ways.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength.