Psalm 51:10-11 – 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. NKJV
Tonight I want to blog about the prayer of repentance. The Webster’s 1868 edition defines the word repentance, in the following manner:
Real penitence; sorrow or deep contrition for sin, as an offense and dishonor to God, a violation of his holy law, and the basest ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence. This is called evangelical repentance and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life.
Since this definition fits my purpose, I will say that the prayer of repentance is used to express a sorrow over any sin we have committed that offends or dishonor God or His Word. This prayer can be, and probably is, prayed multiple times throughout our lives.
Our key text, taken from Psalm 51, happens to be a part of a prayer of repentance that David prayed. David had an affair with Bathsheba. He tried to cover it up, but was unable to do so. First, Bathsheba got pregnant. Then he called her husband back from the battle and tried to get him to go home to her so that they could play the child off as Uriah’s. When that didn’t work, he had Uriah killed in battle. Not only that, God had to send Nathan, the prophet, to him because he hadn’t yet acknowledged his deed for the sin that it was. When David finally came to the place where he was willing to admit that he had sinned, his next step was to go to God and confess it and repent of it! David’s hesitancy to repent, actually paralyzed him in his relationship with God!
Here’s another example of someone repenting in prayer:
Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. Ezra 10:1 -NKJV
In this verse, we see Ezra is before God, praying, confessing, and weeping. The prayer of repentance doesn’t always involve weeping, but most definitely can. I won’t say it is a criteria for sincerity because some people are really good at gut wrenching tears that produces nothing more than an emotional drain. However, it is a time of prayer where you can find yourself crying before the Lord.
I know this is an Old Testament example, and we don’t live under the Old Testament, but it is applicable for tonight’s topic.
What makes this such a relevant prayer is that we must use this type of prayer to become born again. I don’t know your experience, but I am pretty sure that when you accepted Jesus as Savior, prayer was involved. And I am fairly certain that repentance was involved.
Here’s a New Testament example for us: the prodigal son. You have probably heard or read this account of the son on more than one occasion, but I will briefly retell it. The son asked his father for his inheritance, even though his father was still alive. The father gives it to him. Then the son leaves home and loses all of his money while partying hard. He finds himself in abject poverty, eating the same food as the pigs he was hired to feed. One day he realizes, if he is going to be a slave for someone it may as well be his father for his father treats his servants so much better. His attitude is one of repentance:
I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’ Luke 15:18-19 – NKJV
It was the son’s acknowledgment that he had blown it big time, that places this son in a position to receive grace and mercy from his father. Yes, his father forgave him and restored him, but there’s no doubt in my mind that things would have ended differently had he not confessed his sins before his father. This is a beautiful picture of how we are to come to the Father when we blow it. No justification, no pointing fingers, no excuses, just simple acknowledging that we did wrong and sincere repentance of the wrong.
John wrote this:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 – NKJV
This brings us back to our key verse. David asked God to create in him a new heart. When we pray a prayer of repentance, our greatest desire should be that God give us a new heart. If we are sinners in need of salvation, it is what He wants to do! If we are believers who need to “get it right” He wants to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In either case, forgiveness is waiting for us, we need only ask!
David also asked that God would renew a steadfast spirit in him. What’s that? A spirit of stability, a spirit of being fixed on obedience to God, a yes to His will spirit! David had that type of spirit before, and he wanted it re-established in his life. So much so, it was more important to him than anything, because he didn’t want to lose the right to be in the presence of the Lord. He knew his sin had separated him from God, and he desperately wanted to see his relationship restored with God.
David also asked God to not to remove His Holy Spirit from him. That’s deep for an Old Testament individual, and that makes it applicable to New Testament believers. When we sin, we need to get it right! Our heart should be as David’s heart was. God, whatever You do, don’t turn me away, and please don’t remove Your Spirit from my life! Why? Because more than anything, we should want to be right before God and to know that His Spirit is still present in our lives. And that’s why the prayer of repentance is so necessary to pray. Sin blocks our ability to connect with God, but confession of that sin and repentance of that sin gives us unlimited access to Him.
As I stated in the beginning, we may need to pray this prayer on more than one occasion in our lives. But if we find that we are praying it daily, then we are in need of some different type of praying. I don’t believe necessarily in steps when dealing with God. You may need to pray for an hour about your situation, while someone else may need only a few minutes. Let His Spirit lead you during this time. However long you pray, pray until you know you’ve accomplished the task of truly repenting. And according to our definition, it must bring about a change in your behavior and your life! Wonderful Jesus!