How to Pray When You Feel Guilty
How to Pray When You Feel Guilty

Feeling Guilty?

Read Psalm 51

Sin has consequences. Few people understood it as well as King David. David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his plot to kill her husband, Uriah, marked a turning point in his reign as king of Israel (see 2 Samuel 11-12). In the following chapters of 2 Samuel, we read of the rape of his daughter, Tamar, by David’s son Amnon (13:6-15), and then the rebellion of another son, Absalom (16:15-17:4).

Rebellion and war plagued the rest of David’s reign. David’s sin had consequences for his family and the whole nation. But the most serious consequence was how it affected his relationship with God. Fortunately, David confessed his sin after God used Nathan the prophet to confront him.

Psalm 51 is a wonderful model of a sinner’s prayer. First, we hear David’s confession (vv. 1-6). David understands that he can give God no reason why he should be forgiven. Forgiveness can only spring from God’s grace, “according to your great compassion” (v. 1). David piles up words to describe the horror of what he has done, “transgressions”, “iniquity”, “sin”, and “evil” (vv. 2-4).

Today, we often describe our sins as “mistakes” or “an error of judgment”. David will not play this kind of word game with God to lessen the seriousness of his sin. He admits his sin and that God is right to judge him (v. 4). Finally, David admits that when he sinned, he was acting consistently with his sinful nature (v. 5).

Second, we hear David’s desires. David longs to be washed and made clean (vv. 2, 7). He wants his guilt and sin taken away. More than that, he longs for a new heart (v. 10). He wants a heart that desires righteousness, not wickedness. Then “the joy of your salvation” will be restored to him (v. 12).

Finally, David promises to tell the world about all that God has done for him. He will teach other sinners God’s ways, so they won’t make the same mistakes he made (v. 13). Having experienced the wonder and joy of forgiveness, he will praise God in the presence of all the people (vv. 14-15).

Today, let us thank God for the wonderful gift of His Son, who died that we might be forgiven and begin every day thoroughly cleansed. And as we think about this wonderful psalm, let’s also take a moment to confess our sins before God:

Almighty God, heavenly Father, we confess that we have failed You often in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Not only have we done wrong, but we have failed to do right. Lord, You alone can forgive sin. Because Jesus has died for us, have mercy on us and pardon our sins. Help us to serve You not only with our lips, but with our lives. Amen.

Extracted from Journey Through Psalms Vol. 2 by Mike Raiter.



First John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Are there particular sins that you’ve been hiding from God right now? How does this psalm teach us a right way to confess our sins?

Verse of the Day

“Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”
(Psalm 51:4)

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Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. Psalm 51:4

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