Prayers of Repentance
A special gift in Scripture that will change your life

What honor God gives to King David! Jesus Christ, who was “the Son of the Highest,” was also called “the son of David.” In the last chapter of the Bible, Christ calls Himself “the root and the offspring of David.” God is going to give Christ “the throne of his father David.”

Do you know what the great beauty in David’s life was? Do you know what the key to his righteousness was? Do you know what made him such a noble and royal individual? The answer to all three of those questions is the same.

God recorded more about David in the Bible than practically any other biblical personality—including some ugly details. David suffered temptations; he sinned; he failed; he had times of depression, selfishness and lust.

But David always repented. Whatever his problems, he never gave up. “This is the great beauty to David’s life and the key to his righteousness,” Gerald Flurry wrote. “David mastered repentance. … True repentance is the most noble and royal attitude any human being can learn” (The Key of David).

Do you put true repentance on that level in your own life? It should be on our minds—not only as we prepare for the spring holy days, but also each day of our lives—if we want to think as royalty!

The beautiful thing is, God has provided us penetrating insight into just how David repented. It is recorded in the Psalms, some of which are David’s very prayers of repentance.

It’s remarkable that David actually wrote these prayers down. God inspired this so we could emulate his example and develop this noble and royal attitude ourselves. We can study these prayers for lessons on how to repent. What a special gift in Scripture for us!

Let’s look first at Psalm 130: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications” (verses 1-2).

Hear my voice! David cried out. He knew that sin cuts us off from God. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me,” he wrote elsewhere (Psalm 66:18). “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil …” (Psalm 34:15-16). So, in his sin, David was very serious about getting through to God!

LESSON Don’t make requests for forgiveness lightly. Be earnest and effortful.

The Apostle John shows us that, when we sin, we have an Advocate—Jesus Christ—who will plead our case before the Father (1 John 2:1). But God still wants to see us crying out in repentance as David did. The fact that we have an Advocate should make it easier for us to go boldly before God when we need to.

Psalm 130 continues, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (verse 3). If God remembered our sins, and we continued through life with those sins remaining unforgiven, how would we stand? We have earned eternal death (Romans 6:23). But when we repent, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us (1 John 1:9). The death penalty we deserve is paid by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

LESSON Repent daily.

David even asked God to cleanse him of his secret faults—those areas where he wasn’t even aware he was breaking God’s law (Psalm 19:12). He well understood just how destructive any unforgiven sin can be in our lives.

Still—when we repent, we should ask God to show us our sins so we can be as specific as possible. Some of God’s people fail to see their sins in any specific way. They will say general things like, Yes, I’m a sinner—nobody’s perfect. But they have no fruits of repentance in their lives because they’re not working to conquer in specific areas where they’re not living up to God’s standard! You can’t repent, or turn away from, something you don’t even recognize! You can be sure that God sees specifics!

A big reason David was so effective at repentance was that he was such a diligent student of God’s law. He meditated on it day and night. If we’re not doing that, then our repentance is always going to be vague and ineffective.

LESSON Measure yourself by God’s law to make your repentance as specific as possible.

Go down the list! Are you really putting God first in your life—loving Him with your whole heart? Are you representing His name as Christ did? Do you truly love the brethren more than yourself? If you hate your brother, you’re a murderer! Do you love the world as Christ does? Do you sacrifice to help this Work reach people?

We need to be marking our sins—and then bringing them before God and getting His help in ridding ourselves of them—so we can stand before Him!

“But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:4). Consider the link between forgiveness and the fear of God. Having our sins forgiven—and that death penalty miraculously transferred to our Savior—should increase our reverence for God and respect for His power and authority. It helps us to know Him and deepens our worship.

When you ask God for forgiveness and receive it, do you grow in the fear of God? That is a good way to measure your attitude in seeking forgiveness.

LESSON Measure your repentance by whether it increases your fear of God.

“O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure” (Psalm 6:1). David did fear God. He knew that when he sinned, God had just cause to be angry with him.

This is repentance toward God—getting the Father’s view on our sin. We need to recognize that God is a God of judgment! Our sin makes Him angry! The Laodiceans don’t see this God (Malachi 2:17).

This world’s sin angers God—and He is going to punish! He tells us to separate ourselves from the sins of this world specifically so we can avoid His wrath (e.g. Revelation 18:4). When the Bible says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, this is a big part of it: We are motivated to avoid sin because we fear to anger the God of judgment!

LESSON Strive to understand God the Father’s anger over your sin.

“If we know the God of judgment, we know that we have to be corrected at times,” Mr. Flurry wrote in The God Family Vision. “And what a blessing that is! What a blessing to be a son of God. Sometimes we go through difficult trials, but realize that even if we had to scream and crawl and drag ourselves across this Earth until Christ got here, and we still made it into God’s Kingdom, it would be worth it. We must have correction. And what ultimate joy it brings into our lives if we heed what God says.”

When David wrote Psalm 6, he was in deep trial. His problems were multiplying. He was being persecuted by his enemies. He was troubled and grieving. He was losing sleep. He was physically worn out and sick.

David knew he wasn’t close to God as he should have been—but he also knew God was the only one who could deliver him. “Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake” (Psalm 6:4). He yearned for his contact with God to be restored.

LESSON When you sin, don’t reason around going straight to God.

When you’re sick or enduring a trial, there’s nothing better to do than to turn to God in repentance. Search yourself for sin! Pour your heart out to God.

When you sin, go straight to your knees about it. Don’t wait. Don’t think you have to make some improvement in your life before talking to God. You’ll never make any improvement until you talk to God—that is reality.

David stayed up all night to restore his connection with God! “I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears” (verse 6). When David repented, he didn’t go halfway! He took time in it, and was very open with God, emotional—crying with tears.

And what results David got! Notice how his tone suddenly changes: “The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer” (verse 9).

LESSON Have confident faith that God hears your sincere prayers of repentance.

This is the wonderful, faith-filled attitude we all need: pleading to God—and knowing He accepts our petition.

Psalm 38 is similar to Psalm 6. David was besieged by problems. He had sin in his life, and his conscience was bothering him—his best friends had turned their backs on him and his enemies were attacking him. He had a lot plaguing his mind.

“For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore” (verse 2). David was receiving some serious correction from God! Sometimes God’s hand does press on us—sometimes God shoots arrows our way. But we need to understand that He isn’t shooting arrows at us—He is shooting them at our sin!

“There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest [or health] in my bones because of my sin” and “because of my foolishness” (verses 3, 5). David knew the cause of his troubles: It was his sin. He wasn’t justifying himself. He knew that sin is self-destructive and foolish, and that God’s correction was right and just.

What a blessing it is for God to expose sin in our life so we can confront it.

LESSON Always accompany your repentance with thanksgiving for the correction.

“For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever with me. I confess my iniquity, I am sorry for my sin” (verses 17-18; Revised Standard Version).

“Forsake me not, O Lord: O my God, be not far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation” (verses 21-22). God will never fail to hear us when we approach Him with this attitude—if our heart is truly contrite and our spirit is truly broken.

There is no better example of that than Psalm 51. Here, King David was spiritually at the lowest point in his life. God took pains to record all the details about the particular sins he was repenting of here. David had deeply sinned over a period of months. If “a man after [God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22) can fall into such serious sins, the same is possible for any of us.

But God didn’t put this example here to show us how someone can fall. It is here to show us how to rise up after we fall.

In this psalm we get an inside look at the very deepest thoughts of this man as he repented! There is nothing in the Bible that better shows us how to repent toward God. This is at the heart of Mr. Flurry’s booklet Repentance Toward God (request a free copy if you do not have one).

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1). David was fixing his attention on the goodness of God. He was contrasting God’s righteousness with his own sinfulness, and recognizing who he really was in comparison.

LESSON Focus on God’s goodness in order to see your own sinfulness.

“Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (verse 2). The verb translated wash usually refers to cleaning clothes by kneading. David knew he was deeply soiled and stained, and he asked God to work him over—to remove the imbedded stain of that sin completely.

“For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (verse 3). This is how to overcome: Keep that sin ever before you so you are motivated to expunge it. Don’t get comfortable or complacent.

“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight …” (verse 4). Of course, David had hurt many people—but he understood that the one he had hurt most was God!

Often we tend to think we’re fine as long as nobody finds out about our sin. We are concerned about our reputation in the eyes of other people. But God sees it all. He is our Father, and He aches most of all!

Just as we must grasp God the Father’s anger over our sin, we must also see His pain. Realize what He had to give up in order to make forgiveness for that sin possible!

LESSON Strive to grasp God the Father’s sense of personal loss over your sin.

“Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God …” (verse 14). The blood David realized he was guilty of was Jesus Christ’s. That great God Being would have to die because of his sin. David grieved for what he did to God. We need to see our sins on that level as well. Even those that may seem far less serious still make us guilty of blood.

“Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities” (verse 9). “This is true repentance toward God,” Mr. Flurry wrote in Repentance Toward God. “David was looking at God’s goodness and was so embarrassed about his own sin that he just said, God, when I come into your presence will you just hide your face? Isaiah said that when he was in God’s presence he was a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5). This is a very repentant attitude. You’ll never come before God this way if you’re comparing yourself to other men rather than to God.”

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). Yes, God can completely forgive us! Even when our sins are as the deepest scarlet, He can make them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). It takes faith to believe that. It takes faith to repent before God and then not to continue feeling guilty, but to know that you are clean, and to sincerely rejoice in that forgiveness!

The deeper we see our sin and the more thorough our repentance, then the greater our joy and gladness when we know God has washed us (Psalm 51:8). This portion of our prayers each day should ultimately be very positive, as we draw upon God’s mercy and experience the joy of being forgiven by our Father (verse 12). “If we violate God’s law, we lose our joy,” Mr. Flurry wrote. “It can only be rekindled by repenting and then staying close to God” (ibid).

“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart” (verse 6; rsv). Sin demonstrates our inner enmity against God. God yearns to replace that hatred thoroughly, to put His perfect love in our very innermost being—in our secret heart!

We need to ask God for that love regularly. That is real repentance. It’s not about simply avoiding certain sins. It’s about God replacing the evil in our heart with His truth, wisdom and love.

Look starkly at your heart. If you have clear spiritual vision, you will recognize selfishness, evil and enmity against your Father. You will grasp that it is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

Now: Look at God’s heart. There you see perfect character—perfect submission to the law of love—boundless mercy to extend forgiveness to you, no matter how little you deserve it!

LESSON Compare your heart with God’s heart.

Repenting in this way really moves you to cry out for God to create His heart within you.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). This is an act of spiritual creation by God! God is working to create a new heart in us—a heart pure and clean of evil.

“Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me” (verse 11). David recognized something very important here, and it deeply moved him. He had seen the Spirit taken from King Saul and witnessed what a wreck that man’s life became.

Sin cuts off the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And the plain fact is, we desperately need that Spirit! If we really see the evil of our own human nature, then we will be moved to cry out for the help of that Spirit.

LESSON Recognize your nature without God, and how desperately you need His Holy Spirit.

Lange’s Commentary quotes a source saying that Psalm 51:11 expresses “the holy fear of the man who has his eyes open to the depth and iniquity of sin, lest at any moment he should be left without the [help] of that divine Spirit …. It is the cry of one who knows, as he never knew before, the weakness of his own nature, and the strength of temptation, and the need of divine help; and to whom therefore nothing seems so dreadful as that God should withdraw His Spirit.” Ask God to help you see spiritual reality so clearly.

From this point on in the psalm, we really see the positive results of proper repentance. David used the forgiveness he received from God—and the transformation God had effected in his heart—as a means of throwing himself into God’s Work.

“[M]y tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise” (verses 14-15).

LESSON Cultivate the noblest fruit of repentance: renewed zeal to do God’s Work.

You can see how proper repentance forms the foundation of our spiritual life! Proper repentance means that you see yourself as you are—and God as He is—and you know how unworthy you are to receive His grace—and what a miracle it is that He is using you. The fact that God rescued you from death should fill you with the kind of gratitude you would have toward someone who had saved your life! (Romans 6:13).

And all of that should fill you with a deep desire to praise Him, to please Him, and to do His Work!

“Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Psalm 51:13). David used this experience to motivate him in turning others to righteousness. Even the fact that he wrote this psalm, preserved it and included it in this book shows his desire to teach others from his own experience.

This wasn’t merely about getting himself right with God: David also wanted to become a more effective tool in God’s hands for the conversion of others!

In verse 18, David actually began to make intercession for the entire people. You see a similar shifting of attention to the welfare of the nation in the last two verses of Psalm 130. As God responded to his prayer and worked on his mind, and as David drew strength from God and experienced the blessings of forgiveness, David’s thinking became more like God’s! He saw God as the source of forgiveness for the sins of all Israel—and recognized how much the people needed that mercy extended to them.

“When kings sin,” one commentary says, “the guilt and punishment of their sins come upon their people likewise.” You could certainly say the same thing about a husband and father within a family, or a minister within a congregation, or a mother, or boss, or anyone in authority. God has given all of us positions of responsibility. Others are counting on us. Our personal sins affect more than just ourselves.

“And when kings repent,” that commentary continues, “the blessings of the gracious condition now attained stream out likewise over the whole people.”

David had come to the point where he re-embraced his responsibility to God before all the people. He asked, as he had personally received God’s blessing, for God to bless the whole nation. That is a truly deep repentance.

When David wasn’t repenting, he had no end of grief (Psalm 32:3-4). But he turned that around: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (verse 5).

So David received forgiveness—and was moved to compose Psalm 32: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity …” (verses 1-2).

What a wonderful, incomparable blessing! How awesome it is to be able to approach the God of the universe—with the guilt of sin hanging over our heads, not even being able to appear in His presence on our own merits—but having a faithful High Priest, Intercessor and Advocate who makes that relationship possible—and to ask God for forgiveness! How wonderful to petition God to wash us clean of our sin—and not just to remove the guilt and ultimate death penalty of that sin, but also to heal us completely of it, and to empower us to purge it from our lives—so we can be more like Him!

We truly are clothed and enveloped in the mercy of our Father (verse 10). What a matchless gift!

LESSON Rejoice in the incomparable blessing of forgiveness.

“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart” (verse 11). What a great source of gladness and rejoicing and joy we have! To be forgiven and cleansed—and for God to create a clean heart in us! It is only through that miraculous process that we can even know what joy there is in being upright in heart!

True repentance is the most noble and royal attitude you can learn. It is the key to righteousness. It is the way to have great beauty in your life. It is a specific way we can pattern our relationship with God after that of our father David, an ordinary mortal man to whom God has assigned a position of incredible honor in His Family forever.