Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior who has washed us with His blood, clothed us with His righteousness, and adopted us as His children!
What are your 10 favorite psalms?
As you consider this answer, perhaps you are listing such psalms as Psalm 23, Psalm 1, Psalm 100, Psalm 46, and Psalm 136. Many might also include Psalm 51. This 51st psalm is David’s prayer of confession to the Lord for his breaking the second table of the law specifically with Bathsheba and Uriah her husband. The psalm opens up in a memorable manner: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (vs. 1-2).
Underlying David’s prayer life and our prayer life are faith and truth. The faith is not in ourselves but in Jesus Christ who is the author of our faith. “For he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). We can say that he who comes to God in prayer must believe that God is. More specifically, He that comes to God in prayer must believe that God is who He says He is in His Word.
Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” We pray this prayer often, but what does it mean to pray this petition with faith and truth?
David’s prayer of Psalm 51 has always intrigued me. Here he cries out to God for forgiveness and asks God to blot out his transgressions, to wash him from his iniquities, and to cleanse him from his sin. Transgression, iniquity, and sin: why does the Psalmist use these words? Surely David is confessing the weight and gravity of his sin, but what does David’s prayer have to do with faith and truth?
David is often referred to in Scripture as a man after God’s own heart. When David prays, he prays with faith. Walking by faith, David’s heart was tuned to the Word of God even though he was a fallen and sinful man. How better do we see that than in the psalmist’s inspired prayer of repentance? He prays not according to his own imaginations of who God is but rather according to the revelation of who God is from God’s Word. “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7).
God reveals Himself to Moses as the God who is merciful and gracious, the forgiver of iniquity, transgression, and sin, and David prays to the merciful God asking Him to forgive exactly what He has promised: iniquity, transgression, and sin. This is the prayer of a man after God’s own heart. This is the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man. This is how we should pray to the Lord as we ask Him to forgive us of our sins. We should pray in accordance with God’s Word, by faith, believing that He is who He has revealed Himself to be in His Word.
So praying with faith means praying according to the revelation of God Himself in His Word that He is who He says He is and that He does what He says He will do, and we rest in the knowledge of this truth as we pray. The Lord is Almighty God, holy in all His works, wonders, and ways, perfect in righteousness, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. This is the God whom we come before in our prayers, including our prayers of repentance, and this is our God in whom we believe, rest, and hope, and in whom we have eternal life by His blood.
Now notice also that while we must come before God in faith, we also come before Him in truth. What does it meant to come before the Lord in truth when we pray? Jesus says to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” There is an assumption made by Jesus of Christians when they pray – that Christians themselves will be forgiving others. Jesus says in Matthew 6, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
When we come before the Lord seeking forgiveness we must do so in truth, not as the hypocrite who desires something of God but will not grant that same thing to another who seeks it of him.
Remember the parable of the servant who owed his master much and was forgiven all, but threw in prison his fellow servant who owed him but a penny. How much more will God do to us if we ask Him for forgiveness of our sins but will not forgive those who ask for our forgiveness?
Praying truthfully does not mean we must forgive sin against us though the sinner does not ask forgiveness for the sin. God says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” However, if someone comes asking forgiveness for sin, and we deny it, we should not expect God to forgive us – we are playing the hypocrite. Similarly, if someone asks for forgiveness and we grant it verbally but not in action, we should not expect God to grant us His pardon – we are playing the liar.
On the positive side, if we grant forgiveness to those who ask it; if we pray in faith to our God who is the only living and true God; if we receive and rest on Him as our only hope in this life or the next; then we can have great confidence in asking God to forgive us for He has promised to forgive us our sins. It is God’s very character to forgive sinners for He is the gracious and merciful God who forgives iniquities, transgressions, and sins. Do not doubt this, for to doubt it is to make little of Him who is very great. Do not deny this, for to deny it is to deny the truth. Do not reject it, for to reject Jesus Christ, the God-man, is to reject the only way of salvation for sinners. All who come to Him will be saved unto everlasting life.
May the God of all mercy and grace fill us with all joy and gladness, as we confess our sins before Him. For we know that He who is the giver of faith and repentance will in no wise reject that which He has given. We also know that He who sees all things has defeated sin and death and will surely forgive us as He has promised. Brothers and sisters, cry out to the Lord in faith and truth and He will surely hear you!
Almighty God our Father
There is none great like You for by Your hand all things are and were created
It is a thing too great for us to come before Your presence and live
For we are a sinful people, full of evil, and negligent in doing good
You, O Lord, are the God full of mercy and compassion
Gracious in all Your ways
Perfect in all Your works
Holy in all Your words
You have revealed Yourself to us as the God who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin,
And we have committed such offenses against You
We have broken all Your commandments
Neglecting that which You have told us to do
Pursuing and doing that which You have forbidden
We plead with You, O Lord, to forgive us our sins
Have mercy upon us
Cause Your face to shine upon us
Until that day that You return or call us home, mold us and make us perfect even as You are perfect
Grant to us holy desires, to love that which You love and hate all that which You hate.
Soften our hard hearts of rebellion
Loosen our stiff necks
Reveal to us our sins and turn us from them
So that we may bring all glory to Your holy name
That others may learn from us and exalt the name of Jesus Christ
And that the generation to come might see the marvelous grace of Jesus Christ
Believe in You, repent of their sins, and be saved
We pray this in the matchless name of Jesus Christ our Savior, our Lord, and our God
Ben Stahl, Elder