David, the man God said was “after His own heart,” was a human who sinned, as all do. He was a shepherd who stood up in faith and slew Goliath with the power of God. David was the armor-bearer and soother of King Saul’s heart. He was faithful to his best friend, Jonathan, and cared for his one remaining family member, Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. Though he walked as a man of God, he remained a sinful man. David recognized his sinfulness and wrote/sang of it in many of his psalms. Psalm 51 teaches us how sinful humankind can approach Elohiym God, the one true God. The first four verses speak of sin and God’s righteousness.
David recognized righteous God cannot be in the presence of sin. Solomon, Paul, James, Peter, Luke, and John understood this, too, and wrote about it (Proverbs 15:29, 1 Timothy 2:8, James 4:3 & 5:15-17, 1 Peter 3:12, Acts 10:2, & 1John 5:14-15). God taught this to Job’s friends in Job 42:8. Besides this, Solomon, Jesus, and Peter each taught God considers abominable and will not answer the prayers of an unrighteous person (Proverbs 28:9, Matthew 23:14, & 1 Peter 3:12).
David’s first statement in this prayer of Psalm 51 shows he recognized God would only listen to and answer the prayer of a righteous person. He noted he was not righteous; he rebelled and sinned against God. David’s knowledge of his sinfulness brought guilt to his consciousness. Because of this knowledge, he began his prayer seeking God’s forgiveness. When approaching God, if we genuinely want to commune with Him – pray effectively, we must ask God to show our sins to us and then with genuine confession and repentance seek His forgiveness.
David pleaded with God to be gracious to him and show him favor according to His lovingkindness (love and mercy) and compassion. He realized God wanted to be in a relationship with Him because of his history with Him. God wants to be in a relationship and share His love with every person.
David recognized his sin and guilt. He wanted a renewed relationship with God and understood his sin kept him separated from Him. David asked God with His lovingkindness and compassion to blot out his transgressions. He entreated God to wipe out - completely obliterate - his transgressions (rebellion) against Him, to wash the guilt of his sins thoroughly (as much as needed and continually) from him, and to purify him completely (physically and morally) from sin.
David realized he was unrighteous because of his sin and guilt and knew God could not be where sin is. He wanted to be in God’s presence and commune with Him so he began his prayer asking God to wash away his sins and guilt of sins. David recognized his sin was against God; it was rebellion against God and His righteousness. He knew sin is evil and because God is Elohiym, the true God, the One who is righteous, He is blameless and justified to pass judgment on a person because of his or her sin.
What can we learn from David in Psalm 51:1-4?
When we seek to be with God, to commune with Him through prayer, we must realize God cannot be in the presence of sin and the guilt of sin. The Bible says repeatedly God will not listen to the prayers of an unrighteous - a sinful - person. Read the Bible verses noted in paragraph two. Because of this, when a person seeks God in prayer and quiet, he or she must first confess and repent of sin so God can thoroughly wash and blot out that person’s sin. We must ask God to show to us the ways we have rebelled and sinned against Him so we can confess and repent. John told us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive all our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Once God makes a person clean from his or her sin, He will commune with the person – hear and answer his or her prayer.
How is your prayer life? Are your prayers to God blocked by your sin?
Seek God’s Forgiveness First.