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David’s Prayer of Repentance
Questions to Consider
1. Are you familiar with what is going on in the history of Israel and in the life and reign of David at this time? If not, use this synopsis (or another Bible Book Background) to bring you up to speed. Second Samuel 11:1-12:25 is provided above for the context of Psalm 51. Today’s questions pertain only to Psalm 51.
2. What is the overall theme of David’s prayer? Briefly explain the events in David’s life that led to his need to repent.
3. Compare David’s prayer to the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the New Testament. What are the similarities and differences? Is every prayer pleasing to God? How would you describe the heart of David and of the tax collector? What does Jesus say about the person who prays this kind of prayer? What does Jesus mean when He says the tax collector was “justified” (Luke 18:14). How do we become justified in God’s sight?
4. Sometimes people tend to think “Old Testament God” is strictly wrathful and mean, that He’s just sitting around waiting to smite people for any little infraction (as opposed to “New Testament God” who’s nice and sweet and lets people do what they want). Is that how David sees God? Carefully work your way through each verse in this chapter, listing the attributes of God that David mentions or calls upon. God called David “a man after My own heart.” How does David’s prayer point to the heart of God? Why is it fitting and beneficial to focus on and declare God’s attributes when we pray?
5. Notice the motif of “washing” and “cleansing” in this prayer. How many times does David mention the concept of becoming “clean” or “washed”? Explain the meaning and significance of this motif in David’s prayer and in your own prayers of repentance. Can you think of any New Testament passages that also deal with washing or cleansing from sin?
6. What can we learn from David’s prayer about sin and about praying in repentance and for forgiveness? List the verse(s) – and explain how they apply – that demonstrate…
•David’s understanding that there’s nothing he can do to fix or make up for his sin. He must throw himself on the mercy of God to cleanse, forgive, and restore him:
•David doesn’t attempt to finesse, hide, or make excuses for his sin. He boldly admits and confesses it:
•David understands that sin (though it may cause collateral damage to people) is, fundamentally, rebellion against God Himself:
•God is right and David is wrong:
•We have a sin nature from the moment of our conception:
•God desires that His people walk uprightly and blamelessly:
•The need to be restored to a right relationship with God after we sin:
•After contrition, cleansing, and restoration comes joy:
•We are to deal with our own sin first, before teaching or biblically judging others:
•Praise is an appropriate response to and natural outflow of being cleansed and restored:
•God wants our hearts. We can’t impress or fool Him with empty good works or rituals, but He delights in worship that springs from a heart grateful for His forgiveness:
7. There are a few verses in this passage that people sometimes misunderstand. How would you help someone understand these verses in the context of David’s prayer and our own prayers of repentance?
4- Does this verse mean that when we sin, we don’t need to repent to the people we have sinned against, we only need to repent to God?
5- A few people understand “in sin did my mother conceive me” to mean that sex (even within marriage) is sinful or dirty. Is that what David meant by saying this?
11- Does this verse mean a genuine Christian can lose her salvation by sinning?
The next time you pray a prayer of repentance, pray the words of Psalm 51 back to God.
Suggested Memory Verse