The first part of Psalm 51 is a confession of our sinful state. By our nature we are prone to sin. By our nature, we are weak and struggle to stay out of sin. By His nature, God loves us unconditionally. By His nature, God seeks to always bring us back to wholeness and to a right relationship with God. Our sins stand between us and God alone. In His great compassion God will blot out our sins, our transgressions, our iniquities. For our part, we come to Him and repent.
In the middle part of the psalm comes our plea: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and restore a steadfast spirit within me”. These words will be spoken over and over and over tomorrow. They are familiar words on Ash Wednesday. And just as the Lord’s Prayer is not just for Sundays, these words are not just for Ash Wednesday. These familiar words should be our plea to God every day. They admit our dependence on God. We cannot win this battle on our own. We need God to create a pure heart within us and to help us be steadfast to His ways.
The psalmist follows this plea up with a request to not be cast from God’s presence or for God to not take the Holy Spirit from us. The psalm continues with these words: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me”. God is the one in action, the one who can do these things. In our acts of repentance we need both God’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. After we repent of our sins, then God alone can restore us. God alone can grant us a willing spirit, one seeking to follow His ways.
At Lent begins tomorrow, today I must look within and seek to identify my ungodly choices, my poor habits of faith, my sins. May God grant me the will and the strength to come before Him in repentance, seeking His mercy. Lord, melt my stubborn and prideful heart. Mold me into who You desire me to be. O God, fill me with Your presence and with the Holy Spirit. And then use me, use me to love You and to love those You love. Use me as You will, O God.
Scripture reference: Psalm 51: 1-17