Psalm 51

Telling the truth about ourselves isn’t easy for anyone. There’s no painless way to face up to our wrongdoing, stop protecting our shortcomings, and be honest to God. Yet painfully honest prayer leads to joy. 

Today’s psalm is the cry of one struggling to pray courageously. What’s surprising about this text is that for all its agony, we hear a sense of relief. Sin ignored for so long is finally brought into the open and becomes a new start. 

Purging with hyssop, an herb used for cleansing, is a sprinkling ceremony. The word for purge means “unsin.” Prayer comes from the desire to be clean and to start again.

Those who pray passionately don’t have easy lives, but they have good ones. Through prayer we recognize God’s hopes for us that we’ve been afraid to imagine. What would being totally honest with God mean for us? Would releasing foolishness, arrogance, fear, and anything else that gets in our way, free us to live more joyfully and lovingly? 

When we let go of whatever keeps us from honest prayer, we discover God’s ultimate love, infinite compassion, fantastic generosity, life-giving community, and passionate purpose. Prayer becomes a mighty ocean wave lifting us higher than we ever thought possible when we were sitting in the baby pool. 

What would happen if we asked God to create a new heart within us? Would we love more deeply? Would we listen to the lonely, stand with someone being put down, hear God invite us to a different life? Would we confess who we are and discover who we are meant to be? Would we become less comfortable and more saintly? The psalmist believes that prayer sustains those who long for lives of sacrifice, love, and great joy. We can believe that, too.


When has being honest with God led you to a great joy?


God, create in me a clean heart. I need your new and right Spirit. Amen.

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