Going Deeper With the Sermon

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Manuela Kauer
Date: October 9, 2016
Text: Praying Through Mistakes



Psalm 51: 1-12


Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.    

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit


Sin is a concept that doesn't really have much currency in contemporary culture. We tend to talk in terms of mistakes or poor choices rather than sin. King David didn't struggle to identify his mistakes as sin-things that he had done either against God's law or failing to obey God's law.

When we acknowledge our sin-just as David did-and ask for grace, God withholds the punishment we deserves and gives us what we do not deserve, the restoration of fellowship with him.


Psalm 51 is a powerful expression of the depth of sin and the reality of repentance in the lives of Christian believers. It comes in the form of a penitential prayer, lamenting that our sins against one another are in actuality sins against God himself.

The prophet Nathan powerfully confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba and his conspiracy against Uriah, which resulted in his intentional death in battle.

David acknowledges God's nature and character as merciful and loving as the basis for God's promise of forgiveness of sins and restoration of fellowship to the penitent person.  


 1.  David's Psalm begins with the acknowledgement of God's character as merciful, loving, and steadfast. In light of the gravity of David's sin (see 2 Samuel 11), how might you respond to David's request if you were God? 

 2.  According to David, God is merciful. In other words, God shows mercy to the guilty by forgiving their sin. According to Archibald Alexander, "nothing tends more to confirm and elucidate the truths contained in the Word, than an inward experience of their efficacy on the heart."[i] How has God shown himself to be merciful in your own life?

[i] Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience, 3.

3.  Clearly David had sinned both against Bathsheba and against Uriah. Yet, he writes "against you [God], and you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight" (v. 4a). Why do you think that David does this? 

4.  David acknowledges what theologians since Saint Augustine have called, "original sin" or "birth sin," the belief that sinfulness marks everyone from birth in the form of a heart that is inclined to act sinfully (i.e., against God) prior to any actual sinful act. Another way of putting is: "We're not sinners because we sin; we sin because we're sinners." Have you encountered this concept before? Does it ring true in your experience? 

5.  If the condition of all people is that we are born in sin and subject to sin, what hope do we have?

6.  Consider John 3:17: "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." What does that tell you about God's desire for humanity? For you?

7.  Modern people struggle with the notion of sin and of a God who punishes sin. What shapes your understanding and experience of God? Experience is not an infallible guide-to what extent is your religious experience shaped by Scripture?

8.  Our sin and mistakes reside in one of two places: on our shoulders (condemning us) or upon Christ's shoulders (on the cross). Where are yours? Have you experienced the freedom of forgiveness? If not, what holds you back? 


Lord God, eternal and almighty Father: We acknowledge before your holy majesty that we are poor sinners, conceived and born in guilt and in corruption, prone to do evil, unable of our own power to do good. Because of our sin, we endlessly violate your holy commandments. But, O Lord, with heartfelt sorrow we repent and turn away from all our offenses. We condemn ourselves and our evil ways, with true sorrow asking that your grace will relieve our distress. Have compassion on us, most gracious God, Father of mercies, for the sake of your son Jesus Christ our Lord. And in removing our guilt, also grant us daily increase of the grace of your Holy Spirit, and produce in us the fruits of holiness and of righteousness pleasing in your sight: Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

--John Calvin

[1] Archibald Alexander, Thoughts on Religious Experience, 3.