You close with a declaration of faith. You are confident God’s love will prevail. God is with you. You will overcome because Christ overcame for you. You are His. He is the Good Shepherd who sought you, keeps you and guards you. He will not lose you. A new start. A first step. With your God. You long for the day when struggle with sin will be over. No more sin. No more sorrow. The old will pass away and all things made new.
The Psalms are wonderful guides for our prayer.
What besetting sin have you fallen into again—overspending, pornography, alcohol, gambling, gluttony? Psalms 51 or Psalm 32 could provide a template for your prayer, leading you in confession of your sin.
Another prospect would be to employ Psalm 143 to take you by the hand and lead you in communion with the God from whom you turned to follow after the idols of your heart.
Psalm 143 (ESV) A Psalm of David.
1Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Rather than run from God, you run to Him. You are desperate for mercy, that God would not treat you as your sins deserve. Your standing rests not on your faithfulness but on His. You come to Him not proposing your merit but pleading for His mercy.
2Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
You know full well, painfully well, with personal testimony, that no one living is righteousness before God. How comforting it is to hear those words, an acknowledgment from God recorded in His Word for you. The gospel floods your heart, where justice and faithfulness meet, love and sorrow flow mingled down. God’s justice met in Christ drives your confession (1 John 1:8-2:2).
3For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
You are in battle—a reminder that you cannot live with the stupor of a peacetime mentality. Your spiritual enemy has overtaken you. You have allowed him his way in your life. You curse the sin that remains in your flesh that gives him an ally, an accomplice on the inside. The darkness that surrounds you seems palpable, oppressive, almost absolute. But the enemy has not won.
4Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
Your heart warms at this expression of a supple conscience, the evidence of God’s grace in your life, the assurance of His abiding presence with you. How could you have turned from God? How could you adulterate yourself to your Bridegroom, falling for the allures of the seductress? How could you have defiled yourself? You knew better. You know better.
5I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.
Brought to your senses, you remember. You refocus. You reflect on the work of God, His promises, His grace. You rehearse His mercies to His people, His mercies old and new spread throughout your life. This God has provided a remedy for sin—your sin. He has provided a perfect righteousness, an alien righteousness, the record of the Righteous One. It soothes your soul when you realize that you are the work of God’s hands, the handiwork of His grace. He is still at work. Your sin has not derailed His saving purpose for you.
6I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
You thought your folly, your sinful indulgence would satisfy your longing. It didn’t. It won’t. Your soul thirsts for God. All else is vanity. Only God’s provision of living water will do. Only Jesus satisfies. Only He sates your longing. (Is. 55:1-3; Jn. 4:13-14; 6:35)
7Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
You need to hear the voice of your God—that He loves you still, that your sin has not driven Him from you, that His faithfulness has not failed. You are weighed down with guilt, assaulted by the darts of the enemy, assailed by doubts and insecurities of unbelief, the flames of which are fanned by the enemy’s lies. You deserve to go down to the pit. You are no different from all others who are sinners. Your spirit fails at the thought. Worse yet is the prospect that God would reject you, and not go with you. You long to hear benediction, words of blessing (Num. 6:24-26).
8Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
So you ask the Lord to assure you in His love for you. You want to hear the gospel, again, and again. God loved you and gave His Son for you. Jesus loved you and died for you. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ (Rom. 8). “Lord, tell me again.” Clearly, you are fickle; prone to wander; prone to leave the God you love. You need to be refreshed in the knowledge of this love that surpasses knowledge. Your trust is not in your faithfulness. It is in God, who does not change, whose word cannot fail. With your heart of repentance, you desire its fruit. “Lord, help me to change.” It was good that you were afflicted that you might learn God’s law.
9Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! I have fled to you for refuge.
You have not the strength. The Lord is your strength, your refuge, your fortress, an ever-present help in trouble. Be strong in Him and in the power of His might. (Eph. 6:10ff; Ps. 18:2-3; Gal. 1:4). He who has delivered you to belong to Him will guard you and keep you and bless you and withhold no good thing from you. His strength is perfected in your weakness (2 Cor. 12). “Lord, help me. To You I flee. To You I return. To You I retire that I might resist the devourings of my enemy.”
10Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
Though you had been as stubborn as a mule, though you had the sense of a loaf of bread, God has brought you to your senses. Ask Him to teach you. Ask Him to open your eyes to wonderful things. Purpose to do His will—with His help. Walk by the Spirit so that you will not carry out the deeds of the flesh. As a Father disciplines His son, so God will lead you on level ground (Heb. 12:10-13).
11For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
You ask God to lead you in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Ps. 23). Your confession of sin, your expression of repentance, your purpose to new obedience are all grounded not on your resolve, not on your repentance, not on your righteousness but on God’s mercy and saving purpose (Dan. 9:17-19).
12And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.
You close with a declaration of faith. You are confident God’s love will prevail. God is with you. You will overcome because Christ overcame for you. You are His. He is the Good Shepherd who sought you, keeps you and guards you. He will not lose you. A new start. A first step. With your God. You long for the day when struggle with sin will be over. No more sin. No more sorrow. The old will pass away and all things made new. Come, Lord Jesus!
Stan Gale is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and is the author of Finding Forgiveness: Discovering the Healing Power of the Gospel. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.