Psalm 51 as a model prayer

Jun 29, 2023

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Psalm 51 as a model prayer

Psalm 51 is a prayer psalm. Through this study, we will look at the context of the Psalm, and then dive into each element of it to better understand it. We will also take a look at many keywords in the original Hebrew. In each section of the Psalm, you will find a list of words in the English translation and the Hebrew, their number for reference in the Strong’s Concordance, and their definitions from the original language to provide additional depth and meaning. I used the NKJV translation for my study, so all words referenced should match the wording in the NKJV translation of scripture.



King David wrote Psalm 51 to his choir director. When something is sent to the choir director, it is intended to be taught to and sung by others as well to be a song or prayer that is applicable to everyone. This Psalm was written by King David, but it was written to be an example and model for others to use and pray in their own relationship with the Lord.


Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance after a great sin has been committed. David had committed some pretty serious sins and needed to repent. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance that sets the example for all of us about what true, deep, authentic, personal repentance should look and feel like.


David had slept with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, and then sent Uriah off to be killed in the war. David was an adulterous murderer who for a long while had not been repentant about these sins and carried on with his life without remourse. The prophet Nathan later came to David to rebuke David with a message from God (2 Samuel 11-12). Psalm 51 is David’s response to Nathan’s message from God and is a prayer for all of us when we need to be restored to God after we have sinned against Him. David had committed some serious sins, but he sought God and sought to be restored to Him.

Psalm 51:1-2 – Submission

David opens his prayer by pleading with God. This is an act of submission, humbling himself to God. He sets the example for us to submit to God in prayer and humble ourselves at His feet. We are but sinners in need of the mercy of God, whose lovingkindness is the only thing to wash us from the stains of our sins. David submits to God and asks the Lord to take pity on him, to be kind to him, to completely wipe out his sins from the Lord’s memory, and to morally purify him by forcefully removing the stains of his sin as in the process of removing husks from grain.


  • Mercy – ḥānan H2603
    • to be gracious, show favour, pity
  • Lovingkindness – ḥeseḏ H2617
    • of God: kindness, lovingkindness in condescending to the needs of his creature, in redemption from sin
  • Blot out – māḥâ H4229
    • to wipe out
    • obliterate from memory, from under Heaven
    • transgressions no more remembered by God against sinner
  • Wash me – kāḇas H3526
    • wash by treading (to crush or press down into the ground with feet)
  • Cleanse me – ṭāhēr H2891
    • Cleanse, purify
    • to be morally clean
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Psalm 51:3-4 – Confession

David then confesses his sins and recognizes that it is God whom he sinned against and God who has the right to judge him. Because he violated God’s law, he has sinned against God. In the process, he harmed others because of his sin, but his sins were a violation of God’s law. God is justified when He judges our sins, and He is also very clear about His judgment. God teaches us through His Word what is sin and what He calls on us to do. We must all recognize, admit, acknowledge, and confess our sins humbly to the Lord and that His judgment of our sins is justified.


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Psalm 51:5-6 – Reflection

David then takes time to reflect on God – who God is, God’s nature, power, and desires. He acknowledges that he knows God desires him to be faithful and reliable, that he cannot hide his sin from God, and that it is God who will reveal and teach. The Lord takes pleasure in us being faithful, reliable, stable, and sure. Even in the depths of ourselves He works in us and causes us to acknowledge our sins, revealing even the innermost things we hide away, and causes us to know His wisdom. Nothing can hide from Him, and He is pleased when we confess our sins and seek His ways. Our inward parts is defined as the seat of faithfulness, and God desires us to be faithful. He desires faithfulness to reside in its rightful place within us and He will cause us to recognize, admit, acknowledge and confess the wisdom of godly things.


  • Desire – ḥāp̄ēṣ H2654
    • delight in, take pleasure in
  • Truth – ĕmeṯ H571
    • sureness, reliability
    • stability, continuance
    • faithfulness, reliableness
  • Inward parts – ṭuḥâ H2910
    • inner regions, hidden recesses, inward parts
      • the heart; the seat of wisdom and faithfulness
  • Hidden parts – sāṯam H5640
    • to be shut up, hidden, secret
  • Make me to know – yāḏaʿH3045
    • recognize, admit, acknowledge, confess
  • Wisdom – ḥāḵmâ H2451
    • wisdom and prudence of godly things
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Psalm 51:7-11 – Petition

David recognizes his need for God, and asks for God to help him. Not only is it vital that we submit to God, recognizing His sovereignty, but to seek His presence and power in and over our lives. David submitted to the ways of the Lord, and then asked for God to impart His ways on him. We must do the same. Here he transitions from submitting and confessing to God, then reflecting on God, to applying what he has already acknowledged and asking God to do these things in him. He seeks for God to renew him from the inside out, and to do the works that only God can do in purifying him from his sins. Only a truly repentant heart can be purified – we must be willing, and truly acknowledge our sin and God’s justice in judging our sin, completely agreeing with Him about it. David doesn’t just ask God to cleanse and purify him, but to purify him like gold is purified – until the pure precious metal, or godliness and purity, is all that remains.


  • Purge – ḥāṭā’ H2398
    • to perfect and purity from uncleanness
  • Clean – ṭāhēr H2891
    • cleanse, purify
    • to be morally clean
  • Wash me – kāḇas H3526
    • wash by treading (to crush or press down into the ground with feet)
  • Make me hear – šāmaʿ H8085
    • to hear, percieve, and obey
  • Blot out – māḥâ H4229
    • to wipe out
    • obliterate from memory, from under Heaven
    • transgressions no more remembered by God against sinner
  • Create – bārā’ H1254
    • a divine activity of creating, forming, shaping
      • transformation, also said of the new Heaven and new earth
  • Clean – ṭâôr H2889
    • pure, clean
    • physically and ethically pure
      • like gold
  • Heart – lēḇ H3820
    • inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding
    • soul, mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory
    • moral character
  • Renew – ḥāḏaš H2318
    • to be new, renew, repair, to make new
  • Steadfast – kûn H3559
    • established, fixed, stable, secure
      • to be directed right, morally
  • Spirit – rûaḥ H7307
    • seat or organ of mental acts, the will
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Psalm 51:12-17 – Application

David continues to plead with God but acknowledges things he will do to correct his ways and glorify God. David seeks to be restored to an intimate relationship with God, for the Lord to save him from his sins, and to restore joy to him again. He is in agony over his sins and knows God is the only one who can deliver him from the weight of his sins and condemnation. The Lord blots out the sins of those who are repentant and removes the weight of sin from them. We should then be grateful, sing His praises, and share this beautiful truth and blessing with others. Forgiveness is not only for our sake, but so that we can teach the world of the goodness of God, draw others to Him, and bring Him glory and praise. He restores us for His own glory, and in turn, we should proclaim His goodness to those around us. Sometimes we need to be broken apart in order for God to use us in these ways and fill us with His joy.


  • Restore – šûḇ H7725
    • turn back to God
    • restore to a spiritual relationship with God
  • Deliver – nāṣal H5337
    • take away, snatch away
    • deliver from sin and guilt
  • Open – pāṯaḥ H6605
    • loosen, set free, open oneself
    • carve, engrave
  • Lips – śāp̄â H8193
    • to shout for joy, rejoice
    • organ of laughter
  • Broken – šāḇar H7665
    • break, break in pieces, shattered, crushed
  • Contrite – dāḵâ H1794
    • to crush, be crushed, be contrite, be broken, collapse
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Have you accepted the grace of God?

If you have not accepted the grace of God and chosen to believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I encourage you to pray to God now and invite Him in, accept Jesus as the sacrifice for your sins, and repent of your sins. Submit it all to God, lay it at His feet, seek the forgiveness of God, welcome Him into your life, and believe that Jesus died and rose again to save you from your sins.

If you would like to learn more about salvation, you can find a couple of studies that may help here:

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