There’s so much to take away from Chapter 10 of Longing to Pray that I hardly know where to start! I do believe it’s important to take a look at Psalm 51 before we go much further, so maybe it’s best to begin there. Psalm 51, where the psalmist feels every bit of the gulf sin has created between him and God, the yearning he feels to repent, but also the assurance he has that says his relationship with God will only be strengthened by openly admitting his sins. This isn’t a time for hiding in shame.
The notation given with Psalm 51 tells us that it was written by King David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba. David knew the gravity of what he had done, but more importantly, he knew he must admit this sin to God and ask forgiveness… something we tend not to “know” instinctively anymore in the same way David did.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
As Dr. Kalas writes, “Several qualities are no doubt missing from a good deal of religious experience as it is commonly known in our day, but perhaps nothing is more serious than our failure to see the need for repentance…. We have such a limited theology of sin…. We don’t realize that sin, even as we experience it in its most pedestrian forms, is a violation of the very nature of our universe, a universe whose original core is utterly right because it is of God” (86).
But whatever David’s failures and despite all the wrong he had done, his heart still longed for God. The separation created by his sin was too much to leave untouched; something had to be done to repair his relationship with God. David also knew, deep inside, that he could go to the Father no matter what mistakes he had made. And he had to approach God with everything in plain sight in order to fully repent.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
“David counts on God’s ‘steadfast love’ as his assurance that God will hear his prayer and will accept his repentance” (85). It is so important to speak our sorrow at having done something against God. As a friend, we must speak it and ask for forgiveness. “Unconfessed sin, whatever its form – bitter memories, resentments, thoughtless words, moral and ethical betrayals – will eventually stifle the soul unless it is dealt with” (84). And we know that God – in his steadfast love – will draw us nearer as we say, “I’m so, so, so sorry.”
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
“If one cherishes a friendship ultimately, the need to repent is even greater than the need to be forgiven. Something in the soul says, ‘I want desperately for our relationship to be restored; but above all, I want you to know how sorry I am that I have violated our friendship. To forgive is yours; to repent is mine’” (88).