Psalm 51 (Part 3) – A Prayer for People in Recovery

Reading Time: 7 Minutes

It is highly probable that Psalm 51 will be prayed by over a million or more people today. We pray it because we are aware of our sin and our need for God’s gracious forgiveness.

We also pray Psalm 51, because we need our inside condition made whole. We need what King David asked for in the next verses of the Psalm.

Create in Me . . .

Verses 10-12 are some of the most familiar words in the Psalms. They describe the profound need we have for a psychic change.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
(Psalm 51.10-12)

Some people object to the phrase, “psychic change,” that is often used in the program of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. Some think it is more of a New Age philosophy than a Christian term.

When David prayed about his heart, he was referring to his entire psychic disposition. That is, he wanted his mind, will, and emotions to be made clean. He no longer wanted to walk over and over again in his past failures.

If my friends in recovery mean what David meant, then the term “psychic change” is very reflective of what we want from God. We want our past to be in the rear view of our lives, never to be visited again.

David knew that only God could bring the new existence he desired into existence. He completely depended on God to fashion in him a renewed heart. That is why he asked God to “create” a new mind, will and emotions in his inner self.

When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he wavered and turned away from God’s purposes for his life. His prayer was for God to help him stand firm to once again align his life with God’s purpose for it.

Whether we know it or not, we survive only because of the grace of God’s merciful and attentive presence. If God had cast David away, we would not have this Psalm.

In a similar manner, if God casts us away from his presence, we will have no desire to pray. When we pray the words of this Psalm sincerely, it is a reflection that we are in a relationship with God, even when we feel very guilty over our sin.

A “willing spirit” volunteers and serves God without being compelled to do so. The joy of living in a personal relationship with God makes this kind of service possible.

Helping Others

Once forgiven and restored, we are able to help others to not follow the path we have taken.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodshed, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
(Psalm 51.13-15)

One of the things that I appreciate from people in recovery is their passion to help the “still suffering addict.” I know of men who have traveled hundreds of miles to help someone make amends for a wrong they have committed. Others are willing to go to great lengths sponsor others or help people get to safe place.

Once delivered from the past, we commit ourselves with the words of this Psalm to teach people the ways of God, to rejoice in the freedom he gives us, and to praise God for his goodness.

David fulfilled this portion of the Psalm by returning to the Temple at a later date. It was then that he gave the congregation instruction from his own experience. It can be read in Psalm 32.

Sacrifice of Praise

A brokenhearted person is the opposite of the self-made, hardhearted person.

For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
(Psalm 51.16-17)

For many years, I had a rock on the shelf of my office to remind me of a sermon illustration I had used. It was impossible to fit the rock into a vase that sat on the Communion Table. However, if the rock were crushed into sand, it would fit and be perfectly molded to the shape of the vase.

The sacrifice that God wants from us is an inside condition that is easily molded into the person God wants us to be. When we experience the humiliation of willful sin and humbly come to God, he is able to mold our broken pieces into the person he has designed us to be.

Prayer for Jerusalem

What sort of damage did King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband cause to the nation? Only God knows. The same question could be posed to any leader who chooses self-centered willfulness over faithfulness to God and those they serve.

After repentance and restoration, a very crucial prayer is for the well-being of those who have been harmed through our disastrous behavior. David prayed for God’s favor for the nation he had betrayed by his actions.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
(Psalm 51.18-19)

In any program of recovery the least that we can do is to pray for those whom we have harmed.

Step 8 in Alcoholic’s Anonymous may begin with prayer, but goes further: “[We made] a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

As we pray through Psalm 51, let’s pray for those who have been harmed by our actions. As God or a sponsor leads us, let’ make amends where possible.

May We Pray for You?

Maywood Baptist Church’s prayer team is honored to pray for you. Please email me at or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and ask the team to pray, too.

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