Godly Grief & Prayer

Read Together: Psalm 51

As Pastor Jerry observed in his sermon on Sunday, guilt can become a hindrance to prayer. It can make us feel like God doesn’t want to hear from us, and so we avoid God. Yet, there is a better response to our guilt. Our sense of guilt should lead to a godly sorrow for our sin, which should lead to more prayer, not less. True godly grief over sin leads to true confession and repentance, not just a feeling of remorse about our sin.1

David’s prayer in Psalm 51 is a classic prayer of confession that gives us a model of godly repentance. The background of this psalm is David’s heinous sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. Through the prophet Nathan, David has been awakened to repentance, and Psalm 51 provides a window into David’s confession before the Lord.

We learn several important lessons from this prayer. First, we learn that all sin is fundamentally committed against God (v. 4). Sin hinders our relationship with God, and all sin is rebellion against him. Second, we learn that our appeal for mercy should be based in God’s steadfast love and abundant mercy (vv.1–2). David does not appeal to his own works or future actions. He casts himself upon the gracious character of God.

Third, true repentance desires a restored relationship with God more than just the feeling of guilt to go away. David longs for the transformation of his heart as well as forgiveness (vv. 9–12). Guilt should not keep us from prayer. It should drive us to prayer! It should lead us to confess our sins as we trust that our God forgives sinners through the work of Jesus on the cross (see also 1 John 1:9–2:2).

Discussion Questions

  1. How is this psalm an example of godly sorrow over sin?
  2. What are some of the key lessons this psalm teaches us about repentance of sin?
  3. Why should guilt drive us to prayer instead of causing us to avoid prayer?

Ideas for Younger Kids

·      Read “David Sins . . . and Repents” in The Biggest Story Bible Storybook (pages 152–55). Talk about how David looked to God for forgiveness of his sin. David sinned horribly, but his guilt led him to God to ask for God’s mercy. We, like David, are sinners, and when we sin, we must go to God and ask him to forgive us. And we can know that God will forgive us because that’s who God is and that’s why Jesus died.

·      Consider learning the following catechism question with your children about repentance and discuss what repentance means. (This is Question 50 from A Catechism for Boys and Girls).

o   Q. What is it to repent?

o   A. To be sorry for sin and to hate and forsake it, because it is displeasing to God.

Memorization: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

Song: Listen to “Psalm 51 (Wisdom in the Secret Heart)” (Shane and Shane).

Pray Together

  • Praise God that he is the God of unfailing love and abundant mercy.
  • Confess before God that we have sinned against him and that our guilt has often led us to avoid prayer.
  • Give thanks to God that through Jesus he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us!
  • Pray that God would help us to have godly sorrow over sin that drives us to prayer instead of causing us to avoid prayer. Pray that God would help us grasp that Christ’s work is enough.

Go Together

  • Spend a few moments together in a quiet space and examine yourselves personally and confess your sins before the Lord. If it is appropriate, confess your sins to one another as well. This can be part of a godly sorrow over sin that allows others to pray for you as you seek forgiveness before the Lord (see James 5:16 as a biblical precedent for this).


1Colin G. Kruse, 2 Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary, TNTC Vol. 8, p. 142.

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