Prayer – Day 6

Prayer for forgiveness

The prayer of David for forgiveness rings true for every one of us who has been confronted with our sin and our shame. When we’ve sinned the inner core of our being is wounded and sin bears down on us like an illness. Often shame keeps us from asking and obtaining forgiveness.

In Psalm 51 we see a man close to God, but a sinner nonetheless, who is eaten away by his sinful actions. We know of David’s grave sin when he took Uriah’s wife as his own and had Uriah killed. The prophet Nathan confronts David with the horror of his actions. He subsequently acknowledges that he did wrong but his guilt follows him like an incurable skin disease; there is no escape. He prays to God to be cleansed with hyssop, a humble plant of rich significance in Bible history. It is a common plant with medicinal qualities, which was used in the ceremonial cleansing by the priest of those with skin diseases. So, David’s prayer evokes these associations to express his deep desire to be cleansed of sin and washed of his pride (Psalm 51:7). His prayer for forgiveness is similar to the plea of a leper asking to be healed. But the most significant reference is of course to Christ on the cross who was given a sponge with hyssop to relieve his pain, bearing the sin — or infection — of all of mankind.

At times every one of us is confronted with the terrible consequences of our own sin, which cannot be undone. Jesus died to forgive and free us from a life of shame and regret. Let us take the branch of hyssop and live in the light of God’s forgiveness.