A Broken and Contrite Heart
By: Tom Norvell

Vol. 14 No. 45 | November 7, 2011

Have you ever prayed this prayer?

Psalm 51

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom
in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

Let me expand the question: How many times have you prayed this prayer? Or, perhaps, how many times have you prayed this prayer this week?

Sin and guilt creates distance between God and us. As the old saying goes, "If God feels far away, who moved?" God does not and has not moved away from us when we sin. But, distance comes as a consequence of our guilt and shame.

When we realize that our sin has created a distance we are prone to rely on our natural human tendencies to fix the problem and eliminate the distance.

We make promises. "Lord, I will never do this again. Please forgive me." "Father, I will work harder for You if You will forgive me." "Lord, I will do anything You want me to do, will You please forgive me?"

So, we go to work. We beat ourselves up reminding us how foolish we are. Our self-talk changes. We remind ourselves what an awful person we are. We second-guess ourselves. We feel ashamed. We constantly belittle ourselves. Our thinking seems to follow this line of thinking: "If I can keep apologizing, repenting, working harder to do better, and convincing myself how awful I am, then surely the Lord will realize how hard I am trying to be right and forgive me."

Ever been there?

Read Davidís words again:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

"A broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart?" Really? Thatís what God wants? That sounds simple. Why do we make it so difficult?

First, we make it more difficult because we are not sure that God can be trusted to forgive us. It is a control issue. It is a surrender issue. It is a trust issue.

Second, we make it more difficult because we think it is easier to fix things ourselves than to depend on God. Admitting our sin and really being honest with God about our sin, our foolish nature, and immature actions is more difficult, or less appealing than working harder to make things right. We can control (there's that word again) our hard work. We are confident in our ability. To approach the throne of God completely open and humble (and perhaps the person we have sinned against) is more frightening, and perhaps too easy, and too difficult. It comes down to our dependence upon the living God to do what only He can do.

The New Testament writer, Paul, said it this way: "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God ó through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25, NIV)

This week may be the perfect time for you to confess your sins, to humble yourself, to allow your heart to be broken, and to make a fresh start. Today may be the opportune time to come clean with God and with your fellow man. Humble yourself. Trust the God who created you, loves you, and sent His only Son to die for you. He can handle your broken and contrite heart. In fact, that is what He is looking for.


© Copyright 2011 Tom Norvell. All rights reserved.