Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51: 10-12
Most of us have heard something about King David in the Old Testament. If we know about him, it’s probably because we remember the story of David and Goliath, how David, a young shepherd boy, killed a giant named Goliath, with a sling shot. In fact, in sports, it is very popular to use the image of David versus Goliath, when one team seems unbeatable and then somehow gets beaten, when one teams seems like it can’t possibly win, and then it does.
David was the youngest of 8 brothers. No one thought he would ever be king. His brothers were all brazen soldiers. David was a simple shepherd. But he was favored by the Old Testament King Saul, and was good friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan. Saul became paranoid that David might one day take his throne and Saul turned on David. After Saul and Jonathan were killed in a battle, David was anointed as King.
David had it all, it seemed. He had the favor of God and of his fellow man. He was a king. He was powerful. But David was not satisfied. One day, he saw from his palace window a beautiful woman named Bathsheeba sunbathing on the roof of her house.  She was the wife of a man named Uriah. David committed adultery with Bathsheeba and she got pregnant. Now David had a problem. He had gotten another man’s wife pregnant. He decided to solve the problem by having Uriah sent to the front lines in battle, so that he was sure to die. And when he was killed, he took Bathsheeba as his wife and they had a son. However, what David did displeased God.
In 2 Samuel 12: 1-7, we read the story of a prophet named Nathan, whom the Lord sent to David. He told David a story:
“There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it to the man who had come to him.” So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are that man!”
Because David had taken the wife of Uriah and had him killed.
After Nathan left, David was heartbroken, and he realized the only way his soul could mend was to turn it over to the Lord. David wrote most of the 150 Psalms. And they captured his sorrows, his repentance, as well as his joys and later restored confidence.
He wrote in Psalm 51—Verse 6 “Behold Thou desirest truth in the inward being, therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.” In other words, we all keep secrets, feelings that are too ugly to share with others, shame that is too embarrassing to even say out loud, even to ourselves. To relieve our shame, we need God to put His wisdom into our secret heart, the dark places where we won’t let anyone go, the dark places that so desperately need to be filled with light, the light that can only come from God.
He continued in verse 10–Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Let me be cleaned of my sins, so that as we read in verse 51:7 that I shall be whiter than snow. That is hard to conceive of, a soul whiter than snow, especially when we feel that our soul is like a black cloud. Yet, God has the power to put the new and right spirit within each of us, and make our souls whiter than snow at any time.
Verse 11—Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Here David is in fear and lamenting, wondering if he will ever be again in God’s presence, if he will ever have the fervor of God’s spirit in him again.
Verse 12—Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. This is a plea that is actually made with some boldness. David, despite his heavy sin, asks God to restore joy to him, and asks that this joy and new found restoration be upheld with a generous spirit, because he knows there is no way he can uphold it on his own. He prays that God’s spirit will be generous, gracious and merciful to him.
Psalm 51 is the Psalm of repentance, when we have failed at something, when we are failing at life, when we feel like we are failing in faith, this is the Psalm we should pray. And we should pray it with a broken and humbled heart, because this is the heart that God accepts in repentance.
For like David, we are God’s chosen ones. And like David, we have all missed the mark. However, like David, God’s restoration is still very much on the table. After all, despite all of his faults, David is still honored as a holy figure, and of all the Old Testament figures, Christ is mentioned as a descendant of David. David may have screwed up a lot of things, but in the end, he repented and made it right. And in the end, God is faithful to us, even when we haven’t been faithful to Him.
One of the best things about Christianity is that a new start is possible literally at ANY time. So much of our life has a “record” that follows us around. For instance, if a student is having a bad semester in class, he can only improve so much and is stuck until a new term begins. Some people are stuck in jobs and in other ways. Criminal records follow people forever. Even traffic tickets show up on a background check years later. The Christian, however, should never feel stuck in sin or spiritual sadness. Because the opportunity for a clean heart and a renewed spirit are on the table at all times. If you are reading this message at the beginning of the day, go for the “clean heart” today. And if you are reading it at the end of a bad day, go to bed with the clean heart on your mind and make your renewed start fresh tomorrow.
It is important to pray for and encourage others. It is also necessary to pray for oneself, and continually ask God for strength and encouragement to have the clean heart and renewed spirit.
Much as we’d sometimes like to, we can’t control others. The only heart that you can control is your own. So, focus on having a clean heart today. Ask God to keep YOUR heart pure and clean today.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy steadfast love; according to Thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. . .Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Fill me with joy and gladness. . .blot out my iniquities. . .Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit. . .Lord, open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise. Amen. (selected verses from the 51st Psalm)


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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