7 Psalms of Repentance and Forgiveness

The Psalms of Repentance show us how we can approach God in honesty and reverence, confess our shortcomings, and receive His mercy.

We all know the feeling. That churning in the pit of our stomach when we know that we have messed up, sinned, and fallen short of what God has asked of us.  As followers of Jesus, we are in a constant process of being made holy.  This process is filled with ups and downs, glorious moments, and not-so-glorious moments.  Throughout each step of the process, we will still deal with the effects of sin and its consequences.   

Fortunately, God is able to turn even our messiest moments around and bring redemption to our lives for His glory.

What the Bible Says about Repentance

Repentance is a pivotal topic in the Bible and a concept we must grasp as we desire to grow in a vibrant, thriving relationship with our heavenly Father.  Throughout the Bible, there are many repentance scriptures.  It’s no secret that even as followers of Jesus, we all mess up and fall short. 

In Romans 3:23, we are told that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NIV). 

The incredible thing is that God hasn’t left us alone in our fallen and broken condition.  Jesus gave up His life as a perfect sacrifice and took on the full punishment for our sins, making a way for us to be restored to a right relationship with God the Father. 

It is written in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV). 

Repentance is the act of acknowledging our sins and our failures, requesting God’s forgiveness, and turning away from our sinful behavior to follow Jesus.  Repentance and surrender to God’s will are the keys to turning a broken life into a redeemed life.  The Bible describes God as a loving Father earnestly seeking reconciliation with his children. 

Luke 15:7, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent”  (NIV). 

What a loving and gracious God we serve.

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The Psalms of Forgiveness and Repentance

The Psalms of Repentance, also referred to as the Penitential Psalms, are comprised of Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143.  The Psalms of Repentance capture the raw human emotions of guilt, shame, and a feeling of separation from God.  As we read these Psalms, we can resonate with these emotions, as we recall times in our lives when we were lost in our sin and destructive behavior. 

As we navigate through challenges, mistakes, and shortcomings in our lives, we can find comfort and solace in knowing that we are not alone and that God always chooses to respond to our repentance with His mercy.

Psalm 102

In Psalm 102, a person afflicted in their sin cries out to the Lord in mercy.  Perhaps, the identity of this individual is not important, as he or she serves to represent all of us in our fallen condition before God.  The person writes to future believers, encouraging us of God’s goodness and faithfulness and that His plan for us has always been freedom and redemption.

Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” (Psalm 102:18-20 NIV)

Psalm 130

In Psalm 130, an individual’s cry for mercy and forgiveness transitions to a plea that the nation of Israel would put its hope in the Lord for their redemption.  This Psalm serves as a powerful example of how we can pray for both individual and corporate repentance.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.  He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. (Psalm 130:7-8 NIV)

Psalms of David asking for Forgiveness

King David was referred to as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14), yet like us, he struggled with sin and temptation.  As referenced below, several of the Psalms of Repentance were penned by King David himself.  The Psalms of Repentance model for us what it looks like to humbly come before the Father in our sin and our brokenness and to seek His forgiveness and mercy.  As seen below, God responds to our willingness to lay our brokenness before Him, holding nothing back.

Psalm 6

In this Psalm, King David expresses the agony of his suffering, as he pleads for God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Towards the end of the Psalm, he expresses a confident hope that God has heard his cry.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.  Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.  My soul is in deep anguish.  How long, Lord, how long? (Psalm 6:1-3 NIV)

Away from me, all who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping.  The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. (Psalm 6:8-9 NIV)

Psalm 32

In Psalm 32, King David proclaims blessing over us as children of God whose sins are forgiven and covered by God (1-2).  He writes about the destructive effects of keeping our sins hidden away from God and expounds on the blessings that come as a direct result of confession and repentance.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. (Psalm 32:3-4 NIV)

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.  You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:5-7 NIV)

Psalm 38

In Psalm 38, King David vividly describes the physical effects of sin on the human body and the emotional toll sin takes on our hearts.  Yet, even in His frail condition, King David asserts His confidence in the Lord’s mercy.

Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.  My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. (Psalm 38:3-4 NIV)

Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God. (Psalm 38:15 NIV)

Psalm 51

Psalm 51 was written after King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed on the frontline of battle (2 Samuel 11).  In this Psalm, King David models for us what it looks like to come to God in the depths of our darkness and sin.  He comes before God in humility and transparency and does not attempt to minimize the consequences of his sinful actions.  Yet, out of the place of his relationship with Father God, he demonstrates an understanding and confidence that he can come before the Father, requesting mercy, even in his desperate condition.  He knows that even at his lowest point, God’s mercy is available.

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. (Psalm 51:10-12 NIV)

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17 NIV)

Psalm 143

Lastly, in Psalm 143, King David prays for mercy and relief at a time when he is being pursued by his enemies.  He prays he would not be brought into God’s judgment, while also praying for rescue and direction so that he may continue to follow the Lord, even as he comes under attack.  This Psalm demonstrates that there will come times in our lives when we will face personal sin and be afflicted by the actions of others.  In both cases, God is available to rescue us and guide us to safety.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go for you I entrust my life.  Rescue me from my enemies Lord, for I hide myself in you.  Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143:8-10 NIV)

Psalms of Repentance

Each of these important Psalms models for us what it looks like to cry out to God, repent for our sins, and to receive His mercy.  Repentance is an essential component of our Christian lives.  The Psalms of Repentance teach us that no matter how far we have strayed from God, we can be brought close to Him by acknowledging our sin and accepting His love and His grace.  His grace abounds and His love is plentiful.

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Meet the Author

Theresa Millet

Theresa and her husband Chris live in New Haven, CT. Theresa is a down-to-earth New England girl who loves spending time with friends, good cups of coffee, and new adventures. Theresa is passionate about empowering people to walk in both spiritual and mental health and wholeness and writes a blog at A Diary of a Hot Mess.