by Kevin Pauley
“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.” - Psalm 51:1
We know that God is omniscient. We know that He cannot forget anything He chooses to remember. Yet, we find instances in Scripture where people remind God of His own attributes.
In Psalm 51, David seems to be reminding God that His love is unfailing – that He is characterized by compassion. Why does David feel the need to remind God? It’s not so much that God forgets when He’s angry; it’s more like claiming promises of God. God tells us that His love never ends. So in prayer, we respond “God, I’m claiming the love that you promised.”
In the Bible, we find people arguing with God, like Moses who tried to stop God from killing the Israelis in the desert. He argued “The Egyptians will say, ‘God tricked them into coming to the mountains so he could kill them and wipe them from the face of the earth.’ Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you are planning against your people! Remember your covenant...” (Exodus).
1 John 5:14 tells us that if we pray according to His will, God hears us. We know that it is God’s will that He be glorified. We know that it is His will that others see His power and witness His mercy. Make sure He knows that you will give Him the glory for the answer to prayer. Be sure to tell Him that you are looking out for Him, not just trying to escape the consequences of your sin. This means that when He forgives you this time, you need to put some kind of safeguard in place so that sin won’t happen again. You cannot ask Him to forgive you while knowing in your heart of hearts that you plan to do it again.
Repentance is not just mouthing the words “I’m sorry”. Repentance involves a changing of your ways. Do not think that you can psychologically manipulate the Lord of the Universe into becoming your private genie in a bottle, granting your three wishes. Remember that He knows your heart. He knows things about you that you don’t know about yourself! Claim His power, love, mercy, compassion, pity, righteousness. Claim His goodness when asking for something material. Claim His immutability when asking for something He’s given someone else. Remind Him of His faithfulness when staking a claim on a promise He gave in Scripture. But my suggestion is: when you do…do it respectfully.
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Kevin Pauley is a pastor and writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Lynn, their five children and two dogs. His internet address is Berea.
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