“Create in me a clean heart, O God,Psalm 51:10 ESV
and renew a right spirit within me.”
The verse “Create in me a clean heart, oh God” has caused a lot of reflection in believers over the years. What is the meaning of “Create in me a clean heart?” Why do we pray it? What are we truly asking? Is it really necessary to ask this once we have become believers?
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When you read the phrase “Create in me a clean heart,” does it evoke any type of emotion in you as a believer in Jesus Christ? For me it does. I feel a longing to be clean before my Savior. But not just clean; redeemed, close to him, loved.
What is the Meaning of Create in Me a Clean Heart?
This specific passage of scripture is found in Psalm 51 and it was written as a song by King David. Before we can truly understand the significance of the verse, we have to understand the context in which it was written.
King David went through a season of sin with Bathsheba, which is recorded in 2 Samual 11. Eventually, the lust he felt f Bathsheba led to him literally killing her husband who was one of his “Mighty Men” (2 Samual 12:1-9).
The King eventually repents, in fact, he shows great remorse for what he has done. It was in these moments of regret that he penned Psalm 51. It was an outpour of emotion. Listen to the outcry of verses 9-12,
Hide your face from my sins,Psalms 51:9-12
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
A Prayer of Anguish
Do you hear the anguish in these verses? It is an inward cry to God. It’s not a prayer he necessarily expected others to pray. It was all about him and his Creator. It was a prayer of repentance and declaration.
Scholars believe that when David wrote, “Create in me a clean heart” he used the same verb that is in Genesis 1:1 to emphasize the creation of the world. Why use such a powerful word? Perhaps it was because David knew the type of cleansing and renewal he needed was radical. Perhaps he knew the only way he could conquer his desires and flesh was through the power of God. The word means radical cleansing.
David had acquired a massive debt. It was a debt of sin. His sin with Bathsheba and the consequences afterward may only span a few chapters (Chapters 12-23) in our reading, but it spanned years in time.
What is the ‘create in me a clean heart’ meaning? It means to feel crushed under your sin and so desperate for renewal that you will cry out to God for cleansing. The create in me a clean heart meaning is a sign and place of repentance and submission to your Father in Heaven.
A Prayer for a Clean Heart and a Right Spirit
Can we pray Psalms 51 for ourselves?
When we become aware of our sin and see the visible consequences of our sin affecting our relationship with God, we not only agree that our sin is heinous in the sight of our God, but that we are willing to start over and begin again a life that pleases our Savior.
So can we pray Psalm 51 for ourselves? Yes! But it cannot be just a trite prayer that we use to cover a mediocre heart of repentance. Think back to the anguish of King David. Do you feel that anguish as a result of your sin?
I confess that sometimes I don’t. Sometimes my first prayer needs to be one of the deep cries to my God to let me feel the weight of my sin.
Dear Lord, I know I have sinned. I know that what I have done grieves your heart. But honestly in my flesh, what I have done feels good. I don’t feel the weight of sin that I need to. Please God help me feel the deep anguish of what it means to rebel against you. Change my heart. Amen.
Do you feel the deep sense of regret and remorse that King David felt when he penned the words, “Create in me a clean heart?” Join me in prayer.
Dear Father God, I don’t deserve your forgiveness. In fact, I deserve your wrath. As I look at Psalm though, I see that you are a forgiving and generous God. Yet you don’t excuse sin. I need you right now Father. Create in me a clean heart and forgive me for my sins. I want to be in your presence again. Restore my hope and my joy. May I live my life in obedience to you.
Another way of praying Psalm 51 is listed in this blog post. I love the concept of placing your name in scripture. It makes the passage come alive in a new way.
Is a Pure Heart Possible?
King David was not the only one to humble himself in the Bible and cry out to God. There are many accounts of godly men and women turning away from their sins and finding freedom in repentance.
2 Chronicles 20 is another quite amazing account of the nation of Israel humbling themselves before God and as a result, God led them to victory. Repentance, humility, and a heart change can have radical impacts on your relationship with God.
But is a pure heart possible? Sadly no. We cannot acquire a completely clean heart because we are sinful people, but the good news is that God’s mercies are new every morning.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
Why Did King David Ask for a Pure Heart?
Your heart is important to Jesus. In fact, it is of utmost importance! Jesus died so your heart could be made clean. Although King David didn’t know that part of the grand story, he did know that only a pure heart may approach God. Leviticus 16 describes the ritual cleansing that would take place before a priest was allowed to enter the holy place.
King David knew that approaching God for forgiveness was a serious matter. David asks for a pure heart because he needs God’s forgiveness.
For the believer, we have an astounding advantage. We have the cleansing power of Jesus that declare that by his wounds we have been healed!
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.1 Peter 2:24
How Do You Keep Your Heart Clean For God?
The truly important thing to remember about Psalms 51 is that it is not a ‘one and done’ type of prayer. It is a prayer that we need in our lives daily. The create in me a clean heart meaning is one of repeated repentance as we are convicted of our heinous crimes.
The man who penned these words at the end of his life was not defined by his adulterous actions or his many other sins. What was he defined as? This is truly incredible. He was defined as a man after God’s own heart.
And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’Acts 13:22 ESV
We can often become so wrapped up in rote prayers and their meaning that we forget how gracious, loving, and generous our Savior is. This does not give us permission to live in sin, but freedom to know that we have a forgiving Savior who has already done the work of giving us a clean heart.
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