Psalm 32: Praying for Mercy

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So many of the Psalms begin with trouble. Oftentimes the Psalmist speaks about trouble that is caused by enemies with malicious intent to hurt (see Psalm 59). Sometimes it is trouble that results from the intrinsic nature of our broken world, such as the unnamed trouble Asaph lamented in Psalm 77. But sometimes, the Psalmist speaks of trouble that is caused by himself, such as our Psalm this week. 

There are at least 10 “penitential” Psalms in the Books of Psalms, in which the writer confesses his own sin to God and all the trouble that it has caused. These Psalms model to us how we can speak to God when we find ourselves making a mess of our lives through our own foolish and rebellious choices. There are at least two striking things about how David speaks to God in this Psalm. First, he is incredibly honest. He recognizes that though his sin is great, what really messes up his life is when he refuses to admit his sin. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away…” (v.3). So he desires to come clean before his God and admit everything, not hiding his own wickedness but living a transparent life before God and the whole congregation.

The second thing that is striking about how David speaks is his joy. Though he is obviously regretful of his sin, he is absolutely certain of God’s mercy and forgiveness. “You forgave the guilt of my sin” (v.5). His confession is not cloaked in dread and spiritual heaviness, instead it is infused with joy and jubilation. He ends the Psalm with an invitation to sing!  David seems to know the secret to a happy life: not pretending that everything is ok, but knowing that you are a sinner and also knowing without a doubt that you are forgiven. That is the truly “blessed” and happy person.

David is so certain of God’s mercy that Paul quotes this Psalm in Romans 4:6-8 as evidence of God’s grace in the gospel. If David was this certain of forgiveness, how certain can we be who live after the death and resurrection of Jesus!

As you prepare for worship this Sunday, consider praying through this Psalm or one of the other penitential Psalms, such as Psalm 6, 51, or 130.

Our weekly worship guide can be downloaded here.


Blessed is the one
    whose transgressions are forgiven,
    whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
    whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
    my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
    your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
    as in the heat of summer.[b]
5 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.
6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
    while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
    will not reach them.
7 You are my hiding place;
    you will protect me from trouble
    and surround me with songs of deliverance.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.
11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
    sing, all you who are upright in heart!