Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Here is David, confessing his sin and repenting before the Lord. He longs to walk in rightness (righteousness) but he knows he cannot do it on his own. He needs God to do a work in him, to create a new heart and a faithful spirit within him.
My daily practice includes praying from the psalms. Whenever I come to Psalm 51, and this verse in particular, I am reminded that God has indeed answered this prayer, and He has done it through the gospel, the good news that Jesus is King over all. It is the fulfillment of a promise God made through the prophet Ezekiel, who came a few centuries after David:
For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:24-27)This is the “born again” experience we read about in John 3, in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. It is being born of “water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). God cleanses us, creates in us a new heart, a clean heart, and renews a steadfast spirit in us by giving us His own Spirit to dwell within us. The fruit of the Holy Spirit, who is always at work in us, is “love, joy, peace, … faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22-23).
So now when I pray this psalm and come to this verse, my prayer is not a plea but a praise for what God done. And I yield myself to the Spirit of God and what He is doing in me.