Luther on Psalm 51:1

Just last week I finished Luther’s “Selections from the Psalms” and  felt compelled to share his thoughts on Psalm 51.  If you’ve been following this blog for some time you’ll know that I did the same for Luther’s thoughts on Psalm 23 as well.  Without further ado here’s Luther’s take on verse 1 of this beautiful Psalm.

Psalm 51:1 “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.”

“To Call on God and to say, ‘Have mercy,’ is not a great deal of work.  But to add the particle ‘on me’–this is really what the Gospel inculcates so earnestly, and yet we experience how hard it is for us to do it.  This ‘on me’ hinders almost all of our prayers, when it ought to be the only reason and highest occasion for praying.”

“Let us… learn this so that the crowd of thoughts that seek to hinder us [to pray] might rather urge us on even more to cry out to God…  In ourselves we experience this crowd of thoughts upbraiding us: ‘Why do you want to pray?  Do you not know what you are and what God is?’  This crowd of thoughts is very burdensome for the spirit, and it hinders many.  We must despise it and pray for the very reason that seems to calls us away from prayer.”

“I must not surrender to Satan as he attacked me with his arrows, but tearing them from him by the power of the Spirit I turned the weapons against the enemy himself and said: ‘You frighten me away from prayer because I am a sinner.  But I see that I must pray most of all because of this reason, that I am a very great sinner in need of mercy…  To God, I am more than fit for prayer, because I am an exceedingly great sinner.”

Our whole life is enclosed and established in the bosom of the mercy of God…

“Whatever we are and live is all by sheer grace, not by our own righteousness or merit…  Whenever we are stung and vexed in our conscience because of our sins, let us simply turn our attention from sin an wrap ourselves in the bosom of the God who is called Grace and Mercy, not doubting at all that He wants to show grace and mercy to miserable and afflicted sinners…”

LW Vol. 12 



2 thoughts on “Luther on Psalm 51:1

  1. Thank you for doing this. I pray the Daily Office and Psalm 51 is always the first psalm at Lauds.

    I am looking forward to the rest of Luther’s thoughts on this Psalm. These words of comfort and assurance are so precious. Thanks again.

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