God, Be Merciful to Me

Full Text

1 God, be merciful to me,
on your grace I rest my plea;
Wash me, make me pure within;
cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.

God, be merciful to me,
on your grace I rest my plea.

2 My transgressions I confess;
grief and guilt my soul oppress.
I have sinned against your grace
and provoked you to your face. [Refrain]

3 I am evil, born in sin;
you desire truth within.
Make me pure, your mercy show;
wash me whiter than the snow. [Refrain]

4 Let my contrite heart rejoice
and in gladness hear your voice;
from my sins, O hide your face,
blot them out in boundless grace.
God, be merciful to me,
on your grace I rest my plea. [Refrain]

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Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

God’s children are not called to come before God’s throne with a list of accomplishments, or merits or goodness; they are called, says Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 26, to come with the humility that “…offers nothing but our need for mercy.” Such a cry for mercy comes from our “dying-away of the old self” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33, Question and Answer 88) which expresses that we are “genuinely sorry for our sin and more and more…hate and run away from it” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 33, Question and Answer 89).

The gifts of renewal and pardon come only “through true faith” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7, Question and Answer 20) and are “gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merits” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7, Question and Answer 21). The very act of faith is to plead for his mercy.


God, Be Merciful to Me


Holy and merciful God,
we confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, O God.
We have not listened to your call to serve as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, O God.
We confess to you, O God, all our past unfaithfulness:
the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience in our lives,
we confess to you, O God.
Our self-indulgent appetites and ways
and our exploitation of other people,
we confess to you, O God.
Our anger at our own frustration
and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
we confess to you, O God.
Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts
and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
we confess to you, O God.
Our negligence in prayer and worship
and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,
we confess to you, O God.
Accept our repentance, O God,
for the wrongs we have done.
For our neglect of human need and suffering
and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
accept our repentance, O God.
For all false judgments,
for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors,
and for our prejudice and contempt
toward those who differ from us,
accept our repentance, O God.
For our waste and pollution of your creation
and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
accept our repentance, O God.
Restore us, O God,
and let your anger depart from us.
Favorably hear us, O God,
for your mercy is great. Amen.
[Massey H. Shepherd, Jr., in BCP, pp. 267-268, alt. PD]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

A Prayer for Lent
Gracious God, you who sent your Son into the world so that the world might be saved through him, save us too. You are the God of abounding grace, of amazing grace, of grace upon grace. You are famous for your grace. We need it now, holy God, because we are not pure within, and our own sin rises up to accuse us. We sin and then we accuse ourselves, abuse ourselves, indict ourselves because we simply are not pure within. So save us from our sin, from ourselves, from sin that makes misery and misery that makes sin—save us from the whole miserable mess. On your grace we rest our plea, in Jesus’ saving name. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

Merciful God, we cannot stand before you
unless our hearts are cleansed and our spirits are made right by your redeeming.
Thank you for your merciful forgiveness,
and even more for your transforming love
made known to us in Jesus the Savior. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

God, Be Merciful to Me

Tune Information

B♭ Major


Musical Suggestion

These two texts, #622 and 623, are interchangeable. When singing #623 to the melody by Christopher Miner, add the refrain after each stanza. When singing 622 to the tune REHEAD 76, the refrain is omitted.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

God, Be Merciful to Me

Hymn Story/Background

The choice of the tune RUTHERFORD for this hymn of confession is most appropriate. This tune and text combination may bring to mind a psalm of confession from the 1912 Psalter, the most known and used metrical psalter of the 20th century. In that Psalter this same tune was set to a setting of Psalm 32, “How Blest Are They Whose Trespass Has Freely Been Forgiven.”
RUTHERFORD was composed by Chrétien Urhan. RUTHERFORD originally was published in Chants Chrétien (1834). The tune became associated with Anne Ross Cousin's hymn text “The Sands of Time Are Sinking.” Cousin based her hymn on writings from the Last Words of Samuel Rutherford (1857); Rutherford was a seventeenth-century Scottish Covenant preacher. The tune was later arranged by Edward Francis Rimbault and published in its present form in Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1867).
RUTHERFORD consists of four long lines, each of which has its own melodic and rhythmic patterns. Sing this music with two beats per bar to get the sense of the longer textual and musical lines. Try singing in harmony, unaccompanied on one of the inner stanzas.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

The 1912 Psalter was the first ecumenical psalter published in the United States and the most widely used metrical psalter of the twentieth century in North America.  The United Presbyterian Church invited all other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations to join them in the effort to provide a new versifications of the psalms; six Presbyterian denominations, as well as the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America joined in the effort in revising the 1887 Psalter (whose texts actually dated back to the 1871 Book of Psalms; the 1887 edition had added music to the texts.).  The 1912 Psalter included all the psalms in 413 settings, eight doxologies, and the three Lukan canticles (Song of Mary, Song of Zechariah, and Song of Simeon).
— Bert Polman and Jack Reiffer

Composer Information

Christopher Miner is one of the most prolific of the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) hymn tune writers. He began writing hymn tunes in the early 1990s,  first as a freshman at Vanderbilt and then later at UT Knoxville where he led the worship for RUF for several years. Chris has recorded several CDs of his own hymns.
— Indelible Grace Bio (http://hymnbook.igracemusic.com/people/christopher-miner)

Eelco Vos (b. 1972) is a Dutch composer and pianist. He studied at the Conservatory of Music in Utrecht and obtained degrees in music education and classical piano. He studied under master pianist Alwin Bӓr, and took master classes from Ivan Moravec and Ferenc Rados. For several years Vos played with an acoustic band, and many of his songs were aired on the radio. Growing up, Vos had sung Genevan Psalms at home, church, and school. To revitalize psalm singing among current Dutch youth who no longer knew that heritage, he founded and directs The Psalm Project (www.thepsalmproject.com), a group of professional Dutch musicians devoted to performing fresh and contemporary settings of the psalms, based on tunes from the 16th century Genevan Psalter; Elco Vos is the primary composer and arranger and plays keyboard with the group. They regularly tour the Netherlands, and for their first North American tour in 2012, they partnered with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship in releasing Psalms Unplugged, their first English-language CD. 
— Emily Brink

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