1 God, be merciful to me,
on your grace I rest my plea;
your compassions overflow,
blot out my transgressions now;
wash me, make me pure within,
cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin.
2 My transgressions I confess,
grief and guilt my soul oppress;
I have sinned against your grace
and provoked you to your face;
I confess your judgment just,
speechless, in your mercy trust.
3 I am evil, born in sin;
you desire all truth within.
You alone my Savior are,
teach your wisdom to my heart;
make me pure, your grace bestow,
wash me whiter than the snow.
4 Broken, humbled to the dust
by your wrath and judgment just,
let my contrite heart rejoice
and in gladness hear your voice;
from my sins, O hide your face,
blot them out in boundless grace.
5 Gracious God, my heart renew,
make my spirit right and true;
let me not abandoned be,
let your Spirit dwell in me;
your salvation's joy impart,
steadfast make my willing heart.
6 Sinners then shall learn from me
and to God restored shall be;
Savior, all my guilt remove,
and my tongue shall sing your love;
touch my silent lips, O Lord,
and my mouth shall praise accord.
7 No attempted sacrifice
has acceptance in your eyes;
broken hearts are in your sight
more than sacrificial rite;
contrite spirit, pleading cries,
you, O God, will not despise.
8 Prosper Zion in your grace
and her broken walls replace;
then our righteous sacrifice
shall delight your holy eyes;
freewill off'rings, gladly made,
on your altar shall be laid.
Source: Christian Worship (2021): Psalter #51D
|First Line:||God, be merciful to me, On Thy grace I rest my plea|
|Title:||God, Be Merciful to Me|
|Refrain First Line:||Gracious God, my heart renew|
|Liturgical Use:||Confession Songs|
st.1 = Ps. 51:1-3
st.2 = Ps. 51:4,8
st.3 = Ps. 51:10-12
st.4 = Ps. 51:13-14,17,19
Based on Psalm 51, the best-known of the penitential psalms, “God, Be Merciful” is a collation from the complete versification of the psalm in the 1912 Psalter. Making various alterations, especially in stanza 3, Bert Polman (PHH 37) prepared the collation to provide a shortened version of this well-known psalm and tune for the Psalter Hymnal. Other settings of Psalm 51 are at 51 and 167.
Service of confession and forgiveness; a sung prayer for renewal (st. 3); offering of gifts (st. 4). See also PHH 51.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1988
The text of this hymn was inspired by Psalm 51—David’s confession after Nathan the prophet visits him about his adultery with Bathsheba. It is considered one of the best-known penitential (or confessional) Psalms. The hymn covers the content of the Psalm through four separate stanzas. The first stanza covers Ps. 51:1-3, the second stanza covers Ps. 51:4, 8, the third stanza covers Ps. 51:10-12, and the fourth stanza covers Ps. 51:13-14, 17, 19. Although the hymn alters the biblical text to form rhyming lines, the depth of David’s sadness and regret in Psalm 51 remains.
The tune most commonly used for this hymn is Richard Redhead’s READHEAD 76, which was written in 1853. Redhead had a career as an organist that lasted fifty-five years, from age 19 to 74. During that time he wrote dozens of tunes, including REDHEAD 76. This somber tune (commonly used with the hymn “Go to Dark Gethsemane”) is well suited for such a grief-riddled text. They have been paired in many hymnals.
This hymn would best be used in a service of confession and forgiveness. It can also be used as a song for renewal. The song is well suited to parts, with or without accompaniment.
Suggested music for this hymn: