The first three posts in this series were of the section of these prayers that originates specifically in the Coptic Church, but the remainder are far older than that: they are Psalms, and there are four of them.
The first Psalm is one of introspection, repentance, and forgiveness – a chance to get the ugly things out of my system and to reallign myself to God. Some days this is as far as I get, but I know that I always need to get this far.
PSALM 51 [abridged]
Have mercy on me O God, according to Your loving-kindness;
According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
Cleanse me from my sin;
For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Create in me a clean heart, O God
Renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
Or take Your Holy Spirit from me,
But restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And uphold me with Your generous Spirit.
For the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart;
These, O God, You will not despise.
Hear Your servant's humble prayer.
I have been told that the further you walk with God, the more utterly aware of your own fallen nature you become, and maybe that's true. But I had always wanted it to mean that I would progressively get harder on myself, due to achieving increasingly high standards in Godly living, whereas the reality is not that I'm getting any more righteous, only more aware of my need for forgiveness.
I can't spend even a few minutes under the weight of sin, which clouds everything and burdens everything and twists me into self-hate. That's why I need this prayer.
I'm grateful for King David writing it (and having the guts to distribute it for public use, written at the lowest point in his life), for the emphasis on the magnitude of God's mercy, and particularly for the reminder that the worship God is interested in comes from a broken and contrite heart. He loves and restores us.