623

God, Be Merciful to Me

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

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.
 
Bert Polman, Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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.

623

God, Be Merciful to Me

Confession

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
God, be merciful to me, a sinner. I am in trouble, and I caused my trouble. I am in trouble not because the world is unjust, but because I am unjust. I am unjust not because the devil made me unjust but because I made me unjust. I have no excuse. I am a sinner because I sin. I sin because I am a sinner. So wash me, make me pure within; cleanse, O cleanse me from my sin. In Jesus’ 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.
623

God, Be Merciful to Me

Tune Information

Name
REDHEAD 76
Key
E♭ Major
Meter
7.7.7.7.7.7

Recordings

623

God, Be Merciful to Me

Hymn Story/Background

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.
 
REDHEAD 76 is named for its composer, who published it as number 76 in his influential Church Hymn Tunes, Ancient and Modern (1853) as a setting for the hymn text "Rock of Ages." It has been associated with Psalm 51 since the 1912 Psalter, where the tune was named AJALON. The tune is also known as PETRA from its association with "Rock of Ages," and GETHSEMANE, which derives from the text "Go to Dark Gethsemane."
 
Of the three long lines constituting REDHEAD 76, the last is almost identical to the first, and the middle line has an internal repeat. Well-suited to singing in parts, this music is also appropriate for unaccompanied singing.
— 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

Richard Redhead (b. Harrow, Middlesex, England, 1820; d. Hellingley, Sussex, England, 1901) was a chorister at Magdalen College, Oxford. At age nineteen he was invited to become organist at Margaret Chapel (later All Saints Church), London. Greatly influencing the musical tradition of the church, he remained in that position for twenty-five years as organist and an excellent trainer of the boys' choirs. Redhead and the church's rector, Frederick Oakeley, were strongly committed to the Oxford Movement, which favored the introduction of Roman elements into Anglican worship. Together they produced the first Anglican plainsong psalter, Laudes Diurnae (1843). Redhead spent the latter part of his career as organist at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Paddington (1864-1894).
— Bert Polman
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