10. Create in me a clean heart, O God.
It is easy to give the appearance of clean hands and noble words. This is within the power of man. But a clean heart, devoid of all love of things, is the work of the Creator and His divine power. Scripture says that no one has a clean heart. Hence all are sinners before God, to whom the heart is as open as hand and work are open to man. The truth which God loves is in the heart. Inner righteousness, however, is never attained completely in this life but must always be pursued.
And put a new and right spirit within me.
The spirit of the flesh and of Adam is a crooked spirit. It turns its attention toward itself and seeks its own. We are born with it. The upright spirit is the good will directed straight to God, seeking God alone. This will must be made anew and poured into the innermost part of our heart by God, so that there may be no deceit in our spirit, but that we may love the will of God from the bottom of our heart.
11. Cast me not away from Thy presence.
This happens to all those who do not reject themselves in their own eyes and at the same time are not concerned that they are rejected in God’s sight. In fact, they set themselves up in God’s presence and exalt themselves. Therefore they will be abased and cast away. For they imagine they are clean, righteous, and enlightened, and therefore cannot be rejected. The others, however, feel and know that they are justly cast away on account of their sins. Therefore they come forward with fear and humbly pray for what the self-righteous think they have already gained with their holiness.
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
For of myself I am depraved. The Holy Spirit must make me holy and sustain me. Furthermore, without the Holy Spirit Himself there is no gift or grace satisfactory to God.
12. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation.
For through Adam and our sin this is lost to us all and must be restored by grace. It means: “Give me again a conscience happy and secure in Thy salvation,”
And uphold me with a willing spirit.
That is, with the Holy Spirit; He makes free and willing men, who do not serve God out of painful fear or improper love. For all who serve out of fear are not firmly established as long as the fear lasts. In fact, they are forced; they serve with resentment. If there were no hell and punishment, they would not serve at all. Even those who serve God out of love of reward or some good thing are not firmly established. For if they know of no reward or if the good thing does not materialize, they stop. All these have no joy in God’s salvation. Nor do they have a clean heart or a right Spirit. They are levers of themselves more than of God. Those, however, who serve God with a good and honest will are firm in their service of God, whether things go this way or that way, are sweet or sour. They are established and made firm by God with a noble, free, princely, and unconstrained will. In Hebrew the little word “free Spirit” also means “free,” “willing,” or “unconstrained.” What is done because of force does not last, but what is done willingly remains firm.
The Seven Penitential Psalms
Luther’s works, vol. 14:
Selected Psalms III