Wednesday, 1 October 2014
A clean heart and a right spirit
In fairness they are experts in cleaning cars because everyday after each funeral they wash, clean and polish theirs until you can see your face in it. Even if there is no apparent dirt or dust on the car - at least not to my obviously untrained eyes - they will take it back to the garage and clean it. Why? Because they want to show their clients that they care and that what they want to offer them is nothing but the very best.
In today's psalm the writer prays not for a clean car but for a clean heart. "Make me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10)
This psalm - psalm 51 - is read in its entirety every morning in the Eastern Orthodox Morning daily prayers. Thus the one who prays asks that God cleanse his or her heart from all the dirt that it has been picked up during the day. And our hearts do pick up dirt. Whether from what we see or hear from the TV, radio or daily life, or what comes up from what Isaiah so vividly calls the "tossing sea" of our own hearts which "cannot be quiet, (and whose) waters toss up refuse and mud." (Isaiah 57:20) - very vivid description isn't it.
Each day, the psalmist reminds us, our hearts - like the undertakers dusty cars - need to be brought to God for cleansing and renewal.
It's not that God sees us purely in those terms. He does not have a down on us, writing us off as permanently dirty and a pile of useless rubbish. But like a mother constantly has to remind her children that cleanliness is next to godliness - remember that saying - and that dirt harbours germs and other undesirable microbes, so He, like her, councils a daily shower to keep us free from infection and in good health. We too need to clean behind the ears and between our toes so that nothing spoils and soils us, hindering or hurting our walk with Him or our general spiritual health and well being.
So next time you wash or shower, why not use this prayer while you do so, and ask God, as you wash your hands or brush your teeth, to "make me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
Note: Incidentally all those who wonder sometimes why the priest washes his hands before blessing the bread and wine at Holy Communion, as well as washing his hands for hygienic and holy purposes he may be preparing his soul using the above prayer, quietly, to God as he does so.