Asking For A Clean Heart
But more than that - I was feeling spiritually out of tune and in need of re-centering. Late in the week I had unwisely agreed to hear something in confidence that should not have been a secret. I had planned to keep this secret by just "not mentioning" it, but as things turned out I had to be willfully evasive, then tell half-truths and at last tell an outright lie. I am a terrible liar and the person I was trying not to tell is very intuitive. So the result was that I seriously damaged someone's trust in me and did no good at all for the person I was trying to "protect".
In Meeting I reflected on all this and saw in the light that even the allegedly good intentions I had started out with were not all that good. In my heart I knew all along that the confidence would be very hard to keeep and that if I did keep it I would actually not be doing anyone any real favors. I would only be enabling some addictive behavior. So why had I done this? Because I'm tender to another's need for privacy? No, unfortunately, that wasn't the largest part of my motive. It was because I fear conflict and unpleasantness and confrontation. I understood this vaguely and intellectually even going into Meeting, but in the Silence and in the Light I felt it more deeply.
At that point a verse dimly remembered from some long-ago Sunday School or Vacation Bible School lesson came to mind. A prayer. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." That was my silent prayer throughout the rest of the meeting. Often I give vocal ministry in Meeting, but that was not to be my role this time. A visiting Friend who I greatly respect gave a wonderful message on the theme (perhaps apropos of the New Year) that in worship we enter into something timeless rather than time-bound. Another Friend prayed her thanks for the gift of God's Spirit. Still another spoke of Christ and the need for obedience. I appreciated all the messages, but what I needed most was to hear and repeat within the simple prayer "Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me." It occurred to me that this prayer needed to be said in the right spirit in order to be valid. If I were merely asking passively that God give me a "clean heart" then I would be in danger of trying to shift onto Him the responsibility for my own condition (God hasn't given me a clean heart, so what can I do?) On the other hand, though, the prayer was necessary. If I were to make some "resolution" to get myself a clean heart on my own power I would be setting myself an impossible task and setting myself up for failure. I needed to take responsibility, but I also needed to ask for the assistance I needed to meet that responsibility.
Later, after going home, I searched through the Psalms looking for this verse. The Bible I picked up did not have a concordance, so it took awhile. (Gave me an excellent opportunity to reacquaint myself with some beautiful Psalms, by the way). I finally found it in the 51st Psalm. Here it is, as it is presented in the King James Version:
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.