A clean heart

There's a prayer attributed to an African girl, who humbly asks God, "O Great Chief, light a candle within my heart that I may see what is therein and sweep the rubbish from thy dwelling place." A Garden of Prayer: A Family Treasury, ed. Jenna Bassin and Jane Lahr (New York: Philosophical Library, 1989), p. 30 .

If we've ever harbored hard feelings, perhaps some resentment or envy, some unchecked anger or hatred or prejudice, we've seen how such "rubbish" can clutter our lives and keep us from knowing the peace and joy that are naturally ours as children of God. If we've ever carried the burden of a sin, small or large, that we couldn't seem to release, we've seen how dark and confused things can appear and how the light of even one candle in our heart would enable us to find our way.

In the Old Testament, a psalm written thousands of years ago shows the same human yearning to know spiritual purity and to express more of our true nature as the reflection of God. The Psalmist's prayer, much like that of the young African girl, is a humble turning to God, a yielding to the Father's will and His redeeming love: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. ... Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps. 51:1,2, 10).

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March 11, 1996

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