April 28, 2014
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
CONSIDER THIS. . .
There’s a prayer that’s been cutting a groove in my soul for the past several years. It’s an old prayer, one I learned from the Anglicans and their Book of Common Prayer. It’s short with a profound economy of speech and very straightforward. I find myself praying a particular phrase of this prayer all the time. That’s how I know that a prayer is praying me— when it comes to mind consistently as a natural expression of my need, day in and day out self.
The prayer is known as the Collect for Purity. Here are the words:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen
And the phrase that cuts deepest in me: “Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit.”
If there’s something I’m sure of it is this: I can’t cleanse the thoughts of my own heart. Of this I am also sure: I deeply desire to perfectly love God and worthily magnify his holy name.
These opening verses in the Sermon on the Mount reveal a route or sequential pathway whereby this may happen. Wesley gets at it in this paragraph:
“The pure in heart” are they whose hearts God has “purified even as he is pure”; who are purified, through faith in the blood of Jesus, from every unholy affection; who, being “cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfect holiness in the” loving “fear of God.” They are, through the power of his grace, purified from pride, by the deepest poverty of spirit; from anger, from every unkind or turbulent passion, by meekness and gentleness; from every desire but to please and enjoy God, to know and love him more and more, by that hunger and thirst after righteousness which now engrosses their whole soul: so that now they love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and mind, and strength.
“Cleanse the thoughts of my heart, by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,” has become like a “hand-washing” prayer, something you do as a matter of habitual course. And the nearer I come to God the more I know my need of praying it.
I think about the signs in public restrooms, “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” We need a sign like that for the followers of Jesus, “Christians must pray this prayer before returning to work.”
It brings to mind that ancient word of the Psalmist— “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Psalm 24.
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