A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
The heart is one of the most essential organs in the human body because it pumps blood to every extremity. When it does not function properly and effectively, negative side effects occur. If we do not eat a well-balanced diet our arteries can become clogged, eventually leading to a heart attack, resulting in bypass surgery or the insertion of a stent. Sometimes, the heart operates so poorly that a transplant is needed. Ultimately, when our heart stops, death results.
The heart is not only a significant organ for the physical body, but for the spiritual body as well. Over and over again we are told to pray with our heart, to silence our heart so that God can speak to us. In Psalm 51 we pray, “A clean heart create for me, O God …a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” This psalm captures the movement of King David’s own heart, after he followed his heart’s lustful desires for Bathsheba, and then plotting the murder of Uriah.
These memories of our experiences sometimes haunt the inner depths of our spiritual heart and create blockages. We must ask God to remove the obstructions, so our heart can freely and openly speak to Jesus. In our spiritual lives, is there something blocking us from experiencing God’s love and expressing it? We might feel guilt and we ask God again and again to create in us a clean heart. Maybe it is a sin, that same sin we confess again and again. Are our hearts properly disposed to speak to God and receive His grace? Maybe our hearts have grown cold and hardened, so not only do we pray for God to clean our hearts, but to give us a new heart, a complete transplant.
Jonah prophesied to the Ninevites about the need to change their hearts, and they did. As Christians we have someone greater than Jonah–Jesus is our Divine Physician who wants to diagnose, heal, and cleanse our hearts. This Lent provides us opportunities to turn to God, and cry out: create in me a clean heart, cleanse me of my sin. Whatever the blockages are, find them, confess them, and receive God’s mercy. Then afterward, take up a new spiritual diet of prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving, so that your spiritual heart can be healthy for the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.