Wash Your Hearts Before Praying

by Joe McKeever

A couple of years ago, while leading a deacon retreat for an Atlanta church, I prepared a lead-in to a prayer for the men and their wives. Later, I heard that some were still using it to begin their morning prayers. Recently, thoughts of that prayer-beginning have weighed on my heart so heavily that I dug it out to share with our people. And with you:

“Father in heaven, my Lord and Savior, Lover of my soul, Friend in need,

Helper and Encourager: Hear the cry of my heart:

“Please cleanse me and make me whole. Take away from my heart:

-anything that does not bow before Thee as Lord;

-whatever in me does not have Thy name on it;

-all that is resistant to Thy Spirit;

-everything impure and unworthy of Thee;

-attitudes and opinions and convictions that do not originate in Thee;

-desires and motives and plans and ambitions in conflict with Thy will for my life;

-anything that runs and hides when You enter, that laughs when I believe, that squirms when I pray, that fears when I trust;

-whatever in me does not give Thee joy, make Thee proud, or serve Thy purpose;

-all of this, and everything else that holds me back, weighs me down, and cheapens the product.

“O Lord, by the precious blood of Jesus, purge my iniquity. Take away my sin. Make me holy and pure and clean. Give me a heart for Thee, O Lord, one that longs to do only Thy will, that answers only to Thy call, that serves only to hear Thy ‘well done.’

“And now, Holy Father, I would pray to Thee.…”

This prayer-start is all about being forgiven and cleansed. It’s about uprooting every weed in my soul, every tare planted by the enemy. It’s about belonging to the Lord and Him only. Of being free of all that says no to God’s yes. From anything that puts on the brakes to the Spirit. That keeps us earthbound when God bids us soar. That dampens our creativity, hinders our freedom, stifles our laughter, and walls us in from one another.

God wants us free to laugh and sing and serve. To love without fear. To give without regret. To pray without doubt. To worship without limit. To witness to others without a thought to myself. To know how precious I am to the Father without undermining it by my low self-esteem. To revel in the promise of glory while enjoying a touch of that glory now.

To be clean is a wonderful thing, but it’s only the first thing. “These have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” said a heavenly elder to the Apostle John.  For this reason they are before the throne of God and they serve Him day and night in His temple  (Rev. 7:14,15). To stand and serve in the presence of the Father, that’s the main thing.

We prefer to skip the washing. Stand in any public restroom and be horrified at the numbers who parade out the door eager to share their germs with the world. Just inside the pediatric ICU, a nurse informed us we would have to wash before being admitted. At a sink operated by pedals, we scrubbed, using sanitary brushes saturated with their own soap. “Three minutes, minimum,” she said. Three minutes seems like an hour when all you’re doing is standing there washing your hands. “You’d be surprised how resistant germs are,” she explained and went on her way.

I am amazed at how resistant sin is. The heart must be washed and purified; the sin uprooted, nailed, cauterized, bleached, and killed. And tomorrow, we will require a session of confession all over again. Sin is persistent.

Last Sunday I passed out some white hand puppets to the children in church and told them how God washes our sins away, making us clean and “white.”  Interestingly, the Bible does not call sin black, as we might expect, but red. “Though your sins be as scarlet,” God says, “they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Is. 1:18). Ask any mother what a red sock does in the washing machine with a load of whites.

In my last pastorate, as we prepared to enter our new sanctuary I noticed red dirt on the sidewalk outside the back door. It obviously needed washing down with a pressure scrubber. “Pastor,” a worker said, “we tried that.  But that red dirt was sealed in the concrete by the men who poured it. The only way you can get it out is to remove the sealer, clean it, and put a new sealer on the walk.”

“Father in heaven:  Today I feel like that sidewalk. Open me up and cleanse me. Then seal me with Thy Spirit. Amen.”

Dr. McKeever pastors First Baptist Church of Kenner, LA.

A Matter of FAX is a weekly email column published by the church. You may view this and other “Matter of FAXes” at www.fbckenner.org. If you would like subscribe, call 504-466-5381or email your request to (fbck1@compuserve.com).

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