“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
As a young girl, growing up in Dayton, Ohio, God favored me to attend Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Dr. Charles S. Brown and his lovely wife Mrs. Joan S. Brown. I have many beautiful memories at Bethel. Memories that I cherish to this very day. From time to time I will share them here, along with wonderful memories I made while attending Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and even now at Mt. Zion Church of God in Christ in North Carolina.
Bethel was known for singing soaring anthems, peaceful chants, and contemplative hymns, all with a splash of gospel flavor. Among them is a song composed by Margaret J. Douroux, PhD, entitled “Give Me a Clean Heart.” You can learn more about Dr. Douroux, this song, and her tremendous contributions to sacred music by clicking here.
The smoothest and richest alto voice in the choir at Bethel when I was about 10 years old was from the person of Sis. Wanda Bryant. I cannot hear in my mind another voice leading the chorus and singing the verses to “Give Me a Clean Heart.” The verses from this song highlight verses from Psalm 51 and stands among countless compositions that beckon us set ourselves before the Lord in prayer with a request for Him to do what only He can do to purify our hearts and help us persevere in serving Him.
Before I go on, I’ll share a summary of why Psalm 51 was written. This psalm is one of lament and was composed by King David. After David’s unlawful encounter with Bathsheba and after murdering her husband to cover it all up, Nathan the prophet confronted David about it. You can read about it from the Bible here. David came to grips with the error of his ways and repented. Thus, we have Psalm 51.
This time of the year brings a time of retrospection for most people. We celebrate and are thankful for what went well. We also think about what did not go well and what we want to do to make sure we have a better year. For a person of faith, this retrospection includes our walk with God. Our lives are affected by many outside variables. Changes in our health, work, relationships, unfulfilled dreams, money concerns, general overwhelm, grief, and more can move us out of step with God. We daily run the risk of becoming cynical to the point where we no longer trust God deeply. We only trust Him in theory. We trust Him on the surface so that we can save Christian face with ourselves and others who know we serve and (gasp!) lead in ministry.
Whether it’s the end of the year or the beginning of the new year, while the pace is a little slower, take this time to sit before the Lord with Psalm 51. It is one of many psalms of lament in the Bible, but somehow over time this one has stood out when we find ourselves needing to seek God’s forgiveness and cleansing from sinful thoughts, deeds, and motivations. Many of us are not enjoying this life that God has blessed us with because we just haven’t come clean with Him. We haven’t stopped to take stock of our individual life’s direction. We’re just going through the motions hoping God is pleased with us. When God cleanses our hearts and minds, we get renewed joy, peace, vision, wisdom, stability, and strength to live our best lives and enjoy what God has blessed us with while we serve Him.
The Lord knows how to search our hearts for what displeases Him and doesn’t serve us well. Let us let King David’s script be our guide in prayer as we enter the new year (the new decade!) and let the Holy Spirit do the work while we trust God and live.