Prayer For a Clean Heart Must Be Definite
There is much indefiniteness in the religious standards all about us. We hear thousands who aim at the comparative degree in religion who want nothing to do with the superlative degree. They have a great deal to say about having more religion, but nothing about having as much as they ought to have.
We find in the scripture that those who received anything in answer to prayer made definite requests. The psalmist does not pray for more religion, but for the definite experience of “a clean heart.” The publican cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and God showed him mercy and forgave his sins. There is not a single instance in the word of God of any one asking for “more religion,” “a deeper work of grace,” or a desire expressed to “get nearer the Lord.” These are too indefinite expressions for so exact a book as the Bible. People may have more religion and not have as much as they ought to have.
Some people have such a poor kind of religion that if they had more of it they would be worse than they are now. In fact, if they have the wrong kind of religion to start with, the more they have of it the worse they are.
We once saw a lady at the altar seeking a clean heart as we supposed. On being questioned, she said she came seeking a deeper work of grace. On being asked how deep she wanted it, she replied, “I should not want enough to make me holler.”
She wanted just a little more, if it was warranted not to cross her self-will. And so we find people talking of their desires for more religion, who really mean that they would like a little more if it would not make them peculiar, or if they would not be compelled to smash some of their idols. Their idea of advancement is, “If I have not got to part with my Benjamin, or sacrifice my Isaac, or deny myself, if you please, Lord, I should like more religion on these terms.” The hymn often sung, but rarely sung intelligently by the masses of professed Christians, beginning thus,
“Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee;” was written by a Unitarian and has not a single word in it about Jesus Christ, the atonement or salvation.
The Bible speaks of something better than getting nearer to God. It declares that He will come and dwell in us and take up his abode in us.
Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.” This is better than getting a little nearer him.
Jesus said to his disciples, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Of if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
Here we see there is a definite asking for a definite thing “bread,” “an egg,” “fish,” and a definite reception also of the thing asked for. Notice he does not say or hint at any asking for more religion, or a deeper work of grace, but for the Holy Ghost — a definite gift.
Is it not strange that in almost any church multitudes are willing to go to the altar to seek more religion who can not be induced to go forward to seek all they ought to have? There seems to be a desire to get just enough to keep on the Lord’s side, without being too much so. People seem to want to have religion a good deal as they want insurance against fire. They suppose that they must have it to insure against future loss, but paying the assessments comes very hard and they begrudge that part. They want more, but are afraid of getting too much.
They are not afraid of getting too much of any other good thing except religion. People who acknowledge that money is a good thing are not afraid of getting too much of it, or acknowledging that health is a good thing they are not afraid of getting too much. But when it comes to the matter of salvation, these same people will acknowledge that it is not only a good thing but a necessary thing, and yet are afraid of getting too much. Some one says, “Many want religion as some have the smallpox – very light and not to mark them any.” So it has come to mean more if it does not cost too much if there is not to be much self-denial.
The experience of a clean heart would recommend itself to everybody if there were no carnal nature to deny; no self to crucify. The colored man down South, when asked why he did not get converted, answered truthfully that he did not like the process. That is the reason so many are wanting more religion as long as it does not interfere with their selfishness.
This popular cry for “more religion” has resulted in an indefiniteness in religion, everywhere. There are thousands that do not know where they are religiously. They do not know whether they are saved or not. They have been following this will o’ the wisp idea, and have little that is tangible or real. We have seen people crowd the altar at the invitation to seek “more religion” who could not tell the next day whether they had any more or how much more they had, for two reasons. First they had not believed for anything definite (indefinite faith is not faith at all), and, second, they had got into the zone of indefiniteness. The comparative degree is always indefinite. Only the positive and superlative are at all definite.
If a sinner simply prays to be better he will get nothing from God. He must pray for a definite experience of pardon or he will never be pardoned. Reader, if you are a child of God, do not seek any moonshine experience of “a deeper work of grace,” but say “as deep as I can have I want and will seek.” Ask God for the definite experience of a clean heart. Then you will have something definite to rest your faith upon. And then when God comes and gives you the blessing, you will know what you have got. He will not give you a stone if you ask bread. Definite praying, believing and receiving are great helps in the hour of temptation. When the enemy seeks to overthrow us, then we stand on vantage ground, when able to have something definite to fix our faith upon.