Purify Me, Lord!

Psalm 26:2

“Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
test my heart and my mind.”

Harry Houdini, among his many other amazing feats, included in his act the opportunity for a strong man from the audience to punch him in the stomach as hard as possible.  Houdini’s stomach muscles were amazingly strong and the audience was always impressed to see Houdini withstand the hardest pummeling that could be delivered.  One strong but not terribly bright man was so impressed that he went backstage to see Houdini after his performance and, as Houdini rose from his chair to greet him, the man caught him off guard with a powerful punch to the abdomen.  A few days later, Houdini was dead from internal hemorrhaging. There’s a difference between testing us in our strength and testing us in our weakness. Today’s verse from the Psalms is meant to remind us of that.  There is a foolish and a sensible way to pray the prayer contained in that verse.  The foolish way is to, in effect, tell God, “Come on.  Hit me as hard as you like.  You’ll never find my weak spot because I don’t have any.”  Of the people who pray this way, Oscar Wilde once remarked that those whom the gods would destroy receive the answers to their prayers.  However, there is a sensible way to pray this prayer as well.  That is to pray it as gold might pray to a goldsmith.  It is to pray that we be “proven” by the refining fire of God’s love and tested by him until he makes us pure of all the dross of sin in our lives.  To such a prayer, prayed in humility, God will never make refusal.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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