O Lord, who hast mercy upon all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of Thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore Thee,
a heart to delight in Thee,
to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ’s sake, Amen.
– Ambrose of Milan (c.339-397)
St. Ambrose’s prayer echoes the words God spoke through Ezekiel to the Jewish exiles:
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27, NIV)
When I repent, it is God in His mercy who cleanses me from sin, who softens my hard heart, and who gives me both the desire and ability to live for Him through His Holy Spirit. This was true when I trusted Christ for my salvation, and it is true again every time I confess my sin with a repentant heart, surrender myself to God, and rely on Him to direct and empower me with His Holy Spirit.
Repentance, surrender, trust; simple concepts, really, yet applying them is hard work! And though they are simple, I never outgrow my need for them. They brought me to Christ, and they keep me close to Christ, for as the apostle Paul said, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him” (Galatians 2:6, NIV)
(These concepts are at the heart of the Spirit-filled Life, as taught by the late Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ and explained here. God used this teaching powerfully in my life, and still does.)