See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
When we are children, we like the gaze of our parents as they cheer us from the sidelines or smile benevolently as we master the playground. But there are times we don’t want their watchful eyes. Maybe it is only because we are trying something we haven’t yet mastered. When my daughter. Anna, was learning to read, she wouldn’t read for us, but she would put the dog on the leash and take her into the bathroom, sit on the leash and read to the dog. She needed to know all the words before she would read aloud to us. (I know it makes us sound like critical parents, but it truly was just her nature.)
The poet invites God’s examining gaze. The poet invites God to search his heart. To look for anything that was contrary to the heart of God. To search out any ‘uncleanness’ of body or spirit. It is a pretty daring prayer. Most of us wouldn’t want God to look too closely.
But the poet knows that the purpose of God is not condemnation. God’s purpose is to free what is bound and make whole what is broken. “Perfect love casts out fear,” writes the author of 1 John, and God is perfect love. Jesus can free Zacchaeus without ever saying a word about his thievery. And Jesus can free the woman caught in adultery without ever naming her a sinner.
This daring prayer – the Lord’s Prayer as a whole and this petition about temptation in particular – is for God to see me truly, that he might lead me in the path of life that endures forever.