BENDING, ENGAGING, INVESTING
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord. Psalm 119:145
God is engaged with a heart that is engaged with Him. It has always been about the heart, not token behavior. His people could go to the temple, say all the right prayers, make all the right sacrifices, but if their hearts weren’t right before Him, He said that their religious behaviors were worthless. It’s shocking to understand that this even involves the area of prayer.
Prayer books are plentiful; books that help us know how to pray for our spouses, our children, our land. God’s children can buy them up, read a prayer a day, and feel good that the words have been spoken. If the heart wasn’t bent low, feeling the prayers, then it was nothing more than a religious rite and will probably have little effect. I am pulled up short this morning because I teach a 3-day course on prayer and offer written prayers for others to use as a springboard for their own prayers. I shudder though, when I consider that some may see the prayers as formulaic. The Bible, though it is powerful, is not a series of magic incantations. Just saying the words doesn’t equal praying.
David prays and his prayer is described as ‘crying out with his whole heart.’ His prayers were often short. “Answer me.” “Heal me.” “Save me.” The short prayers of a righteous man, with a heart fully active as he intercedes, are much more effective than one who fills the air for an hour with beautifully crafted words.
When my dad was critically ill with cancer, I was protecting my heart from grief on many days. I found that my prayers were dull. I mouthed the words, “Heal Dad, if it be your will. Amen” A pastor pulled me up short when I admitted praying like this and said, “God wants to know what your heart is saying. You are self-protecting by throwing up your hands and praying, ‘Thy will be done’. Tell God what you want.” I considered how I would feel if my own children, when asked to be real with me and tell me what they needed, responded with a token….”Just give me whatever you want.” The answer is not intimate, nor authentic. That day, my prayers for my dad changed. Tearfully, I cried out for his healing, for God’s grace to ease his suffering. Though heart prayers were harder because I chose to feel the hurt, it connected me with God’s heart.
There are things which hurt me today. It’s easier not to feel it but it’s hard to talk with You, Lord, if I hide my heart from you. So, with my whole heart I pray today. Give me grace for where I am raw and words are few. Amen