Prayers from the heart

The Bible gives many examples of what is most important to God when we come to Him in prayer. He wants us to pray from the heart. How do we do that?

Man was created to need God. But mankind today in general has not known the true God and His revealed way of living. Man has generally failed, leading to all of the evils and suffering we see around us.

Even those who have tried to live as close to God as they could have done so imperfectly. Yet even if imperfect, the benefits of a relationship with God far exceed anything offered by this world.

Prayer

To have a relationship with God, we have to keep in constant communication with Him through prayer.

The Bible is full of examples of the people of God talking with Him. For example, many of the psalms were actually prayers, and many of those were by David, the great king of Israel. (Consider Psalms 3, 4 and 5, to mention just a few).

There are many types of prayer mentioned in the Bible, but one common factor in prayers that helped build a relationship with God is that these effective prayers were heartfelt.

The Bible records many examples of prayer from the heart. First, let’s look at one prayed by Hezekiah, king of Judah, in the Old Testament.

Hezekiah’s heartfelt prayer

The first prayer we will examine is found in

In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’”

Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>2 Kings 20:1-3. When the prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah that he would die, Hezekiah reacted to the message with a supplication found in verse 3. Hezekiah reminded God of his efforts to walk before Him with a loyal heart. It seems he might have wanted to say more to God, but emotion overcame him and he broke down in tears and cried bitterly.

So, even before Isaiah had gone out of the courtyard of the royal palace, God sent him back to King Hezekiah with a second message, which was a response to the king’s prayer. In this second message, God said, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears” (verse 5).

What did God hear? The audible words of the king were a reminder to God of his efforts to walk before Him with a sincere heart. But there was more of the king’s prayer in his heart where it came from. So God heard the prayer in King Hezekiah’s heart as well as the bit that he managed to utter before he broke down in tears.

God does not want lip service. He wants people who seek Him with their whole heart. Jesus warned that those who simply come with words and not actions (not doing what God says from the heart) will not be in the Kingdom of God.It is fair to conclude that the king wanted to ask God to spare his life. God granted that two-part prayer by adding 15 more years to the life of the king.

God does not want lip service. He wants people who seek Him with their whole heart (

Therefore the Lord said:

“Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>Isaiah 29:13;

Blessed are those who keep His testimonies,
Who seek Him with the whole heart!

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>Psalm 119:2). Jesus warned that those who simply come with words and not actions (not doing what God says from the heart) will not be in the Kingdom of God (

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>Matthew 7:21-23).

Hannah’s prayer from the heart

In another example earlier in the history of Israel, Hannah (who became the mother of the prophet Samuel) made a heartfelt prayer (

10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.

13 Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk.

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>1 Samuel 1:10, 13).

Hers was a prayer in her heart. Because of mental anguish, her lips were moving as in a whispered prayer, but Eli the priest thought she was drunk and rebuked her (

So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!”

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>verse 14). God, however, heard that inaudible supplication and responded by granting her request (

So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked for him from the Lord.”

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>verse 20).

Heartfelt and persistent

We don’t have to always be in anguish in order to pray to God from the depth of our hearts. We can pray fervently out of joy, love and positive emotions as well. We can express our thankfulness to God for wonderful things like marriage, the birth of a child, healings, the beauty of His creation and the way He has fulfilled our needs. We can rejoice in the knowledge of His truth and the perfection of His plan.

Whether in anguish or joy or thanksgiving, every one of our prayers should be from our hearts.

Sometimes God will test us to see the sincerity of our prayers. This is shown in the parable of the unjust judge (

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>Luke 18:1-5). In this parable God teaches us “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (verse 1) because God knows it is good for us to learn to be persistent. When our prayers come from the heart, then we will be persistent and unwavering.

God understands our groanings

Sometimes we have a prayer in our heart, but we fail to say it properly (

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>Romans 8:26-27). Hezekiah groaned in his heart, and God heard the complete prayer. God through the Holy Spirit helps us pray as we need to, and He understands what we are trying to say.

From King Hezekiah’s example, we should always remember that God respects a sincere prayer, no matter how poorly it is presented because of our human imperfections. If we always come to God with a true heart, then words of sincerity will follow (

let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

New King James Version (NKJV) The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson”>Hebrews 10:22).

Read more about prayer in the articles “How to Pray” and “How to Talk to God.”

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LENTEN RETREAT
Day 30

prayers from the heart

GOD knows, there have been a million books written on the science of prayer. But lest we become discouraged from the beginning, remember that it was not the Scribes and Pharisees, the teachers of the law that Jesus held nearest His heart… but the little ones.

Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Matt 19:14)

So let us approach prayer in the same way, like children who come to love, and be loved on the knee of Christ—on the Father’s knee. And so, what is necessary to pray, is to be willing to pray; to learn to pray better, pray more. But more than anything, we have to learn to pray from the heart.

Going back to the analogy of the hot air balloon, what is necessary to inflate our “hearts” is the burner of prayer. But by this I do not mean a mere volume of words, rather, it is love that inflates the heart.

When we are baptized and confirmed into the Christian life, it’s as though God gives to us this burner, as well as an infinite supply of propane, that is, the Holy Spirit. But what is necessary to ignite this communion of love is the spark of desire. God does not want us to merely repeat words on a paper, but to speak to Him from the heart. And we can do this too while praying the Psalms, the Liturgy of the Hours, the responses at Mass, etc. For what ignites the burner is when we say the words with our heart; when we simply speak to the Lord, as to a friend, from the heart.

…to desire Him is always the beginning of love… By words, mental or vocal, our prayer takes flesh. Yet it is most important that the heart should be present to him to whom we are speaking in prayer: “Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of words, but on the fervor of our souls.” —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2709

I have met many people who do not know how to pray. “What do I say? How do I say it?” St. Teresa of Avila once said that for her, prayer…

…is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us. —The Book of Her Life, n. 8, 5;

“To be sure, there are as many paths of prayer as there are persons who pray,” but what is necessary is that each path is undertaken with the heart. To pray, then, requires an act of the will—an act of love. It is to seek Him who has already sought us, and to begin to love Him truly as a Person. And we all know that the most powerful form of communication is often a wordless gaze into the other’s eyes…

It is the Face of the Lord that we seek and desire… Love is the source of prayer; whoever draws from it reaches the summit of prayer. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2657-58

So do not be afraid of prayer—that you can’t pray because you don’t know many prayers, or enough Bible verses, or you can’t explain your faith. Perhaps not, but you can love… and the one who begins to love God with their words, spoken from the heart, ignites the “propane” of the Holy Spirit, who then begins to fill and expand one’s heart, making it capable of not only soaring into the heavens of God’s presence, but climbing to the very heights of union with Him. 

Even if you feel you are babbling like a baby, tell me, does a mother hear her little one’s coos? Is she not drawn all the more to her baby when it looks at her and tries to talk to her, even though its words are unintelligible? There is no prayer from the heart that will not be heard by God the Father. But the one who doesn’t pray, will never be heard.

Thus, the life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice-holy God and in communion with him… But we cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2658, 2697

When speaking at conferences or parish missions, I often tell my listeners: “As you carve out time for supper, you must carve out time for prayer; for you can miss supper, but you cannot miss prayer.” No, Jesus said, apart from Me you can do nothing. So today again, make the firm commitment to God to carve out a time for prayer each day, if possible, first thing in the morning. This simple commitment is enough to light the burner of your spiritual life, and for the divine fires of love to begin to change and transform you as meet “in secret” with your God, and pray heart to Heart.

SUMMARY AND SCRIPTURE

Prayer from the heart is the spark necessary to light the fires of love to hasten the process of transformation and deepen union with God.

…when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you… For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matt 6:6, 21)

prayers from the heart

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prayers from the heart

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www.markmallett.com
My whole life, in one sense, he has been an experiment in how to be a portable sanctuary,” writes Richard Foster, “learning to practice the presence of God in the midst of the stresses and strains of contemporary life.”

So begins Foster’s most personal work yet, a book of prayers that seek to lead us to experience “the reality of God in the midst of going to work and raisin

My whole life, in one sense, he has been an experiment in how to be a portable sanctuary,” writes Richard Foster, “learning to practice the presence of God in the midst of the stresses and strains of contemporary life.”

So begins Foster’s most personal work yet, a book of prayers that seek to lead us to experience “the reality of God in the midst of going to work and raising kids and cleaning house and paying the bills.”

Drawing on the structure of his awardwinning Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster presents this collection of prayers according to the three aspects of the human journey: looking inward to the heart, reaching upward toward God, and moving outward to care for others. These prayers speak to moments in our days and events in our lives.

Simply and powerfully expressing such basic human experiences as wonder, stillness, the loneliness of anonymity, and the search for faith, Foster encourages us to explore the transformative power of prayer that draws us into the love of God and gives Christian community its life. Longtime Foster readers and newcomers alike will cherish this rich and thoroughly contemporary book from one of our most respected spirtual leaders.

www.goodreads.com

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