I have been a Christian for many years but I have always found prayer difficult. It often feels like a mechanical process that I step through; thank you Father for X, sorry for Y and please help me with Z. More often than not the process is interrupted with various trivial matters when my mind drifts back towards the insurance policy that needs renewing or the back door that is in desperate need of a lick of paint and rarely do I feel like this process is deep communion with a living God.
But then recently I came across the following quote from Theophan “To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever present, all seeing within you”.
Of course! The heart is where the communication with God takes place, not in the mind, the mind is merely there to translate and interpret what the heart is experiencing. For the heart is where He dwells within us, when we accept Him in faith (Ephesians 3:17). As John Eldredge wrote in Waking the Dead; “When we set out to hear God's voice, we do not listen as though it will come from somewhere above us or in the room around us. It comes to us from within, from the heart, the dwelling place of God.”
I not only find these explanations helpful but also extremely encouraging. I have often felt a fraud as a Christian because my mechanical prayer life left me feeling like I was merely talking to myself. Sub-consciously I had concluded that I was not “hearing from God”. But that is not the case. I just wasn’t allowing my mind to descend into the heart to interpret what He has been saying to me.
I am not saying that we shouldn’t have a way of praying to God that can feel routine and mechanical at times, rather we should also seek to listen for the ways in which He speaks within us. Such as the surfacing of a painful memory, the raising of desire to pursue a new adventure, the sudden feeling of anger towards an injustice or the feeling of compassion towards someone in need. Then there are the more subtle “gentle whispers” that convict us of our false self, or of a sin to be repented of or perhaps a sense of something to be avoided.
But we must be careful for there is an awful lot going on within our hearts. The voice of God within us is competing for our attention with many other voices. The numerous and subtle lies of the enemy for one. Then there is the world around us, constantly trying to pull on our “heart strings” whether that be the advertisers seeking our money, our boss seeking our time or the brokenness of those around us that we care about. That is why we must descend into the heart with an alert mind and a mind that is tethered to His word.
“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart” (Colossians 4:2, NLT).
Grid Ref is intended to help re-orientate men along the narrow path and are a mixture of personal testimonies and reflections from the A&D Team.