A moment the heart hears

Photo by jonas mohamadi

Often I wonder, as I pray, where do prayers go? Can anyone hear them? The words, “When we pray from the heart, the heart hears.” came to mind and has been with me all week.

At this time, when many of us cannot be together to pray or offer support and encouragement face to face, I would like to share these reflections with you.

I believe that prayer is a conversation of the heart. With the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of Christ, and an omnipresent God, our prayers are invisible threads that tie us all together. God both hears and responds to the heart, with his heart, by speaking to our hearts and to the hearts of those for whom we pray. Though I cannot visibly attest to God’s presence, I am assured, by the words speaking to my heart, how much we are loved. I pray that these words may reach your heart and give you hope.

Many of us are praying for the sick who are far away. We are praying for the dying who cannot have loved ones at their bedside. We are praying for the lonely and shut-in. And we wonder, does it matter at all? 

Yes! When a heart speaks, another heart hears.

We pray from our hearts:

Genesis 24:45–“Before I finished praying in my heart

Prayer of Manasseh 1:11–And now I bend the knee of my heart, imploring you for your kindness.

Our hearts connect to God’s:

Genesis 8:21–The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart

Luke 7:13–When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her, and he said, “Don’t cry.”

God speaks from His heart to ours:

Proverbs 2:10–For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

2 Thessalonians 3:5–May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Our hearts hear:

Song of Songs 5:2–I slept, but my heart was awake. 

2 Corinthians 3:2–You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts.

Praying for each other is a conversation of the heart:

Romans 10:1–Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

Colossians 2:2–I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself.  

Conversations of the heart make a difference:

Psalm 21:2–You have granted him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.

Philemon 1:7–Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

The apostle Paul, in his ministry, knew the pain of being separated from those he cared for deeply. He did not lose heart and continued to offer prayers for the hearts of others.

1 Thessalonians 2:17–As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face.

He prays:

1 Thessalonians 3:13–And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Perhaps the thread of prayer is felt as a tug connecting one’s heart to God’s and God’s heart to another’s pulling us all closer together.

“Wherever a person is in their life’s journey, there may come a time when the longings of their heart ask, ‘Is this it? Is this all there is?’ In these moments, someone could have a tug in their heart that says, ‘Maybe there’s more.  I want to take it to that next stage .”- Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

May your heart, in this moment, hear the promise of God’s heart hearing. 

A moment to stay home

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Statistics are showing that social distancing is working, And yet, we are still hearing stories of people, groups, and congregations rebelling against the directives given by our leaders. 

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:1, 7

 In the social distancing and stay home directives, we are asked to give up many things.  We are giving up routines and rituals, comforts and assurances, as well as some of the “stuff” to which we have become accustomed.  Amazon boxes used to show up on my porch fairly often with books, office supplies, and some fun things too. My dog is missing the UPS treats!  

It is interesting to notice my own reaction to the changes imposed on my life as a result of COVID-19.  Sometimes a little rebellion, some frustration, some sadness, and some moody statements, “I didn’t need it anyway.”  How quickly I shift into. “It’s going to be ok.” “It’s worth the sacrifice.” “Others have given up or lost so much more.” matters.  Quite honestly, I did not need it anyway.

What is it that is prompting people to ignore the directives and leaders as they, too, navigate this unchartered territory?  Withholding judgment and anger, I will not even speculate.  

I miss my church.  So, I light a candle, open my Bible, and imagine someone somewhere at that exact moment is reading scripture with me, and I pray with them and for them.

I miss my friends.  So, I make calls, write letters, face-time when I can, and remember with compassion all those who felt alone even before all this began.

I miss the freedom to go wherever, whenever.  So, I walk outside. Interesting how luxurious this feels now. I am mindful of those who are without even this.

I miss the exchange of hugs.  So, I stop and pray for all those who have been lost or have lost loved ones to this virus.

Jesus knew very well the feelings of isolation and disconnect from those he needed for support.

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Matthew 26:37-41

This is but a moment.  Stay strong and keep watch.  

As you read this, know that this day you are in my prayers.  I am sending you love. I know with certainty you are not alone. God is with you.  Prayer is our most significant connection. Close your eyes, breathe deep and feel the love surrounding you.

 

A moment in summer

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I don’t know about you but, the “lazy days of summer” does not apply to me.  Summer is full of fun,  good times with friends and family, and a hefty dose of chaos.  This summer, we traveled for swim competitions, college tours, and to spend time with loved ones we don’t get to see often enough.  This means a lot of packing and unpacking in addition to the usual chores of life.

…but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances… (1 Thessalonians 5:15-18)

This is all good stuff, but for an introvert, who cherishes time alone, it can create quite a challenge.  I didn’t have time to sit in my favorite room in the house to pray, contemplate, imagine, and write.  I didn’t have much time to work through the joys and sorrows of life.  I was in a sprint.   These are the times when pray continually is the only way to have time for prayer.  For me, it feels a bit like telling God, “I am not sure why you gave me so much to do. I don’t have time to sit with you right now so come with me!”  I grab his hand and drag Him through my days.  When I have a moment alone, it is brief and the moments of prayer are quick, “Thanks, this is awesome!”, “Wow, that’s a beautiful sunrise!”, “Help, this is not going well.”, “This is a perfect moment, thank you.”  Often it feels like I am holding fast to His hand to make sure He is with me, sometimes squeezing tight, pleading for help, in the midst of the chaos.  I am suddenly reminded of Jacob and his moment in honest conversation with God in which he won’t let go until he is blessed.

That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.  Genesis 32:20-28

Do your moments of chaos include moments of blessing?  Do you demand a blessing?

Be Blessed!

A moment of suspense

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You meet those who gladly do right,
    those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
    because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
    or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
    and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
    and do not remember iniquity forever.
    Now consider, we are all your people.  Isaiah 64:5-9

Joy in the absence of feeling God’s presence can be challenging.  But we must trust. We must be obedient.  We must persevere.  In this scripture, though Isaiah is feeling abandoned, he remains faithful to God and pleads for Him to show himself again.  He likens himself and his people to clay in the potter’s hand, ready, to be molded and formed.  In times like this, we are to be aware, be fit and be ready.

Be aware of the inner workings of our hearts.  Listen deeply for the longings we have and what they are telling us about ourselves.  Be aware of the needs around us.  An awareness of the longings of others is essential as we are all connected and called together in some way.

Be fit.  We must continue to act on the knowledge of God even when the feeling of His presence is missing.  Be loving and do loving acts.  Continue to seek God and understanding.  Stay in the practice of your faith.

Be ready.  He will not leave you in suspense forever.  When the work of His hand begins to unfold, and His purpose is more and more evident, be ready to do that which His hands so lovingly molded you to do.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin