A few months ago, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of women at family camp. Actually, I did little speaking, leaving a whole lot of room for engagement and interaction with the women. What I saw unfold brought tears to my eyes and indicated the Holy Spirit’s active presence.
After introducing myself, I asked,
“How many of you gather in a small group setting, perhaps a community or life group, a bible study, or something similar?”
Head nods from some, shaking heads from others.
“How often do your prayers and prayer requests include; someone’s mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, cousin, or someone three times removed in another part of the country who has cancer or another illness, financial struggles, significant personal loss of some kind of other crazy challenge in their lives?”
Most of the hands went up with a few knowing smiles and slight chuckles too.
Then I asked the question I really wanted to ask. The reply, or lack thereof, caused me to stop breathing for a moment.
“How many of you pray for what’s going on in your heart?”
Not. One. Single. Hand.
Tears came to me immediately as I thought of every woman there, living incredibly busy lives full of home schooling, raising families, and caring for the home. Yet, no one had a circle of friends gathering with them to pray over their hearts.
I wondered if any prayed for their own hearts with or without community. I wondered about how many times I wonder about other people, but not the state of my own sinfulness, pride, self-reliance, hurts, etc. which keeps me from considering the state of my heart.
Who in this room was facing fear in a relationship? Hurt from loss? Overwhelm from doing too much and feeling responsible for doing it all? Who is watching a child go through the pain of long suffering? Are some of us doubting God and too afraid to admit it because we think God will shun us and we’ll never feel fully loved as we desire to be?
What if, a woman in that room at that very moment, was desperate for receiving care from another human because her heart felt so shattered she didn’t know what to do with it? Would we create a safe place for her to share and vulnerably share ourselves? Would we see and pray even when we don’t have any answers?
Maybe it hit everyone in the room, this painful reality and the impact of it all. Everything went silent. Perhaps we were suddenly convicted.
Would your answer to this second question would be as stunningly silent as everyone else’s was?
How often do you pray (with or without others) about what’s going on in your heart?
We are quick to ask for prayer for someone else’s obvious need which is easy to talk about. Maybe we’re brave enough to bring our externally identifiable challenges to the conversation. Yet, how often are we slow to request prayer for the needs of our hearts which help us walk through life and grow in our faith?
If we’re willing to pray for others, yet neglect ourselves, our hearts pay the price.
We pray for a change in circumstances, yet neglect what helps us get through any and all circumstances.
How often do we consider what’s going on in our hearts? Or the need to pray over it?
Oh dear one, please know I’m not here to hammer the sledge of condemnation. No way. No how. But, if you might be feeling a little nudge right about now, a little sinking inside of you, could it be the conviction of the Holy Spirit and not the damning of the enemy?
The Lord works in ways to encourage us towards his heart not take us farther away. There’s grace in this space where we choose to cultivate a well-lived life, one day and one step at a time. What steps could we take today to cultivate prayer and the care of our hearts?
The Holy Spirit allows these nudges as opportunities for us to recognize something which needs to change. Then he offers the guidance and courage we need to make those changes. Every bit of strength and mercy required is available as we need it.
When I think of change, I think of things which can be improved so growth can occur.
When I think of our hearts, I think about the kind of change which brings about growth beyond external behavior modifications and deep into the souls of our very existence, where real, long-lasting change begins.
That kind of change, the kind which transforms us from the inside out and equips us to live well no matter what our circumstances are. This comes through a relational exchange with God, over and over again. It’s not easy, but it’s incredibly life giving.
The power of the Holy Spirit and the redemptive, finished work of Christ mean that we have what we need every single day to care for our hearts and souls and to see our lives grow stronger, no matter what we are facing. But it doesn’t happen if we neglect it. We have an active role to play in learning to pray for the state of our own hearts and this is far more valuable for our overall wellness than any physical or financial change.
Yes, pray for healing when illness looms. For us and for others. May we not neglect the power of praying for one another’s hard situations.
Yes, pray for provision when resources are meager. For us and for others. May we not neglect seeing the needs around us and helping to carry each other’s burdens.
May I say, an even louder and more robust yes to this though?
Pray for your heart.
For the condition it is in, the turmoil it experiences, and the power of Christ to heal and nurture it. Pray alone. With your spouse. Pray with a close circle of trusted friends.
Where we are sad, may we find care. Where we are downtrodden, may we find comfort. Where we are weak, may we be reminded of His strength. When things seem dark and there’s no way out, may others help us see the light which guides us through.
Where we feel like everything is hopeless, may we find the source of all hope.
In the gathering of women at camp, we read a few Psalms aloud. Then, women clustered in groups of three to take turns sharing, listening, and praying. As I watched their hearts release pain, I stood in awe and gratitude for the work of God in this room. Their hearts were prayed for that day.
God will meet us in our prayers and the Holy Spirit is available to minister where our hearts need it most. God will meet us in our darkest places when we cry out to him in prayer. And He often chooses to do this through the gift of fellowship in community.
Even if no one else is praying for our hearts, we can choose to pray for theirs. Even if no one else is around, we can lift our hearts to God in prayer knowing He will receive them and provide what we need.
Dear hearts, be encouraged. Your God sees you and knows your deepest needs. May you find this place of comfort today as these women did.