The Heart of Prayer
Prayer is a dialogue with God that reveals what matters to us the most. You could discover a person’s chief ambitions, anxieties, fears and hopes if you could listen in on their prayers. One could quickly identify whether a person’s heart is consumed primarily with immediate personal matters or the far reaching material and spiritual needs of others. Prayer is a window into the heart.
Listen in on the hearts of three significant biblical individuals below. What burdens their hearts? What do they seek on behalf of others? What can we learn from them?
Listen to the heart of the prophet Daniel: “To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets” (Daniel 9:8–10).
“Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name” (Daniel 9:17–19).
Listen to the heart of the apostle Paul: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14–19).
Listen to the heart of our Lord Jesus: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20–23).
What strikes me about these prayers is how God-centered and others-directed the prayers are. There is a profound desire for God to be honored and glorified coupled with a deep concern for the spiritual well-being of the people of God.
In our congregation we enter into a partnership each fall to pray and fast independently yet bound together for the sake of our local church and beyond. Each week I send out specific long-term and near-term prayer requests and Scripture verses to motivate our prayer life. I’m asking the Lord this year to give me a heart that burns with the same motivations and passions as above.