“I pray with all my heart.” Psalm 119:145 NLT
It’s impossible to talk about the word of God and not mention prayer. The Psalmist says that he will not only obey with all his heart, seek with all his heart, but also pray with all his heart. This, of course, implies that we could pray with less than our whole heart. What would that look like?
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men….But when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen.” Matthew 6:5-6
Jesus knew there were many people who loved to give lip service and be seen and admired by men. He strongly urged his disciples to avoid this kind of prayer at all costs. While there is nothing wrong with praying in public, we do it every Sunday in churches all over the world, there is something wrong with praying to impress others. It shows a division of heart. The intellect is involved with fancy words and long elegant speeches, but the rest of the heart (acting out the truth with the will, for example) is not on board or backing up the prayer. Jesus also warned us:
“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24
Prayer is a form of worship, just as much as singing songs, Bible study, or tithing. We are told that no gift should be offered when we are not right with our brothers and sisters in Christ. How many times have we persisted in prayer, study, and singing while knowing we were bitter against someone else or they were bitter against us? We are admonished to do all we can to keep peace and unity in order for our offerings to be accepted. We cannot change how people feel about us, but we can make every effort to make things right. 12 step programs often refer to this as “making amends”. While the person we seek to restore fellowship with may not accept our offer, we must make the effort in sincerity of heart in order for God to be honored and our gift to be accepted. Perhaps when we pray and God is silent, it is because He is waiting for us to act in obedience to his revealed will.
“The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them.” Psalm 34:17
The word righteous in this passage comes from the Hebrew root word meaning “cleanse”, “clear”, or “morally right”. Thus, the believer who is pure in heart or cleansed is the just believer whose prayers are heard. I don’t know about you, but I want my prayers to be heard! This is a powerful motivation for keeping my conscience clean before God, and others. What good does it do to spend an hour in elaborate prayer when my prayers are not being heard?
A few years ago my brother in law was diagnosed with leukemia. There was a sinking feeling that it wasn’t going to turn out well, and deep down in my spirit, I knew the outcome, though I certainly believed that God could bring healing if it was His will to do so. This was a life-changing event for me. I knew God could heal, I knew God had a plan, but I also knew I was called to pray over the situation in earnest. God brought me to James 5:16b over and over again.
“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
The word righteous here is translated “holy”, “just”, or “innocent”. I realized that if I wanted God to hear me, I needed to have a clean heart before Him. Realizing that there are so many needs today for health, healing, freedom, truth, enlightenment, and wisdom (among many other things) was also a realization that praying for these things was a useless endeavor if my heart was not right with God. I was wasting my breath. I clearly remember this time of my life because God used it to motivate me to holiness, and being sold out to Him in living my faith. Many times my prayers begin with confession as I come into the presence of a holy God and am reminded of my own ungodliness.
In order to have an undivided heart in prayer, we need to seek cleansing and purity before God. In order to be an effective prayer warrior, we need to ask God to convict us that we need a change of heart. God is the only One who can reveal to us faults we otherwise cannot see. I have experienced this truth time and again when asking God to cleanse my heart. There have been grievous sins committed on my part that I never even realized were sins until God opened my eyes to it! Once he did, I was horrified at my attitude! But unless I had asked him to search me and show me what needed fixing, I would have ignorantly gone on with an undivided heart probably wondering why my prayer life wasn’t as effective as it could be.
Just to be clear; I am not saying that the only way our prayers will be heard is if we are perfect. I am saying that God is clear in his word of what will hinder our prayers from being effective; willful disobedience, sin in ignorance, or a divided heart. I don’t want to be guilty of any of these things, and I pray you feel the same way! Let us obey, seek, and pray with a whole heart. Let us seek to be right before God in all we do, and keep a clear conscience in order to be the most effective prayer warriors that we can be!
As I come into your presence, Lord, I ask that you reveal to me any secret sins I have hidden in my heart. I want to wholeheartedly serve you and I want to pray with a heart that is united to fear you. I want to be an effective prayer warrior; even more so I want to be right and have a clear conscience before you. Search me and cleanse me, give me a heart that understands your holiness and give me displeasure for the things that will divide my heart. Thank you for being merciful and loving to show me where I need cleansing!