Careful, that Fence Could Give You a Massive Wedgie: CHOICES {Part 2}

Surely God understood my plight, after all, He knew my heart, He knew our financial situation, He knew we wanted to get married—eventually, so did it really matter that we were living and sleeping together at this point? I mean, we’d been sleeping in the same bed for a couple of years by this time, we even had a child together, it’s not like we had much to “save” ourselves for.

 
It was quite the dilemma. I had recently “come back” to God, after nearly a decade of “debauchery” and rebellion. Our situation wasn’t the greatest, either; we had a new baby, debt out of our eyeballs (tens of thousands of which I hauled along from my first marriage), we lived in a roach-infested apartment, had to spend oodles of money on special formula for our daughter who had digestive issues…it wasn’t the most “fun” we’d had in our relationship.

 
Many times I prayed—begged—God to help us. I was sorry, so sorry for the mess I had made of my life. Please, God, please help us, I want to do what’s right. But rather than answer that request, God began to convict me. He started with the “big” things and immediately my dedication to obedience was tested. I wrestled with the issue for a little while, even calling my dad (who had been a Pastor) to ask his advice, I remember reasoning with him, “We’ve had sex so many times, I mean, we have a kid together! God knows my heart, He knows how I want to do the right thing, but we just don’t have the money for a wedding. What would you tell someone in this situation, if you were counseling them?” He sympathized with me, but still told it like it was. The Bible was clear about sex outside of marriage. It was simply not acceptable, and God would not bless me with peace, and other spiritual blessings, until I was obedient.

 
Keep in mind, at the time I chose to come back to God (or rather, develop a new relationship with Him), my husband was not what you’d consider a man of faith, nor did he care to be. So, you can see how tricky this situation was. But I knew what needed to happen. I informed him that I would have to sleep in a separate room, and we could no longer have sex until we were married. As you can well imagine, the response wasn’t super great.

 
Ultimately, my husband (still “fiancé” at the time) respected my faith and that I wanted to change, so he complied without too much of a fight. Of course, it wasn’t long before we found a way to get married. Six days after our daughters first birthday, a deacon from the tiny Baptist church next to our apartment married us and signed our marriage license, with the mandatory two witnesses in our presence (thanks Mom). The peace I felt once we were officially married can’t be described. It’s the kind of peace you experience when you know you’re walking in God’s will. It was a difficult choice to make, and I had plenty of good reasons (excuses) as to why I shouldn’t obey what I knew was right, but in the end, the desire to walk with God and be at peace won over my physical desires.

 
I can’t emphasize enough just how difficult it is to make the right choice, to follow God’s word, to be “sold out”, recklessly abandoned to Him and His will—it’s not an easy path. The above example is only one of many difficult things God required of me in order to walk in His will. After all, He was taking me from the “world” and re-shaping my thought life one thing at a time, which of course, systematically changed my behavior. This brought about new challenges, especially within my marriage. We were “unequally yoked” now, and our worldviews were significantly different. Each choice I made was not only about my desire to obey God’s word, but also my desire to show my husband that the change in my heart was real, not a “phase” that would pass like so many others (I had previously tried out a Jehovah’s Witness church as well as Wiccan practices…I was searching for something to fill a void only God could fill!). I wanted to live the kind of life and have the type of attitude that was attractive to my husband. It didn’t happen overnight, it took many years of trial and error—but mostly prayer for God to continue to change me (not my husband).

 
In this entire journey, one thing was not an option for me—fence-sitting. I had seen plenty of that growing up, Christians who behaved one way on Sunday but lived an entirely different life Monday through Saturday. I never understood it. Many of these people were quick to judge the lives and choices of others, while failing to see their own issues for what they were. They believed themselves to be “sold out” God-fearing Christians when, in fact, they were nothing more than Pharisees.

 
On the other hand were the “worldly” Christians. They were the ones that looked, talked, and acted like everyone else. There was no noticeable difference in them, other than the fact that they went to church. They could say all the right words, teach Sunday School, quote the verses, and dress the part, but on a day to day basis, God was nowhere to be found. One foot in the world, the other in the church. That was not the Christianity I was “returning” to. So repeatedly I found myself praying in earnest that God would teach me how to love Him with my whole heart.

 
It was during this time God led me to Psalm 119, and I began writing my thoughts (which eventually turned into a short published  Bible study). I wanted the words of that Psalm to be true in my life, so I dedicated over a year to studying it, which served to completely change my heart in ways I never thought possible. Still though, God is not “done” with me. Every time I ask him to cleanse my heart or show me where I need “work” He reveals more. I am thankful He doesn’t show me all the crud in my heart at once, but gently works on me one small step at a time. Some days I choose to follow, and some days I sit on the fence. Sometimes I’m on the fence so long, the painful realty of the spiritual wedgie drives me to one side or the other. Ultimately I just can’t go the other way again because it led to nothing but heartache and pain, and a complete lack of peace and purpose. So, I fall back over the side of Truth and dust myself off and try again.

 
I’m convinced that this “fence-sitting” is an epidemic in the Church today, that and the judgmental segment of Pharisees that are certain everyone except for them are going to hell. Both extremes are equally damaging and have only helped the church look like more of a joke than anything. We need to choose this day who we will serve, but for goodness’ sake, stick with whatever we choice we make instead of oscillating back and forth. Either we’re for God or against Him; either we’re willing to follow Him at all cost, or we need to jump back over to the other side of the fence and abandon our faith, ’cause this fence-sitting crap has got to stop.

 
One of my husband’s chief complaints about Christians (and why he didn’t want to go to church) was how much they “judge” everyone while failing to see their own faults. Or, that they were quick to preach about “heaven” while living like the “devil”. We actually experienced people close to us falling into this category. They would go to church on Sunday and drink and party Friday nights. There was an enormous disconnect from what they said they believed to how they actually lived. These same people were extremely bitter towards God for the hardships He allowed in their lives. Yet, they were never willing to “forsake” the world and cling to Him 100%. This type of thing is killing Christianity, seriously, (our persistent fence-sitting could even be the very thing that keeps someone from coming to Christ!); regrettably, I have been guilty of both extremes.

 
I’m not saying that obedience to God automatically results in perfect circumstances and material blessings. Not at all. In fact, I think I showed with an example from my own life that making the right choice is often much more difficult and can even result in conflict or loss. But choosing the “hard” path of a life completely (like, actually 100%) is much more rewarding both here and after our lives have ended. We shouldn’t ride the fence and then whine about how God isn’t blessing us. He wants to bless us, but He will not reward our complacency and indifference to His word and will.

 
Has God been convicting you of a change? Have you been straddling the fence with a list of reasons why it’s ok to do so? Do you have children or loved ones watching you? (Of course you do, whether you realize it or not). The world is watching us, and we’re kind of sucking at the mission here, folks. Either we want to follow Him or we don’t. Often we’re like Lot’s wife, we turn back with longing, unable to give up something good, or even “fun” for something much greater—abundant life, freedom from bondage, true lasting peace, (and maybe even the opportunity for our lives to be the very thing that influences someone to choose eternal life through Jesus!).

 
I no longer want to contribute to this problem but I can’t make choices for anyone else other than myself. One day I hope my daughter will be able to say with conviction that her mother stood for something, and had a purpose—mainly to share the love of Christ with others through her life. That her mother not only said she believed something, but demonstrated that belief through her choices. That her mother wasn’t perfect, but admitted quickly when she was wrong and asked for forgiveness. That her mother was honest about her struggles, and didn’t take pleasure in pointing out the wrongness in everyone else, but rather chose to seek God’s change in her own life. That is what I hope my daughter will say about me some day. One thing I know I don’t want to hear, “My mom, she said she believed and she took me to church, but during the week, she wasn’t any different than anyone else. I don’t understand what good her faith really did.” Or perhaps even worse, “My mom was always talking about what was wrong with everyone. She couldn’t drive to the grocery store without complaining about all the awfulness in everyone else. Everyone was going to hell, according to her. She seemed to think she had it all together, but she was the only one who couldn’t see herself as she really was.” I can’t think of which scenario terrifies me more.

 
God, help me avoid both extremes and find balance within your grace. Let my life be something my daughter wants to emulate, not because she admires me, but because she wants to emulate You, who she sees in me.

 
Be careful how long you choose to sit on that fence, the wedgie gets worse the longer you let it go on, and the results are far more painful for both you and the ones you love most. Choose today who you will serve, and pray for the will to do it with all your heart, mind, and soul.

 

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.” (1 John 3:18-19, NIV)

“With my whole heart have I sought You; Oh, let me not wander from your commandments! (Psalm 119:10, NKJV)

“Make me walk along the paths of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” (Psalm 119:35, NLT)

 

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See also CHOICES PART 1: Freedom to Choose

 
I will be continuing this series on choices in much greater detail, if you haven’t already, please enter your email under the “Follow” tab to receive new posts in your inbox. No spam! Just new posts, (usually two to four posts a month at most). If you found this website to be of encouragement to you, please share it with your friends!

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Six Signs of a Spiritually Divided Heart

**Originally Published on Encourage 365, October 1st, 2012**

A cursory glance through Psalm 119 reveals the heart of an author wholly enveloped in the words of God. It is blatantly obvious the Psalmist not only read the word of God on a regular basis, but lived its truth in his every-day life. Psalm 119 provides all the answers we could ever hope for in regards to approaching the Bible with an undivided heart.

So how do I know if I’m seeking God with all my heart? How do I know if I love God with all my heart? How do I know if I believe God with all my heart? How do I determine if my heart is divided or united to fear God’s name in truth (Psalm 86:11)?

1. A spiritually divided heart is emotionally unstable.

“Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” (Psalm 119:2) The Hebrew word for “blessed” in this passage is ‘esher (eh’-sher) which translates “happy”. Blessed does not mean wealthy, successful, powerful, popular, or prominent though it may certainly be a blessing to have those statuses. A divided heart is revealed in a saddened or discouraged countenance. Is my life characterized by happiness and peace or worry and confusion? Am I tossed into the depths of despair through every undesirable circumstance or have I entrusted my innermost source of happiness to God’s word? The only way I can have lasting happiness is to walk by and believe God’s word of truth.

2. A spiritually divided heart is wandering.

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” (Psalm 119:10) God’s word is not a list of rules keeping me boxed in under the heavy thumb of dictatorship. God’s word was inspired and written for my greatest good. The Bible clearly outlines and defines what path to travel, what attitude is appropriate, and what ministries to pursue. When I start to rely on my own reasoning, logic, and understanding, I stray from God’s perfect knowledge of His creation—me.  My heart is divided when I fight against the truth of God’s revealed word and willfully or ignorantly choose my own path.

3. A spiritually divided heart is selfish.

“Turn my heart towards your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” (Psalm 119:36-37) Left to my own devices I am bent towards selfishness. When I argue with my spouse over where to eat dinner I put my needs in front of his. When I am offended by the opinions of others, threatened by the status of a peer, or hesitant to give of my abundance to someone in need, I am selfish. I have strayed from God’s word and will and allowed my flesh to take over. My heart has been divided. I have failed to esteem others as better than myself (Philippians 2:3).

4.  A spiritually divided heart is inconsistent.

“This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.” (Psalm 119:56) Can I truthfully proclaim that I obey God’s word without falter every second of every day? Not a chance. However, the undivided heart, or the heart walking through life believing God’s word, will be swayed towards obedience. Willful rebellion will be the exception, not the rule. When my daily practice is devoted to knowing and following God’s word, my heart is united in truth.

5. A spiritually divided heart is malnourished.

“How sweet are your words to my taste; sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103) When I am hurt, angry, confused, or otherwise afflicted, where do I turn for guidance and comfort? Do I seek the opinions of friends, family, pastors, and teachers first or do I seek the counsel of God? The more of his words I consume, the more nourished I will be. When I neglect his guidance and first seek help from human sources I am left hungry and malnourished. If I don’t know the word of God, how will I know if the advice I’m given is biblical? Like the prophet Isaiah so eloquently stated: “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:2)

6. A spiritually divided heart is fearful.

“I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.” (Psalm 119:46-47) If my Monday through Saturday life does not line up with my Sunday life, I should be afraid to speak of my faith. Without a living, active gospel displayed through my life, I will be put to shame when I witness to others. How can I preach to someone when my life is the opposite of my message? When I hear of terminally-ill loved ones, if unsure about their eternal destiny, I am motivated to witness to them before it’s too late. But was I motivated to witness before I knew they were sick? Shouldn’t every day be an opportunity to love God, live God, and display God in everything I do?  If I am not displaying the love of God by witnessing to my lost friends and neighbors, I am living in fear. I want my life to always back up my message and never distract from the wonderful, freeing truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Every time I read Psalm 119 I am reminded to check my heart-status. Am I whole-heartedly seeking God and his word or am I offering up only the pieces I prefer? Can I stand beside the Psalmist and before God, unashamed and fully exposed and still declare, “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. Your statutes are my delight and I have chosen the way of truth.” (Psalm 119:20, 24, 30) That is my desire; to live with an undivided heart wholly united with God’s word.

God Grant Me Grace

“I am insignificant and despised, but I do not forget your commandments.” Psalm 119:141 NLT

Our status in life need not dictate whether we know or obey the word of God. We may (or may not) be intelligent in matters of nuclear science, molecular biology, or cell functions but the only intelligence that matters in God’s eyes is our remembrance of his commands. We can have master’s degrees, doctorate degrees, or engineering degrees but without Christ, it is nothing. He cares about our hearts, not about our stature in the world.

“God opposes the proud but shows favor [grace] to the humble and oppressed. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:5-6

Where we are insignificant to the world, we are significant to God. Where we are despised by the world, we are favored by God.  Where we lack in recognition we gain in grace from our Lord. Our status in this world is irrelevant.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Let’s review some people who found favor (grace) in God’s eyes:

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52

“[David] enjoyed God’s favor.” Acts 7:46

“The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Psalm 84:11

Every time you see the word “favor” in these passages its original translation is “grace”. It can also be said that Ruth and Esther both found grace or unmerited favor (Ruth 2:10, Esther 7:3).Would you like an outpouring of God’s favor in your life? Do you desire to be significant in the kingdom of God over your significance in the world (Matthew 6:3).There is one ingredient in the recipe of grace: humility. Remembering the word of God is the beginning of humility. The cause and effect of truth in our life is this:

When we know the word of God we know who we are in God’s eyes, and this knowledge humbles us. As we are humbled under the mighty hand of God, he lifts us up with his grace.

Are you smart in the world or smart in the Word?

“He…gives grace to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34

Prayer

Jesus, it’s not easy to ask for a humble heart, but I want more of your grace. Grant me the spirit of humility in order for me to have your unmerited favor. When pride creeps in I ask your Spirit to convict me immediately. Pride cannot dwell in the house of grace so purge this awful sin from my life however painful that may be. Help me to remember your words even if that makes me mocked and scorned by those around me.

Please Join&Support

I have a new page for those of you on Facebook, please “Like” and share with your friends so we can spread the truth of the message of Psalm 119!

http://www.facebook.com/DailyInspirationsPsalm119

Thank YOU!

“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” Psalm 119:68

Holy Water

Holy Water

“With my lips I recount all of the laws that come from your mouth.” Psalm 119:13 NIV

I’ll admit it, I like to sing in the shower, in my car, while I am doing the dishes, vacuuming, or even cleaning the litter box (which is tricky when you’re trying not to inhale).  Music has always been a part of my life and as an accompaniment pianist, I find myself hearing rhythms, accompaniment patterns, and ad libs whenever I listen to a song. I can’t even hear a clock ticking without hearing tempos and singing songs in my head. I have memorized many songs unintentionally just by listening to them and singing them over and over again. It’s really annoying when I get a commercial jingle stuck in my head, and I find myself singing about auto insurance at odd hours of the night.

A lot of times we think we can’t remember anything, and it’s true we all misplace our keys or lose our debit cards occasionally. (In my case almost daily in the pit that is my purse.) If we’re honest we’ll admit it’s not as hard to memorize something as we think it is; in reality it just depends on what’s important to us and what we choose to listen to/look at on a consistent basis.

The Psalmist said he could recount all of the laws verbally. That’s a pretty impressive statement. How do you suppose he was able to do that? I doubt it was because he glanced over them for an hour once a week. He most likely repeated them over and over again out loud many times a day; just like that commercial jingle that gets stuck in your head because you hear it over and over again during that football game (or movie or whatever you like to watch). When we hear something and repeat it out loud we tend to remember it better. Often times when I am trying to memorize a verse I repeat it out loud many times as I lay in bed until I fall asleep. It’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up and I remember it a lot better than just reading a verse on a page. You would think having spent over a year studying Psalm 119, I would have most of it memorized by now, but it’s not the case. I only remember the verses I have intentionally sought to remember and spent time speaking them and hearing my own voice saying them. That verbal reinforcement is powerful and transforming.

The Hebrew word for recount in this verse is actually to declare, inscribe, enumerate, celebrate, commune, speak, talk or tell.  This is not just a mental exercise; it’s also a physical process involving the tongue. It’s no wonder this is necessary in training the mind as we see in James 3:6:

“The tongue is also a fire, a word of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire.”

Have you ever said something you regretted? Has your tongue ever gotten you in trouble and lit up your life like a flaming wildfire? I know I have. The Scriptures are our way of dousing those flames with “holy water”, so to speak. When we declare the words of the Lord with our mouths, we reiterate to our minds truth that transforms. It takes black and white off the page and puts it into practice. We’re more likely to remember the words and attitude of Jesus that we are told to emulate if we are spending time repeating them. Is there something in your life that you struggle with? Perhaps it’s anger, gossip, or impatience. Find a verse that addresses the issue you struggle with, and commit it to memory by repeating it out loud several times every day. Listen to the word of God spoken on a cd in your car, or record it yourself to listen to you when you’re driving. Declare it in your bed at night until it begins to transform your mind and you can say, “With my lips I recount your laws, Lord!”

Prayer

Jesus, I ask that you reveal a verse to me that I need to commit to memory. I want my actions to mirror the life of Jesus, and I realize I need to have a transformation of thinking in order for that to occur. Control the damaging flames of my tongue with the cooling water of your word.

Heart Sick

Heart Sick

“If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.” Psalm 119:92 NLT

Have you noticed that some of these verses about “delight” have referenced pain, misery, anguish, trouble, or discomfort of some kind? (See Psalm 119:143) I like how the Message puts it:

“If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came.”

Do you know anyone who has given up? Perhaps you have given up? I know a few people who have definitely given up on life, given up hope for happiness, and are certainly drowning in a sea of their own misery. I have been there myself. Part of the problem is whether or not we really understand the character of God. It’s one thing to look at a verse and nod in agreement, but if that truth hasn’t infiltrated the deepest recesses of our minds, it won’t transform our behavior. And by behavior I mean whether or not we choose to trust our Sovereign God when we are facing terrible distresses. We can know all the facts in the world about the Bible, Jesus, God and various doctrines, but if we are not living it out, it is worthless information (James 1:23-25); just words on a page or knowledge in the brain. Facts won’t transform us.

When we are hopeless, miserable, and despairing it is an outward evidence of an inward illness; the heart that has not fully understood the living truth of God’s promises. We’re not instructed to transform our behavior through memorizing facts (not that memorization is bad-quite the contrary), we are told to be “transformed” by the “renewing” (Greek word meaning “renovation”) of our minds; this is the only way to discover God’s will. (Romans 12:2) Our mind must undergo a spiritual renovation. This process involves removing the old décor, tearing down some walls, maybe building a new room, and removing the old clutter. This renovation will teach us to think in a different way. This way of thinking is led by the Holy Spirit, and is centered on the word of God and his revealed truth. Without this mind makeover, we are left to our own way of thinking which seems good to us, but in reality is conformed to the thought processes of the world. We cannot be worldly and spiritual at the same time.

If we really know God relationally (as opposed to just factually) we will begin to have a transformation of thought which will result in a transformation of behavior. Take a marriage, for example. As you get to know your spouse as a person (their character) you begin to behave differently around them. You have a level of trust based on your knowledge of who they are, and how they have acted towards you in the past. You also allow yourself to be more “real” in the presence of your partner as opposed to a person you just met last week. It’s not the facts of your spouse that influences your behavior, it’s the knowledge of their character based on your experience with them in your life.

So, are you miserable? What has your experience and relationship with God been like? Do you know his character, do you trust what the Bible says about who he is and how he feels about you, his treasured creation? Your relationship with God will dictate your behavior. Walking around moping and feeling sorry for ourselves is a demonstration of disbelief in God’s word. Does that sound too hard? Think about it!  It is something we are all guilty of at times, but it can be different! God’s word can sustain us with a deep lasting joy despite any situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be walking around bubbly and enthusiastic all the time, but it does mean that deep down we will trust God, his word, and his promises and know his plan is being worked out in us. (Romans 8:28) That knowledge and experience with our Lord will relieve our pressure, lift our burdens, and give us joy! God is working this out: hallelujah! I know I can’t figure it out on my own (and when I try it usually turns into a total nightmare) but I know when God is moving miraculous things occur. I want my eyes to be open to the miracles he’s performing every day in my life, but I can’t see and be thankful for those things if I am fixated on not getting my way.

If it’s in my life (and yours) then God allowed it, and if I have a problem with that I need to dig deeper in to his word to discover more of his heart for me. God isn’t the problem, he’s the solution.

Prayer

Jesus, right now I choose to thank you for this circumstance in my life. I admit I am uncomfortable, but I realize that you are painting the portrait, not me. I will stop trying to add my colors to your picture, and let you be the Artist. Teach me more of who you are and what you are up to in my life so I may learn to trust you completely in all things. Today I ask for you to show yourself to me in a mighty miraculous way, confirm for me the truth that you are here, you care, and you have a plan. Impress that upon my heart with your Holy Spirit, and help me to be quiet so I can listen to your voice.

Effective

Effective

“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!

Prayer

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!