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Pray from the Heart

pray_from_heartGod simply asks that we talk to Him

| by Brad Jersak

As an advocate and practitioner of crafted liturgical prayers, I am also keenly aware of the importance of spontaneous prayer, bursting from the depths of the soul. What are we to make of these raw and unrehearsed stammerings, composed in the moment?

To begin, they need not be beautifully composed or theologically “proper” presentations to the Almighty. Rather, they represent the heart-to-heart intimacy we see in some of David’s Psalms—“Why me?” and “How long?” or even “Where are you?” Jesus, too, frequently broke out in cries of joyful thanksgiving or tearful anguish to His heavenly Father.

These texts model for us what it is to “get personal” with God—that He values our willingness to come out from behind our facades of propriety and our fig-leaves of shame to “be real” in His presence. The ego, ever concerned with appearances, is bankrupted so that the “new self”—the heart that Jesus gives us—can come before God, naked in dependence on His favor and grace. Somehow, this is faith: to allow God to see me as I am, without preening, and to know that He loves me.

In Romans 8, Paul admits that we don’t really know how to pray as we ought anyway. We don’t even need to because, he adds, God’s indwelling Spirit intercedes for us, and even groans through us in spontaneous prayer. The Father then searches our hearts for these moanings, knowing exactly what they mean and affirming them as the very will of God.

Finally, Christ promises the New Covenant people that those who call on Him can expect an answer. Our prayers are potentially much more than rehearsed and repeated monologues for the sake of public worship or private spirituality. They can be so much more than a religious technology for manipulating God into giving us our way and our wishes, as if faith were a vending machine.

Rather, if we wait and listen, expectant for a response, we might find that God is interested in transforming our devotional lives into interactive conversations with a living Friend who has promised to live in us and be with us forever (John 14-16).

Liturgical prayer is no hindrance to spontaneity or heart-felt communication with God. But neither are your briefest exclamations of praise or plea. In either case, God simply asks that we pray and promises to both listen and answer.

Brad Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, B.C., where he attends Fresh Wind Christian Fellowship. Discover more at www.bradjersak.com


The article above was featured in the March 2011 issue of SEVEN magazine.