At the Heart of Prayer: A Praying Heart
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God,” (Romans 8:26).
If anyone knew about prayer, it was St Paul. You see, St Paul grew up as a devout Jew, a Pharisee. He was learned, and he tells us that he learned at the feet of Gamaliel, who was one of the most revered Jewish teachers of his time. As a devout Jew, life was a marked by the rhythm of prayer, morning, noon, and evening. Also, as the circumstances would require it or be expected from a devout Jew, there were a number of prayers, commendations, and blessings to be said all through the day.
Mind you, prayers and the form of praying was set. Some would repeat prayers written by ancient sages, others would just follow tradition, but there was not much of what today we would call “free prayer.” Because it was believed that some teachers had greater insight into the mind of God, rabbis would be asked to teach their prayers to their followers, very much like their disciples asked John and Jesus.
So, even before his conversion, it would be appropriate to say that St Paul knew a thing or two about prayer. There is no record in the Bible to believe that St Paul change his praying pattern after his conversion. His focus and understanding, naturally, changed, enriched by his newly acquired awareness of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
So, it is remarkable that late in his ministry, writing to the Christians in Rome, St Paul would make a startling statement, “We do not know how to pray as we ought.” Paul, the man trained in prayer says that, perhaps, personal prayer was more than words. What was he trying to say?
In writing that the Spirit needs to come to our aid St Paul made another fundamental affirmation – personal prayer went beyond what we wish to say or how should we express our praise, intercessions, and petitions. At its heart, prayer was to be understood as more an affair of the heart than an affair of the mind.
Yes, prayer includes petitions and praise, intercession for others and for oneself, repentance and new commitments. But to reduce prayer to its basic forms and techniques is like looking at a masterpiece and consider only the chemical composition of the paints, or the texture of the canvass or even the artist’s techniques. It was the same with prayer, said St Paul.
Anyone who has been in love, even if for a fleeting moment, will understand what St Paul found to be the deepest meaning of personal prayer. To pray is – like being in love — to let go of oneself and allow to be captured by the spirit of the moment… and the Spirit.
Personal prayer is to be enjoyed as a moment to share with the one with whom one is in love, where words and feelings run their own unimpeded course, and where silence and contemplation – the pleasure of being together – supersedes all planning and even words.
If God created us for Himself, as an expression of His love and affection, and for us to enjoy His presence, then prayer – very much like love — cannot be confined and reduced only to the realm of the systematic and the efficiently organized. Doing so would reduce personal prayer to a chore or even a burden. And, so our most intimate time with our Savior will surely wilt and grow stale and even, perhaps, die.
If we consider personal prayer as a time to spend with whom you know loves you and with whom you love, then one will discover that prayer is what will help us to face tomorrow’s unknowns and yesterday’s pains. Prayer – like being in love – will soothe and heal old wounds and will balm you over with hope and renewed delight making your relationship flourish beyond expectations.
Spirit of the Living God – We need your help both for our daily living as in prayers. Stir in us the fire of divine love so that in Your presence our hearts be melted away in adoration and praise, in healing and inspiration so that our spiritual union with You, with our Creator, and with our Savior Jesus may overflow with joy, peace, and grace. Amen.