Praying… A Lesson In The Heart’s Desire
There were moments today of sheer joy, revelling in being able to find space to laugh, grieve, question, journey, be challenged by and delight in the company of good people. You are a more than good blessing.
When i was younger – about 14, and just returning to the Church in my heart, at least.. I read Psalm 37, in particular this verse:
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
For some strange reason, when I first read it, and everytime I have read it since I cannot help but thinking initially that the writer is referring to God literally giving us the desires of our heart. That as we delight in the Lord, our heart desires that which the Lord directs us, or gives us to desire.
How I managed to arrive at that as a young girl with an inevitably broken heart (broken by life, I might add… and later to be healed by life).. well, I’m not sure. The memory of that understanding came to me today though, over a long black as we talked about prayer, and the answers.
Prayer isn’t to be simplified to an asking | answering transaction. There is prayer that meditates, prayer that repents, prayer that listens, converses, argues, laments, pleads, adores, gives honour … and then there is the supplicatory prayer.
The prayer that asks. There is no moment that I can think of more intimate and yet more violated in some ways, than the moment of asking. We violate because we are still learning to pray and be satisfied with desires that are unanswered, and prayers that do not bring light, peace, hope or satisfaction. At best, we content ourselves with prayers that hope for understanding and the ability to accept, if nothing else.
To pray honestly and ask for the very things that we desire from God, must almost be the most human and honest prayer we can offer up. In that moment, there must be some new intimacy with God – where we are open with our weakness for the most unworthy or unrighteous of our desires, alongside our holy and courageous requests.
None of this provides a satisfactory answer for the unanswered prayer – our deep fear, our endless struggle. Proverbs 3 pleads with the wisdom in us, not to lean on our own understanding and yet it is our understanding of God’s ways that is mystified by the unanswered prayer. And the longer it sits with us, the more we become afraid to ask for it again, eventually becoming afraid to ask for many things.. and we lose the intimacy that comes with childlike faith to ask.
So many of us never ask for what we truly want because we are afraid that we do not really know what we want, therefore may get the request before heaven wrong.. leaving us either with a result we did not truly desire or with an unanswered prayer. But what I wanted when I was 10 is very different from what I wanted at 20, and what I desire now.
In equal parts, my prayer is shaped by my honest desires .. and my desires are shaped by my prayer. How does that happen? Certainly not by agonizing over my requests and judging their merit. Nor by withholding the foolish, momentary wants that my flesh craves from the heavenly One. If my Father would know me, then he must truly know all of me – the carnal, tortured parts of me, along with the justice-driven, mercy-drenched parts of me. What truth is there in my everlasting prayer conversation with God, if I close my mouth to what is unholy so my heart can still desire it in silence.
No, God – come into the depths of all those desires. Answer and leave me in silent unanswered oblivion until all parts of me are content to be uncomfortable without answers, with human and heavenly desires, with fear and faith all at once.
That which I once desired has passed into nothingness. My heart longs more for what is closer to the hand of God now, than when I was younger – because the desires of my foolish heart were left unanswered. My unanswered prayer led to my holier one.
So why – does God not answer prayer and why do we not pray more for the desires? I ask for strength to accept both, in blissful misunderstanding. May I delight in my honest conversation with you God, and find my desires become more and more like yours each day.