First in my heart

I ran my hand over the linen cover with the word “prayers” etched on the cover. The practice of writing out my prayers has nudged me to stay consistent in my pleadings. Too often, I let my requests slip away, doubting they will ever be answered. I am impatient like that.

But even when I neglect to lay them down, they have a way of nagging at my heart. Though they may slip from my prayers, they do not easily slip from my focus. In fact, when I fail to realign them through prayer, they can become all-consuming.

I am not shy about my love for the Psalms. Though David was a strong warrior, he also had a strong heart, filled with deep desires. Although he was human and often fell prey to his unkept longings, in the Psalms we see a man “after God’s own heart.” How can that be said of him?

We see the answer in his writings, in how he brought every longing subject to his love for the Lord. Even as he wandered the desert, he seems to be more focused on his parched soul than on his physical thirst (Psalm 63). We can clearly see that his central yearning was for the Lord.

Trusting in an all-satisfying God, he was ok if the answer was “not yet,” or even “no.” Because his thirst was quenched by drinking of the rivers of life, not in having his every longing fulfilled.

He was fully submitted. No matter what answer he received, He blessed the Lord.

The Psalms do reveal his physical longings. But his response to God’s answer reveals who he worshipped.

Sometimes the two fail to intersect for me. Even though I pray “Thy will be done,” my life often reveals a different desire. The desire for “my will to be done.” When my prayers are not answered in my way or time, when the answer is “not yet,” His voice seems silent.

The past two years have been made that silence seem audible. I have sought answers for my chronic symptoms, only to be met with more questions and confusion. I can recall many nights shaking from anxiety, crying out for clarity. In those moments, I held to the Psalms, cherishing the promise of God’s deliverance. Yet, I often did not hear his voice. Unlike the many Psalmists, my cries seemed to be met with more silence.

For a purpose above my own, he has told me “not yet.” But He has answered in other ways, in giving me the grace to carry on, in keeping me from turning over in bed before the start of the day. I’ve found that He will never give a burden without giving an equal measure of grace. When I rely on His day-to-day presence, my soul is content to continue.

It is when I look ahead that I start to sink. How my soul becomes dissatisfied when I turn my focus from what I have in Him to what I lack.

When “not yet” is years long, I leave the silence for an easier answer. I stop praying and begin my fight for control. I order my life in every way I can, hoping my steps result in the answer I want. I trade trust for worry and let my heart chase the one gift He has withheld.

In doing so, I elevate what I lack to be what I worship.

Still, I pray “Thy will,” reciting words I do not live to be true.

He says it is good to pour out my heart before him. He says to come with my tears. He promises good. And what I pray for is good. But how I handle his answer reveals what is first in my heart.

The healer or the healing? The Savior or the saving? “Thy” will, or my will? What I lack, or all that He is?

Our souls can only be satisfied in the fullness of who he is. In knowing that because He is good, he does only good. Even in withholding a good thing. 

Our lives need to be transformed by prayer. And our response needs to be guided by “Thy will.”

Because how we pray and how we respond reveals who we truly worship.

*Much of this is inspired by a little book called “The Promise is His Presence.” Though I have yet to read the book in full, I am very familiar with the author. Her testimony reflects the words she writes and has been very influential to me.*

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