Where is Our Heart?
Several months ago, I wrote about this vignette below, making the point that the posture of prayer – both men were standing while praying – the physical posture of prayer is not what is of importance to God. What matters to Him is the posture of the heart.
Here is the text about the Pharisee and the sinner:
“Jesus told this story to some people who thought they were very good and looked down on everyone else: “A Pharisee and a tax collector both went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee stood alone and prayed, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people who steal, cheat, or take part in adultery, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I give one-tenth of everything I get!’ The tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even look up to heaven. But he beat on his chest because he was so sad. He said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you, when this man went home, he was right with God, but the Pharisee was not.” (Luke 18:9-14)
This story came back to my mind this morning as I read 1 Timothy 2:8 wherein St. Paul instructs Timothy: “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.”
Whether standing or sitting or kneeling; whether our hands are folded at our chest or lifted high with palms forward or backward – is it our posture or our heart that God looks for?
In his classic book, Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis does not address the posture of prayer directly, but he does so in principle when he writes:
“What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed, it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.”
To paraphrase Thomas, what good does it do if I pray sitting or kneeling or standing, if my heart is not bowed before God? What good does it do if I lift my hands in prayer with my palms in or out, if my heart is not lifted toward my King?
Christian – it’s all about the heart. And that begs the question each time we pray: “Where is our heart?”