toward a definition of the heart

a little bit of diva sweetness for you

i use the word heart a lot in this space. sometimes i use it without even thinking twice about it, so integrated a part of my belief system and way of life has it become. but other times i'm incredibly self-conscious about using it so much. i'm afraid that in using the word heart so much around here, i give the impression of being some kind of sentimental sap who bursts into tears at the sight of white fluffy bunnies. (for the record, i don't.)

i was reminded of this today when i got to a section of henri nouwen's way of the heart that talks about prayer, and specifically prayer of the heart versus prayer of the mind.

it's a great week for me to be meditating on the subject of prayer, and especially the distinctions between prayer of the heart and prayer of the mind, as i've entered into a special prayer season this week with my close girlfriends about the ministry to women that God is entrusting to us at our church. after an evening spent with some very special women on sunday night concerning this very thing, the group of us girls agreed to fast from analysis and planning this week, including a refrain from even conversing with each other or our husbands about the subject of this ministry at all, turning ourselves instead totally over to God in prayer with nothing but open hands, no agenda.

it's a hard place to be, prayer. especially when your mind is spinning as fast with questions and thoughts and ideas about where things are headed, like mine is. this is why i'm glad henri nouwen is teaching me about prayer this week, and also why i've identified so closely with the temptation to pray just with my mind. when i pray with my mind, i find myself talking at God instead of talking with him. when i pray with my mind, i find myself working through all the analysis and planning and self-talk i said i wouldn't do, and i find myself too impatient to sit quietly and listen. and none of that can, in my mind, even be called prayer.

but prayer of the heart? this is something that is helping to naturally slow me down, to make me more present with God in the moment, to talk with him instead of at or around him, to get in touch with what is truly there inside of me, and to bring all of that, no matter what it is, into the open as he sits there with me, present to all of it. there, we truly converse. there, the greatest concerns of my heart truly become a matter we share together.

i share this to share a bit of where i am this week and a bit of what i'm learning about prayer. but i also share this to better define what is encapsulated in the word heart when i am referencing it so regularly here on my blog. please hear my heart (wink, wink) and know that instead of sentimentality, and in fact far from it, i rather mean along the lines of the following when i talk about the importance of knowing and honoring my heart or holding up the painfully beautiful hearts of others as we walk along through this world together:

prayer is standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart; that is, at that point of our being where there are no divisions or distinctions and where we are totally one. there God's Spirit dwells and there the great encounter takes place. there heart speaks to heart, because there we stand before the face of the Lord, all-seeing, within us.

we have to realize that here the word heart is used in its full biblical meaning. . . . the word heart in the jewish-christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, and moral energies.

from the heart arise unknowable impulses as well as conscious feelings, moods, and wishes. the heart, too, has its reasons and is the center of perception and understanding. finally, the heart is the seat of the will: it makes plans and comes to good decisions. thus the heart is the central and unifying organ of our personal life. our heart determines our personality, and is therefore not only the place where God dwells but also the place to which satan directs his fiercest attacks. it is this heart that is the place of prayer. the prayer of the heart is a prayer that directs itself to God from the center of the person and thus affects the whole of our humanness.

i'll have more thoughts to share about the heart later this week, but for now i thought this a good place to share some helpful thoughts on prayer and foundational thoughts on heart. love to you all this night . . . and grace.