*This week begins a series of blogs (wednesdays) where I will be going through some of Paul’s prayers that are recorded in scripture. My hope is that God would teach us a thing or two about this amazing thing called prayer.
Growing up with two sisters and no brothers meant that when it came to movie night I lost every time. It was a steady stream of boys meeting girls, something going awry (normally the boys fault) and then eventually everyone got along and lived happily ever after. What often started the resolution of the conflict was when one or both of the characters received the advice to ‘follow their hearts’ or ‘listen to their heart’s desires.’ Apparently this is really good advice because, according to Hollywood, it works every time. So, Christian, in the wise words of Swedish pop duo Roxette, ‘Listen to your heart, there’s nothing else you can do.’
Ok, if you just threw up in your mouth a little bit I don’t blame you. As Christians, we are often skeptical of cultural appeals to follow our hearts. And rightfully so. After all, scripture says that the heart is deceptive above all things (Jer. 17:9). So what do we do with Paul’s prayer in Romans 10:1 where he says, “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.” Should we really pray for the desires of our heart?
This short prayer reveals something quite amazing about what our God is up to, and it is this: God through Christ is changing the desires of our hearts. When the heart is referred to in scripture, it is referring to more than our left or right ventricle. The heart is thought to be the source and seat of all our physical life, intellect, emotions and desires. It is why we are told to guard our hearts, because from them, flows our whole life (Prov. 4:23).
I became a Dad on Father’s Day in 2011 (pretty cool, I know). I won’t forget what it was like holding that little guy in my arms for the first time, I was infatuated. I remember sitting at my desk the first day back to work a few hours before my shift ended and wanting nothing more than to go home and hold my little boy. What is interesting, is that the week prior I would have been glad to work overtime, go the extra mile and strive for that promotion. But not anymore… So what changed? Well, the desires of my heart did. I wanted to be with my baby boy more than I wanted to be at work. This is the type of thing that God does with our hearts too. He stirs our affections for Jesus by changing the desires of our hearts.
Not convinced? Think about what God did to the affections of Paul’s heart. Paul hated Jesus and his followers, so much so that he dedicated his life to destroying them. On his way to shut down a group of Jesus followers he had an encounter with the very Jesus he despised and this encounter changed Paul’s heart in such a significant way that now the deepest longings of his heart were that his people (the Jews) would know and love this once despised Jesus. Paul went from hating Jesus and his followers to laying his life down for them. This is why he says, “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1).
God takes our deceitful and hard hearts and softens them so that we might delight in him. God changed Paul’s heart and he is changing your heart too. As your heart breaks this week for your scared neighbour, or your lonely friend or your sick loved one know that God wants us to pray into these things. Let’s allow Christ’s command to love the Lord with all of our heart to seep into our prayer life, trusting that the Spirit in us is changing our affections so, like Paul, we too can pray the desires of our heart.