It has been said that the heart of prayer is prayer from heart. This seems to be what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples when he warned them not to “heap up empty phrases” when they prayed. (Matthew 6:7, ESV).
Prayer is viewed differently by different cultures around the world. Most religions see prayer as a ritualistic exercise done to either appease or earn the favour of a deity. During the Old Testament era, Baal’s priests even resorted to cutting and wounding themselves so that their god would hear and answer them and prove the prophet Elijah wrong. They cried out and danced for Baal from morning till noon, asking him to burn their sacrificial offering. Baal never responded.
In contrast, Elijah simply asked God to answer him so that the people will know that the God of Israel was the true God – and he received His answer! (1 Kings 18:20-40)
This shows us that prayer does not have to be a very long litany of repeated phrases that lose their meaning. Neither do we have to flagellate and mutilate ourselves to be heard by the true and only God.
Thus, prayer is not a ritual.
Instead, as shown to us by Elijah, prayer is a way to commune with God, a way to converse with him, asking Him to reveal Himself to us. And that it is all done by praying from the heart.
A caveat though.
While praying from a sincere heart is the key to reaching out to God, you must examine yourself and see if your desires are aligned with God’s desires. Indeed, the Scriptures reveal that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” and that it is God who searches the heart and tests the mind to give to each man according to his ways (Jer. 17:9,10).
Therefore, the more you pray with a true heart and with the illumination of Scripture, the more you will get to know your true motives and desires and be able to compare them with God’s desires. The more you pray for the fulfillment of God’s desires, to let His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, the more you will grow spiritually.
So next time before you kneel to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in prayer, ask yourself: Are you ready to be vulnerable before God? Are you ready to do His will?
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)