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“Processing your heart in the presence of God”

December 9, 2009

That little phrase, “processing your heart in the presence of God” has stuck with me and folowed me around for the past several weeks. It has become an essential part of my recent fascination and understanding of an interactive life with God; what an honest to goodness life of prayer is meant to be.  My mentor/friend Dave Dupee said it almost in passing, between sips of coffee,  and likely had no idea how lodged that little bullet was going to become. It was charged with meaning for me from the first time I heard it. In short, it is the best definition of exactly what prayer is I have ever heard.

There are three elements to that phrase that deserve a closer look and these three can be like rungs of a laddar that can lead us to actually pray if we give ourselves over to them:

1. Processing

Processing is not passive. It implies we take an active role in trying to understand what we are feeling, thinking, and desiring. And we do that with a little tool called honesty. What are the patterns of our thinking? When our mind wanders where does it wander to? What kinds of things does our mind settle on? What feelings are currently taking up real estate in our heart? What desires do we have? Longings? Hopes? if we can first get real honest about those things we’ll be engaging in the “processing” that is a way into prayer. For me this happens best under certain conditions: being alone for a an extended period (whether that’s an hour, a day or a weekend), writing, and walking. For some reason those things just naturally get me processing in this way. Some things that kill it or inhibit it: passively surfing the web, over-consumption of media, entertainment, food, alcohol… anything that dulls the senses or numbs the brain.

2. Your heart

So we’re processing but what is the locus of that: simply, our hearts. Whatever is in us. The good and the bad. And this is often where it breaks down for me. I want to process the good stuff and try to hide the bad stuff or change it before coming into God’s presence. But that is all wrong and its a lie that will lead – has led! – to much prayerless in my life. Processing our heart means just getting it out and then sorting it out. Our lusts, our greed, our fears, our worries, our joys, our excitement, our whatever-is-in-there… God won’t be surprised (hint: He already knows!) but we often will be. God often reacts differently than I could ever have imagined. For instance I’ve learned that lust is often just a symptom of a desire for intimacy or excitement (often not even necessarily sexual) that can get fed in a wrong way or a good way. When we start to see and treat our wrongful desires as symptoms (and for many of us, simply stop beating ourselves up for them) then we can get to the root of why that sin/challenge exists at all.

3. In the presence of God

So we process “alone” but we’re really not. We are in God’s presence. That is a fact and not something we have to do, force or conjure up. The best we can do is recognize it and accept it. He is the active seeker in our lives. We are responders and receivers. Now we can act like we’re not in his presence, we can avoid, deny, resist the implications of that or we can simply yield to it and do our part to foster the relationship. So there are things we can do and become that foster a greater sense of cooperation and interaction with him but mostly this is a passive realization that whatever we do and wherever we go we are already fully immersed in God’s presence. But like any relationship a deeper sense of friendship, of comraderie can grow through regular contact and intentional interactions as outlined here.

How do you process your heart in God’s presence? What are some of the means you have used to deepen (or avoid) a friendship with him?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2009 9:02 am

    Thanks for sharing this, man. A bullet lodged deep, indeed.

  2. Bob permalink
    December 9, 2009 8:24 pm

    Great post! I really like the “processing your heart in the presence of God” definition of prayer. For me, it only comes in the context of lectio and journaling. Lectio on an exhortation or promise of Scripture that my heart “hears” and then journaling as a way of slowing down my mind to actually do the processing.

    But, IMHO, the starting point needs to be Scripture. Otherwise the “presence of God” may be reduced to “the presence of a sympathetic, imaginary friend who generally agrees with you”.

    “Looking at wrongful desires as symptoms”… that one will kick around in me for a bit.

    Thanks for the post.

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