This morning I prayed in what felt like a very long time. Not that I haven’t prayed recently! No, what I mean is a time set aside for nothing but prayer, a time dedicated to a true deep conversation between me and God. Not one that existed only as a short prayer in my mind, not a mental chit-chat with the Almighty, not a series of “text messages” sent up to Him to give him a few updates on my life. No, this one was deeper and more powerful for me not only because it was very intentional but also for the very fact that I spoke to him.
There’s something powerful behind saying things out loud.
Confessing them with my mind and heart seems easier somehow than confessing with my lips. Unfortunately, it’s also less impactful. Praying audibly worked a strange magic over me this morning. I was reminded of the power words can have when God spoke creation into existence (Genesis 1), when Jesus tells us by our words we will be judged (Matthew 12: 33-37), when Paul encourages us to not only believe in our hearts but to also confess aloud our faith as believers (Romans 10: 8-10), when we are warned of the destructive power the tongue can have (James 3: 1-18), and when God promised that in the end all tongues will confess that Jesus is Lord of all (Philippians 2). Yes, it’s a bit awkward at first, speaking to thin air and hearing only your voice in this conversation. But a few moments later and the awkwardness fades away into something much more beautiful: a heartfelt confession to the One my heart knows is with me always. Within His presence, there is no shame, no doubt, no fear. It’s just a daughter speaking with her Father in a long overdue conversation.
And so we talked. And talked. And talked.
At some point during my prayer, I was praying for someone dear to me and asking for God to send this person a rather large hug. Not just any hug, I’m talking a massive bear-hug that won’t let you go no matter how hard you try. I asked God not just to show this person His love, but to drown them in it. Ok, a bit strong of a metaphor but I sincerely meant it. Why? I admitted to God that I felt like this person’s heart was hardened and would need something powerful to make it feel again. I then said that this person’s heart wasn’t like Pharaoh’s heart—it wasn’t like stone. No, it was more like the bark of a tree—hard on the outside to protect the softness within.
What a beautiful picture that is. A heart like a tree’s bark.
The more I thought about this metaphor, the more I liked it. A heart like a tree. I then realized that I didn’t want this person to lose their bark of protection—they very much needed it. Instead, I prayed for this person’s bark to be strong against the evils of this world, keeping out things like malice, greed, apathy, and envy. And then I prayed for God to make this person’s roots of their heart-tree grow strong and deep, to drink up the nutrients of God’s blessings and to be strengthened by things like joy, patience, mercy, and love. Love like a bear hug. I prayed for their heart to have strong bark, but soft roots.
What does your heart-tree look like?