Thursday, 29 November 2012

Prayers and the heart

"Better your heart be without words than your words without heart." wrote John Bunyan the author of "A Pilgrim's Progress". They are wise words and a reminder for those who prefer using a more formal way of praying that the words that have been used and re-used over the centuries are only effective if they are re-prayed from the heart. They have to be owned by their new owners if they are to have meaning and power. They are not magic formulae which merely have to be repeated or recited to produce the desired effect. So care must be taken when using these ancient prayers that every word, thought and idea is one you wish to fully identify with as you speak and pray them again.
I believe that the same can be said of the Scriptures. In my previous blog I referred to the occasion when I was called to the bedside of a comatose elderly lady in the last stages of dementia. Dementia patients, particularly in the latter stages of that distressing disease, lose their short term memory and understanding relying on pictures, images and memories from the distant past to sustain then. Which was why, when I was called to her bedside, I felt so helpless, not knowing what to say. On top of that I did not know the lady and had never met her before. So I leant heavily on some time-honoured prayers and well known scriptures to help me communicate God's love to her at her moment of extreme need, words I hoped would touch some distant memory from the past which she had once heard or spoken and which had then evoked faith and assurance.

And these proved wonderful friends in need both for me, and I hope, for her. That is not to say that other words were not needed that would gently elucidate what was being said. But the core of what was needed was prayer from the heart and words which I believe acted as powerful reminders of God's promises of life, love and peace. The rest I leave  - with great relief - to the Spirit of God who searches the mind of God and the heart of man. 

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