Deception of the heart

Hieromonk Savatie Bastovoi

People have a very positive opinion about everything that is done or comes from the heart. That’s why they wish for health, prosperity, and similar things with all their hearts. Through this, they show that they have a high opinion of their own hearts and express their belief that everything that comes or is desired wholeheartedly, from their whole heart, is absolutely good. Likewise, people speak the same way about prayer made from the heart… 

Christ comes to challenge the favorable opinion we have about our own hearts. While we believe that doing something from the heart is the best thing we can do, Christ tells us: ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander’ (Matthew 15:19). ‘But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them’ (Matthew 15:18). Not every heart is capable of producing words pleasing to God. If our mouths gossip, judge others, speak words of anger, condemn and curse, it is clear that we have a passionate heart, afflicted by all the sins listed by Christ. If we allow ourselves to be guided by the desires of such a heart, creating prayers according to our passionate desires and understanding, not only will we not be corrected, but we will sink deeper into the swamp of sins. 

That is why the Apostle James says that it is not just anyone, but ‘those with a good heart shall sing psalms’ (James 5:13). Christ Himself assures us that only the pure in heart will see God. 

And so, what remains for us to do? The only thing left is to cleanse our hearts. But how can we do that?  We can through confession and through constant and prolonged reading of the prayers of the Saints that the Church has gathered and preserved for this purpose. We will tighten our hearts, formed by empty words, jokes, and all kinds of curses, with the holy words as if with ropes, until our minds take the shape of those words, simultaneously straightening and cleansing our hearts like a medicinal corset. Just as crooked bones and teeth can be straightened by doctors using special devices that tighten them for a while, in the same way, the heart can be straightened, cleansed, and take on the form of thoughts inspired by God, becoming itself a dwelling place and trumpet of the Holy Spirit. 

In conclusion, it is good to pray with our own words when our words are the words of the Prophets. However, if our words are mere motivational clichés or echoes of songs and tearful social messages, then our prayer will resemble a toast or a fundraising appeal. Without realizing it, even the God in our minds will increasingly be swayed by our words, being preoccupied with climate issues and abandoned dogs, the discovery of miraculous medicines, and becoming less and less like the biblical God, whom we will come to hate. 

Such is the subtle deception of the heart that Prophet David prays for God not only to cleanse his heart but to replace it with a new one: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” The transformation of the receptive heart by God is so great that we can speak of its reconstruction. The One who created us once will build us anew for Himself at our request. 

Source: “I Pray, Therefore I Exist – Unveiling the essence of prayer for the ordinary person”. 

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