This is a great question — we desire to be transformed and uplifted by God’s love in prayer, yet often it feels dry and somewhat disconnected. How can I best prepare my heart to be transformed in God’s love? St. Augustine once said, “All of prayer is an exercise in desire.” The beginning of our living relationship with God is when we express to Him the deepest desires of our heart. It can be a journey to even name what these deep desires are. It is good to pray, “God, give me the grace of recognizing my deepest desires.” Joy is the experience of having these deepest desires fulfilled.
The effects of sin in our lives is the most difficult impediment to real prayer. We may have been hurt by a friend or spouse and think, “I will never be vulnerable again,” to try to avoid the pain. We can also think “I did X, Y or Z, and that is who I am. I am not worthy of love.” These false identities and false vows prevent us from seeing ourselves as God sees us — as His beloved — and therefore we have difficulty connecting to God from our heart. A great prayer to say is: “God, show me what lies I believe about myself, so that I may come to see myself as You see me.” Then wait in silence and listen to Him.
As we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, the three most fundamental desires of the human heart emerge. The first is the desire to experience being fully known and fully loved. It is when we are known in our weaknesses and experience love even there that real personal and spiritual growth occurs. The second deepest desire flows from the first: the desire to fully know and love another. A heart that is touched by God’s knowledge and love becomes a “wellspring of living water” as it overflows to be a source of healing in other people’s lives.
The third deep desire of the human heart is to live a fruitful life. “I no longer call you servants … but I call you friends … I have appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:15-16). The goodness of our lives is defined neither by our failures nor by our achievements. Our life is meant to bear fruit, and it is a joy to see other lives transformed around us as we stay grafted on the vine of Jesus Christ. My friends, enter into the desires of your heart, speak of them to God and allow Him to touch you deeply with grace that His joy may be in you, and your joy may be full!
This column appeared in a previous edition of the St. Louis Review.
Father Charlie Archer is associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood.