A Series on the Human Heart as the Temple of God, Part 3 of 3
There is only one secret to the spiritual life that you need to know: the human heart was made for God. It sounds impossibly simple, but understand that it is more profound an insight than most people know. Life is busy and complex. It is difficult sometimes to know what decisions to make. For instance, there is nothing simple about discerning how to allocate money and resources wisely. We also struggle with how to get through pain and grief. And yet… for all its complexity, there is a simplicity at the heart of life that can easily get lost.
You Are Your Ability to Love
Who are you? In one sense, you can spend a lifetime learning the answer. But in a deeper sense, you are simply your ability to love. You are your heart. And you were made to love God above all things. I will go out on a limb and say that if you have this right, then most of the rest of your life will fall into place.
This is the foundation of everything else. It is why Jesus says that ultimately all the laws of God boil down to two: love God and love your neighbour. Make sure that loving God is first and the neighbour is second. Why? It is not because there is a competition between God and everything else, nor is it because God needs to know that God is first. Rather, it means that making the love of God your highest aim sets everything else in place.
One reason life can be so difficult is that our loves fall easily out of balance. This is the real meaning of idolatry. Created things like money, desire, power, possessions, and relationships are all good. They only become problematic when they are loved and desired out of balance. Giving them God’s place in our lives and attention distorts everything else.
Keeping on Track with the Prayer of the Heart
How do you keep God first and everything else in balance? One way is through prayer, particularly the Prayer of the Heart. If you explore this prayer practice, you will probably find a simple and powerful way called the Jesus Prayer. This is a humble plea for God’s love and mercy through one repeated phrase: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me. Christians have used this prayer for centuries to help keep their lives centred on God.
The human heart was made for God. The heart is the dwelling place of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit. We can distill the Prayer of the Heart even more than these seven words, and say that it is only about bringing our hearts before Jesus. To really experience this truth, we must strip down our prayers and come before God just as we are, in all our poverty. By that I mean without big thoughts about God, with no desire to impress or get something, no excuses about our behaviour or choices, no big plans for how life should be, no thinking about how important or rich you are. Just you – plain and simple, stripped down. Find the simplest words you can to express love, and then stay there.
The Prayer of the Heart is Reaching with Love
The Prayer of the Heart seems so simple that most people pass it by, yet it carries the deepest wisdom. Carlo Carretto tells us,
“Don’t try to reach God with your understanding; that is impossible. Reach him in love; that is possible.”
God really only wants you to know one thing: that you are loved and that you are called to love others. When you pray, keep the logic of it simple, and you will find that wisdom will meet you in the practice.
As I end this series, I invite you to meditate on these words by Carlo Carretto that sum up the Christian vision of the Prayer of the Heart:
“The love of God is by nature pure, balanced and holy. Whoever is dominated by it lives in deep peace, has an ordered view of things, and knows the meaning of true freedom. But the love of God, too, passing into our heart must be worked at, cultivated, pruned, fertilized. And the most uncompromising farmer is God.”