By Ben Simpson
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Prayer is response, communication, relational, and personal. Prayer is also transformational. John Wesley considered prayer one of the works of piety and a means of God’s grace. God works through prayer to change our heart, mind, and soul, and then moves outward from the core of our being to transform our relationships with God, self, and others. Jesus revolutionizes the heart.
Christians do not always communicate this as effectively as we could. I’m guilty of this, too. We stress changes of behavior and outward displays of righteousness. We encourage people to share their faith, advocate for certain causes, or help with world-changing initiatives. We ask good things. But we fail when we do not attend to inward concerns, helping people grow and cultivate intimacy with God that comes through a life of prayer. I have come to believe that prayer is the most foundational of all the spiritual disciplines.
The French mystic Madame Guyon (1648-1717) wrote, “It has been the habit of man throughout the ages to heal people by applying some remedy to the outward body when, in fact, the disease is deep inside. Why do converts remain basically unchanged despite so much effort? It is because those over them have dealt only with the outward matters of their lives. There is a better way: Go straight to the heart!”
Madame Guyon explains that the reformation of the heart is accomplished through prayer, for it is through prayer that those who have come to know and trust in Jesus Christ conduct an inward and ongoing conversation with God. God speaks to the individual. The Holy Spirit does inward work, interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). Jesus teaches us. We are shown what we need to turn from, be healed of, and become dedicated to. Our loves are retrained, and God places in us desires that align with his will. God leads us into the depths of divine grace, love, mercy, and holiness.
In Psalm 103, we read, “Praise the Lord, my soul, all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” The life of holiness and transformation begins with praise. It begins with ascribing to God true worth and weightiness, reverence, awe, and wonder. It begins with the recollection of “all his benefits,” which includes forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, compassion, satisfaction, and renewal. All good things come from God’s hand.
It is God’s praiseworthiness that proves transformational. It is God’s ultimate beauty that melts our hearts and moves us to action. It is God’s attractiveness that draws us into prayer and sanctifies us for God’s glory.
Prayer changes us because prayer connects us to God. God does not leave us as we are, but leads us into the fullness of life. Do not only seek outward forms of righteousness. Open your heart to Jesus Christ, and let Him change you from the inside, out.
How does prayer transform the human heart?
Holy Spirit, come and search my heart. Teach me what is true. Guide me in turning from what is wrong. Assure me of the kindness, mercy, and forgiveness of God. Bring to my recollection the benefits of knowing you, and let your goodness and grace transform me, heart, mind, and soul, that the strength you provide me might be used according to your purposes. I lift my heart to you, O God, in praise. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.