Praying the Heart Dimension

26 03 2011

by KATHY SHOCKLEY, Spiritual Formation Team

The Series

This is the third prayer exercise in this series, which explores praying with all four dimensions of our being. Christ identifies these in the Great Commandment in Mark 12:30 as the heart, soul, mind, and our strength, meaning body.

Long ago the heart became linked with emotions, making prayers of the heart those from our deepest feelings.

Perhaps the best examples are in the psalms. Richard Wagner, author of Psalms: The Heart of Prayer, states, “What’s striking about the Psalms is that they’re real, brutally honest outpourings of emotion along the roller coasters of life.” The psalms can help us get in touch with the depth and breadth of our emotions, breaking us open so we can take them to the Lord in prayer.

Just as a sprinkle of salt flavors a whole dish, so a bit of emotion can color our entire outlook and attitude. Emotion is very much a part of who and what we are.

Prepare for this prayer by doing an emotional inventory of your heart. Look deep within and identify your joy, trust, fear, sadness, disgust, anger, loneliness, love—all that you find there. Read some of the psalms that speak to what you are feeling.

Next consider how you carry each emotion. Where and how do you feel it within yourself? Is there a particular posture that reflects the emotion? For those who recently have traveled the Worshiper’s Path in the Temple, the three sculptures near the end show powerful emotional postures.

For your prayer select three or four of the strongest emotions you would like to pray with. Use the following meditation for each.

Breathe slowly and deeply. Each time you inhale, imagine God’s love surrounding you outside and filling you inside. Assume the posture you link with this emotion or place both hands over your heart, feeling the emotion as fully as possible. Present it to the Lord, using one of the following:

1. For each positive emotion allow the Lord to expand and purify it.

2. For each negative emotion allow the Lord to help you overcome, transform, or wash it away.

3. For each wound or hurt allow the Lord to comfort and heal it.

Reflect on your experience.

• What was it like to do an inventory of your heart’s emotions? Did you find any surprises? Remember, awareness is the first step in transformation.

• What was your awareness of God as you offered each emotion?

• Are there places in your heart where you didn’t want to invite God? If so, what does that mean?

This type of prayer is about putting our whole self in the presence of God. Four-dimensional prayers seek to move us to a more-conscious and intentional prayer life. In the words of theologian Joan Chittister, “When we have prayed prayers long enough, all the words drop away, and we begin to live in the presence of God. Then prayer is finally real.”



2 responses

26 03 2011

As the Faith Development leader at Gudgell Park I appreciate the montly articles in the Herald. Thank you for providing these helpful and meaningful articles. Blessings ~

26 03 2011
Douglas W Bentley, Ed.D.

This type of prayer meditation has been very useful in my psychology practice and ministry over the last 40 years. I applaud those in the church who reach outside of their historical boundries and discover ways of connecting to Jehosuhua and Abba with a greater sense of our being. When I joined the church in 1969 I was told to love God with all of my heart, mind body and soul but it took reading thousands of theology books and a doctorate in psychology to be able to come to what you have so simply give to us. Thank you. Doug.

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