What is the relationship between prayer, and heart purity. Which one precedes the other, or do they work in tandem. Père la Combe’s statement “He who has a pure heart will never cease to pray, and he who will be constant in prayer shall know what it is to have a pure heart.
To properly understand the relationship between heart purity we must understand what the heart is according to the Bible. Also we must determine what heart purity is in the Biblical sense, and lastly we must understand what prayer is, and how it relates to the other two. By analyzing what the Bibles says we can come to a solution.
To begin with let us study what the “heart” means in Biblical terminology. Many people wonder what the Bible has to say about the heart. The word “heart” is mentioned 743 times in the Bible, and it is used in various contexts. Primarily though all references to the heart fall under three main categories: those dealing with the mind those dealing with the will, and those dealing with the emotions.
Concerning the mind the heart is said to, perceive (Jn 12:40), understand (1 Kgs 3:9), debate (Mk 2:6), reflect (Lk 2:19), have memory (Lk 2:51), think (Dt 8:17), imagine (Lk 1:51), have wisdom (Eccl 1:17) sometimes goes crazy (Eccl 9:3), and has technical skill (Ex 28:3).
Concerning the will the Bible indicates the heart can, purpose (1 Cor 4:5), prompt (2 Kgs 12:4), be steadfast (Acts 11:23), be willing (Ex 35:22), make willful decisions (Ez 13:2), and concoct evil (Acts 5:4).
Concerning the emotions the heart can experience, gladness (Is 30:29), joy (Jn 16:22), sorrow (Neh 2:2), anguish (Rom 9:2), bitterness (Prv 14:10), anxiety (1 Sm 4:13), despair (Eccl 2:20), love (2 Sm 14:1), trust (Ps 112:7), affection (2 Cor 7:3), lust (Mt 5:28), callousness (Mk 3:5), hatred (Lv 19:17), fear (Gn 42:28), jealousy (Jas 3:14), desire (Rom 10:1), discouragement (Nm 32:9), sympathy (Ex 23:9), anger (Dt 19:6), irresolution (2 Chr 13:7).
When we look at these three major uses of the word heart in the bible we realize that the heart is synonymous with the soul (mind, will, and emotions) in the Bible. What is the soul you may ask? According to 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Each man and woman born into this world is a being made of three distinct components: the body, the soul, and the spirit. Every part of this “trichotomy” has a part to play in our relationship with God including prayer. Let us look at these different parts and how they interrelate.
The first part of the trichotomy is the body. This is the physical component of man’s being. It is flesh made from a variety of mineral elements (but is mostly water) and apart from divine intervention it is in complete harmony with the nature and spirit of the kosmos, (world system), and it ruler (Satan). It grows, matures, begins to deteriorate, eventually dies, and then decomposes back into its constituent elements and remains a part of the dust of the world. The body is a part of you but is primarily a container for your spirit, and soul.
The next part of man is the soul, the soul is who you are; it is a part of your spiritual component. This is your individuality, your “heart.” Although your individual soul did not exist before your mother and father procreated you, it will exist forever. The soul itself is three parts: mind, will, and emotions. Put another way what we think, what we choose, and what we feel. Which gives us an inkling why the heart is so important to prayer.
The final part of man is the spirit. Man’s spirit is the communication conduit between man, and God as well as the source of God’s power, and control for both your body and soul. Before salvation man’s spirit is described as dead, evil, dark, unclean, unholy, of Satan, and thus an enemy of God. In this state man can neither hear from God, love Him, or be controlled by Him. At salvation the adamic death of the spirit described in Genesis is undone, and man’s spirit is described as being quickened. In this state God can communicate with man, and vice-versa making the spirit pivotal to prayer.
To understand the relevance of the heart (soul) purity to prayer we really need to understand how the body, soul, and spirit interact. These three parts of man are in a perpetual state of tug-o-war between God’s purposes, and Satan’s. The Soul is the center of this struggle, and where the battle is won or lost.
On one side of the soul is man’s spirit, which is aligned to God’s purposes, and pulls the mind, and emotions to yield in our wills to God’s will. On the other side of the soul is the body, which is aligned with the purposes of the world, and its prince the devil. Both sides need the soul to willfully yield before they can take control. A pure heart then might be described as your mind and emotions being purified so that your will may be yielded or aligned to God, and His will.
So what does prayer have to do with purifying ones heart? Prayer brings us into contact with the cleansing agent who is God. In Psalm 51 David describes it this way, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” We see that even though David’s heart is already pure enough to already desire to approach God in prayer he prayer for more heart purity. David was aware of the fact that are hearts are “desperately wicked”, and that God constantly must constantly renew our hearts through prayer. The end result of this purification is more desire for prayer.
We see then that in many ways a purified heart, and prayer are much like the pieces of a flywheel. Webster’s defines a flywheel as,
“a heavy revolving wheel in a machine which is used to increase momentum and thereby provide greater stability or a reserve of available power.”
Flywheels are used in motors and other devices to produce momentum. The faster the flywheel spins the more momentum it produces for even faster spinning. When we pray is heart is cleansed, and we desire more prayer. This is God’s built in spiritual flywheel.
So we see that when Père la Combe’s said, “He who has a pure heart will never cease to pray, and he who will be constant in prayer shall know what it is to have a pure heart.” What he was really describing is God’s spiritual flywheel for the Christian life. When we neglect prayer we completely destroy are spiritual momentum thus hampering future efforts to go forward for God in the future. We must pray without ceasing if we would experience the victorious Christian life.