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Asking with the heart

From the April 30, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


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The Bible gives us unequivocal promises that God will give us what we ask for—if we ask! Matthew says, “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you” (7:7, Good News Translation). James adds, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God . . . and it will be given to him” (1:5, New International Version).

But haven’t we all had the experience of asking God for something and not receiving it? Over and over again the Bible counsels us to communicate with God not just with words, but with our whole heart. Asking, it turns out, has very little to do with words, or requests that we may present to God. It has everything to do with our lives—what we grow in our hearts.

An interesting experiment is to ask ourselves, “If the only way I could communicate my desires to God was with my life—no words—what would my life be asking for right now?” This is real asking. Put another way, the language God hears is not so much our words, as our lives. Our days, weeks, and months are the sentences we are speaking to God. What are they asking for? Are we asking God, divine Love, for things that She is likely to think are best for us?

In the chapter titled “Prayer” in Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy wrote at length about desire. Desire can imply a longing for something we don’t have. But when we bring God into the picture and turn our desire over to Him, it can instead be a petition or prayer to Him to fulfill that desire. There is no way to demonstrate spirituality without feeling a great longing to do so! Deep desire is absolutely necessary for healing, progress, and the practice of Christianity. Eddy put it this way: “In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin and plead God’s allness. . . . Such prayer is answered, in so far as we put our desires into practice” (Science and Health, p. 15).

The longing we feel in our hearts to be good, to achieve, and to be useful, we did not make up ourselves. Those desires are inklings of God. When we pray, we discover them in our hearts, like gifts under the Christmas tree.

If the only way I could communicate my desires to God was with my life–no words–what would my life be asking for right now?

When I was about ten years into my career as a muralist, I began to feel that it was time for something new. For all those years my heart had sung as I painted murals. To feel that it was no longer what I should be doing was surprising and a little disorienting. I began to pray. For a time I pondered entering the military as a chaplain. But as months went on, I felt that was not the right idea. My great desire was to serve, to use my skills, my individuality, and my spiritual conviction. I longed to be engaged with others in a way I could feel deeply. This desire drove me to search and think and feel about my purpose for being alive.

Then, about a year after I began praying about this issue specifically, I received an answer in prayer: “Dedicate the first four hours of every day to nothing but being creative.” It was an interesting command, and one that was a little scary. I didn’t know where this would lead. As a painter, I assumed at first that God was moving me to make some new paintings. But when I obediently began this discipline of making time for creativity, what came out instead of paintings were songs.

In a few months I had created a whole new body of spiritual music, the likes of which I had never written before. And in the following years, I began making my living full time as a musician, performing in churches and making the most of countless opportunities to serve others in new and compelling ways. It was a great rebirth, all brought about by the natural asking of the heart’s earnest longings. It was not a career change I sought out, but rather, one I discovered, occurring in the heart.

During that time, I saw that my days of working, listening, and exploring the way to make the transition were prayers. By living out my longing, I was asking God for help—and it was being given step by step. For much of the time I didn’t know where my efforts were going, only that this new work was compelling and made my heart feel truly alive.

A life lived this way—keeping our outward actions in harmony with our innermost longings—is constantly reaching out to God, wordlessly asking for the heart’s desire. And the Bible promises us that answers to these petitions of the heart and life are supplied.

It is a great and challenging adventure to have our outward life reflect our “earnest longings.” First, we have to be silent and humble in order to hear and truly feel how God is guiding us. Second, as we listen more and more closely, we find that our inner longings often bid us to leave well-trodden, familiar paths. And, instead, call us to explore new territories and ideas, and to serve. Following the desires God has put in our hearts forces us to grow, learn, expand. It puts us in situations where we must overcome fear, pride, and other vices. But there is no replacing the joy and satisfaction that comes from living a life that is guided by our deep, individual, God-given desires.

The asking that matters is a function of the heart in which we humbly allow God to tell us what we most want, and then live in such a way as to see those desires expressed. This kind of asking leaves no need for words.


Alex Cook lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. A version of this article was originally published as a blog on TMC Youth's website, time4thinkers.com .

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