Softening Our Heart as Prayer

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker,
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.
Psalm 95:6-8

Our hearts long for God. Yet, too often, we defend ourselves against this longing. We protect our hearts by hardening them against the love we seek because we are afraid that our longings will never be satisfied. To people like us God calls out, “Do not harden your hearts. I am your Maker, your God. You are my people, you are under my care. Listen for my voice. When you hear my voice of love, soften your hearts. Let yourself trust my love and care for you.”

Prayer is responding to God’s call to soften our hearts.

This ‘softening’ is not something that happens magically or quickly. It is usually something that happens over time.

It begins as we listen for God’s voice of love and notice the extent to which we harden our hearts. Do we hear and see God’s love only to push it away by questioning it and ourselves? Do we find ourselves feeling dead or numb inside? If we find that our hearts are hard in these ways, we can ask for the grace to soften our hearts. We can pray for the openness to listen and trust God’s voice of love. When we bow before our Maker we can ask that our fearful, hardened hearts be healed. We can ask God to soften our hearts so that they are able to receive the love that God is pouring out to us every day.

Softening our hearts also often requires us to learn to discount other voices that threaten to crowd out God’s voice. We hear voices of accusation. Voices of discouragement. Voices of shame. Unfortunately these voices sometimes get our attention more easily than the voice of Love. Even worse, we sometimes believe that these voices are the voice of God. We may actually expect accusation and shame from God. As a result, we may be afraid to listen for God’s voice because we may feel we cannot bear any more accusation or shame.

But God’s voice of love is not in the voice of accusation. God’s voice may speak loving correction–to correct our fears, to correct our self-will and destructive ways, to correct our hard hearts, to correct our refusal to love and be loved. But God’s voice is not the voice of an accuser. God’s voice is speaking life to us. God is speaking grace to us. God is calling us into loving relationship. This is the voice of God.

When we hear this Voice of loving kindness it is good to ask God to soften our hearts so that we can receive the love for which we have always longed.

I hear your voice–even when there are many other voices.
You are the one saying that I am yours,
That you care for me,
That you love me.
But I feel myself harden
with fear and doubt.
I have trouble trusting your love.
Soften my heart.
Help me to pay attention to
my longing for your love.
Help me to respond to your love
with a soft and joyful heart.

Prayer suggestion:

Read Psalm 95:6-8 several times.
Listen to God’s voice of love for you.
Notice your responses. Talk to God about your fears and defenses.
Ask God to soften your heart as you respond to God’s voice.

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