How to have a Heart Connection with God
In some respects, I am writing this article to remind myself what it takes to have a heart connection with God. Do you remember a time when your heart seemed to connect effortlessly with the Father? If you do, then perhaps you also understand how it feels when your heart connection with God seems broken.
In this article:
- What do we mean by “heart”?
- Our faulty understanding of our hearts
- Unrepentant hearts and hearts that are sprinkled clean
- Understanding God as He really is
- Fear creates a barrier in seeing God as He really is
- Mercy and Love are His defining characteristics
- Praying emotionally “dangerous” prayers
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; … discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.(Psa 139:1-4) (ESV)
“In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct “interpretations” of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.”A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Understand your Heart
Let’s start off by talking about our hearts. We can’t really focus on having a heart connection with God if we aren’t actually sure about the “heart” part of the equation.
In our focus on science, we tend to ignore the practicality of our experience. Because our brains are the thinking organ, we understand that everything emanates from there and the rest of the body merely responds. This is correct, but practically, what do we really experience.
Experiencing our Hearts
I remember when my first child was born. He had big, dark eyes. I remember holding him shortly after he was born and gazing into those dark eyes and my heart beating fast. I loved him so much that my heart ached for it. Standing with him next to my heart, never wanting to let him go.
Now he is grown and I miss my little boy deep in my heart. I love the man he has grown to be with all my heart. We have three sons and a daughter, and my heart is filled with love for them all.
I remember a lady who I once knew telling me that after she had her first child, she couldn’t imagine how her heart could possibly have room for another child. She ended up having 5 children and she told me that with each child, her heart just grew in love.
I think we understand that our heart is just a pump for our blood, but don’t forget what blood is. It is our life force. The heart is indeed the spring from which our life issues.
It is also where our emotions issue from. Sure, emotions are rooted in the hypothalamus, which is part of our brain, but our hearts are generally where we feel our emotions. I guess it’s not exactly romantic to tell your spouse, “my hypothalamus works overtime when you are around…”, but if you tell him or her, “my heart beats faster when I look into your eyes…” well, I am guessing that has an entirely different outcome.
The Spring of Life
The writer of the Proverbs warns us to “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov 4:23 ESV).
The Psalmist begs God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psa 51:10 ESV)
Luke writes in his gospel, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45 ESV)
We believe our hearts are unclean
Which one do we tend to believe? Of course, it’s Jeremiah. For most of us, called to God, we feel dirty, ugly and unwanted. We can scarcely believe that God wants us. It is very easy to believe Jeremiah’s assertion.
Remember the principal rules for understanding and interpreting the bible. What did the author mean when he wrote the passage? What did his audience understand by the passage? We start this process by understanding the context.
Jeremiah was written in the period leading up to the captivity of Judah in 586BC. Judah had abandoned God, were under attack and Jeremiah was making an impassioned plea for them to repent. Judah was unrepentant. God is telling Jeremiah what to say when Judah complained of the Babylonian invasion that culminated in them being taken captive.
In Jeremiah 16:10-13, God tells him what they will ask and how he should answer.
The question is always the same for people who experience hardship when they have rejected God. “Why has the LORD proclaimed all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?”
The unrepentant heart
God gives Jeremiah a response which he records. They had rejected God; they had refused to listen to Him and so on. Then in Jeremiah 17:9, God describes the unrepentant heart.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”Jer 17:9-10 ESV
If we refuse to repent and obey God, then our heart is deceitful and desperately sick. It’s as simple as that.
But if we echo David’s words in Psalm 51:10 and ask God to create in us a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within us, then He will. Our hearts will be sprinkled clean to use Paul’s words in Hebrews 10.
The heart sprinkled clean
A heart at peace with God has access by faith into the grace of God and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
So, let’s summarise so far. We have a clean heart when we repent and turn to God. He cleanses it, and it is no longer the source of wickedness and deceit. Our hearts are well capable of producing good. Our hearts are also where we feel emotion, typically and predominantly.
When we seek a heart connection with God, I think we really are looking to make our hearts an appropriate abode for God and Jesus, and I think we are seeking an emotional connection with God.
See Him as He really is
“How much more so when it comes to the deep truths of the Christian faith. God loves you; you matter to him. That is a fact, stated as a proposition. I imagine most of you have heard it any number of times. Why, then, aren’t we the happiest people on earth? It hasn’t reached our hearts.
Facts stay lodged in the mind, for the most part. They don’t speak at the level we need to hear. Proposition speaks to the mind, but when you tell a story, you speak to the heart. We’ve been telling each other stories since the beginning of time. It is our way of communicating the timeless truths, passing them down. And that’s why when Jesus comes to town, he speaks in a way that will get past all our intellectual defenses and disarm our hearts. He tells a certain kind of story.”John Eldredge, Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive
I guess the next real point to make is that God is always present with us, He loves us and dwells in our heart. If we are seeking Him, He is there and He does not desert us.
He stands at the door
Jesus wrote to Laodicea through John in Rev 3:20:
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.Rev 3:19-21 ESV
Laodicea’s besetting sin was that they were like lukewarm water. He said that because of this, they would be spit out. Not many people actually like lukewarm water! To spit them out was the ultimate repudiation. Ugh! The fact is however that having just said this, Jesus then offers them counsel as to how to recover from this rejection. He says, “I stand at the door and knock!”. All they needed to do was listen for Jesus’ knock and open up to Him.
Jesus in this, is one with the Father. John 14:23 makes this plain:
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.Jn 14:23 ESV
Open the door!
So the first step in creating a heart connection with God is to open our hearts to Him, to open the door.
One of the biggest barriers to creating a heart connection with God is that we don’t see God as He truly is.
For many traditional Christians, God is often seen as a remote being, not personally involved in our lives and somewhat harsh. For many, that’s how we like it. Don’t attract His attention, don’t petition Him and don’t expect anything of Him. That way, you don’t get disappointed when He doesn’t deliver. That way, He doesn’t expect anything of you more than you are doing. Fly under the radar, so to speak.
Fear creates a barrier
I grew up living in fear. Fear of the judgement of God. I feared the judgement of my church. Believe me, they were ready and eager to judge. Still are. There are many of them who are loving brothers and sisters. On the other hand, there are quite a few who want to act as a censor. I have been jumped on from a great height by people who don’t agree with some of the things I say. They want to censor my words.
The difficulty for me, is that I equate these people with God. It takes substantial will, to separate their behaviour from God. The programming of a lifetime is hard to overcome. For many of us, God and the Church are one. They are not. Not if you are talking about the manmade institution as opposed to the true body of Christ.
Who is God?
So, who is God? Really. Who is this wonderful God who has reached for us and holds us in His hand?
I don’t think you can really go to one particular verse in the bible and see God. In other articles, I have recounted some of the amazing stories that give us an insight into God. I think this is how God reveals Himself to us through the scripture.
In Exodus 33, God declares His “glory” to Moses. His first words to describe Himself are “I will make all my goodness to pass before you”. In Exodus 34, God makes the declaration of His name (which He seems to make synonymous with His glory). God says of Himself:
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”Exod 34:6-7 ESV
He values mercy
So right off the bat, God says He values mercy, and grace. He is slow to anger and exceeds in love and truth. God maintains and guards this love for all the families of the earth, sweeping away the guilt of iniquity, transgressions and uncleanness. He is unfailingly just (even with this mercy) so He will attend to the uncleanness of the fathers including that of their sons and grandsons.
In true human fashion, we discount the first magnificent statements and tend to focus only on the latter part of the passage.
So God tells us that he is overflowing in love, mercy, grace and truth and will guard that love and sweep away our mistakes. And we get hung up on His promise to be just and not ignore sin.
This is really interesting. It cuts to the heart of one of the biggest barriers we place between us and God.
He loves us
God is not a wrathful being that seeks appeasement in violence and blood. Certainly, the unrepentant heart chooses destruction. We are not unrepentant, and He is gracious beyond our wildest dreams. He is love Himself. To see how much God loves us, read the longing and desire of Song of Songs. Consider John 3:16.
This is our God, who He really is.
“to find God, you must look with all your heart. [If you want to] remain present to God, you must remain present to your heart…. hear his voice, you must listen with your heart. To love him, you must love with all your heart. You cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life he meant you to live, unless you live from the heart.”John Eldredge, Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive
God wants to dwell with us.
Opening your heart to Him
“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
“I cannot imagine how religious persons can live satisfied without the practice of the presence of GOD. For my part I keep myself retired with Him in the depth of centre of my soul as much as I can; and while I am so with Him I fear nothing; but the least turning from Him is insupportable.”Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God
What do you do to open your heart to God? Surely, it commences with prayer, but how do we pray? Craig Groeschel, in “Dangerous Prayers” advises three forms of prayer. He calls them Dangerous Prayers and they are certainly that.
He advises us to ask God to search us. This prayer is scary because we are asking God to search our hearts, for us to have no secrets from Him. This means that we trust Him with our hearts. That we open ourselves to Him as widely as we can, offering ourselves like never before. Part of my practice in prayer at times has been simply to open myself in prayer to God and then avoid actual words.
I find sometimes that words get in the way and that they can even be somewhat deceitful. If you can’t articulate your sorrow and repentance or even fully articulate your error, just engaging with God in your mind and allowing your mind to brush across those things you are most ashamed of… If you just open up, think about your sorrow and just wait for His healing to come upon you… you can finally be open to Him fully.
He suggest that we invite God to break us. I am terrified of this as someone who has not long ago traversed a period of brokenness. Do we really trust God? Think about that old team building practice. Do you know about it? It’s the one where your team mates gather behind you and you are expected to close your eyes and fall backwards, trusting your team to catch you.
A heart connection with God means that you must trust Him with your life. It acknowledges that you trust Him implicitly. If you must be broken to be remoulded (and you probably do need breaking and reshaping – we all do), then who better to do this than our perfecter and finisher? Asking God to break you seems almost impossible, but your perfection is at stake and your relationship with God, your heart connection, relies on it.
He recommends that we stand ready to be sent. This means praying to God and saying to Him, “Here I am, Lord, send me!”. As Craig says, that might mean that you are sent to a mission in Africa or Asia or some other country, or it might mean that you need to go to the office tomorrow for the sole purpose of serving Him.
I have a friend who prays every morning that God might bless him by sending him to have conversations with other people about the gospel. Do you trust God enough to say, “Here I am, send me” wherever I am needed. God doesn’t need us, but He will use us to further His purpose.
Unquestioning, Fully Committed
Look back over the last three sections and ask yourself, what is the common theme of Craig Groeschel’s Dangerous Prayers? The common theme is unquestioning, fully committed trust.
To open one’s heart to God requires that we simply trust Him with our hearts. We trust Him that He has plans for us, to prosper us, not to hurt us. He plans to see us at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Our heart connection with God comes from an open heart and a loving God. God has the loving bit ready for us, we just need to open our heart to Him.
To find Him, we need to try and see Him as He is, not as we have been educated He is. God is not capricious and nasty. You can trust your heart to Him. He is looking for an emotional connection with you. You are looking for an emotional connection with Him. Open your heart in prayer, invite Him in and wait. He will come.
I still struggle to find a heart connection with God, because I struggle to trust Him. This is not a once off activity. It’s a practice and you need to ask Him to help you.