Preparing the Heart
Saint Issac the Syrian said: “Before wanting to pray to God, be appropriately prepared”.
Preparation or the Heart’s preparation to enter to God’s presence is highly important to achieve the goal of being with God and sharing your life with Him.
How can the heart be well prepared to enter into God’s presence?
You may achieve this through the following means:
1-Closure of your outward senses:
This is what the Lord Jesus Christ meant by saying “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door “(Matthew 6:6) and Saint Augustine commented on this saying:” These rooms are our hearts. These spirituals rooms in our inner person”
Also, John Cassian shows a practical explanation by saying:” Let us to our room and shut our door and pray. But how can this are done in reality? Isn’t it by eliminating the worldly thoughts and vain worries and to enter into a close relation sticking to the Lord?”
So preparing the heart to enter in God’s presence requires that we empty our minds from the worries, cares and commitments and place them all under the Lord’s feet.
2- Gathering the mind and opening the inner sense:
One of the fundamental aspects for a person to prepare their heart, is to concentrate and to realize that God is present in the prayer room. God is undoubtedly present.
The lack of this realization will waste the opportunity and blessing for the believer. In the Old Testament, Our father Jacob the father of the tribes passed through a similar test.
He walked in the wilderness till night and he slept on the ground; he then awoke up to be faced with a fact, this is something that he realized a bit too late, and so he cried out saying: “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Gen 28:16)
Many enter their prayer rooms and do not realize God’s presence in this place.
This was a major difference between our father Jacob and our teacher David who felt God’s presence everywhere; so he said “If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” (Psalm139:8)
How great is what Saint Nestorian expressed regarding the importance of the believer to have faith in God’s presence as he said “Pray to the Lord as if you can see Him because He is in truth present.”
Abba John said: “Realize that you are in God’s presence and that He sees listens and is close to you overlooking you with compassion”.
He also said clarifying the meaning of God’s presence “Realizing God’s presence is similar somewhat to a dear friend’s presence. Through a relationship full of love; conversing with Him and to Him, we gain a firm feeling of the presence of this loved one.We ought to direct our attention to God in the same manner as we do with people; knowing that where love exists, there is no real burden. The main difference is that realizing the presence of friend requires sight while with God related to faith.”
Therefore to prepare your heart to enter in this Godly presence gathers all of your thoughts and open your inner spiritual senses to realize and comprehend the truth of the Lord’s presence.
You may then say while in your prayer room with faith, God is present with me now, He listens, watches and loves me” And with boldness of faith and the feeling of love to welcome the Lord as a beloved friend. Tell Him:” Welcome my Lord to my room; which is Yours, and in my heart which is Your dwelling place”
3- Purification of the Heart:
Examine yourself to know your sins and to offer repentance for them. Just as the late Bishop Youannis stated: “Whenever you feel that you have committed sin and realized its burden, close your door and talk to the Lord Jesus. And in your prayer admit all what you have done in front of God. David the Prophet said I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin’ (Psalm 32:5)
You may be able to discover some of your sins but with all certainty the Holy Spirit can reveal to you what is hidden within your soul; so give Him the chance to work within you while observing His work. Offer your inner self as to listen to His condemnation regarding what is obstructing your spiritual vision of God’s presence.
When your sins are manifested to you and when you repent, do not despair but put it under Christ‘s blood – trusting that God will accept your repentance.
He will purify your heart from all defilement and repeat with the words of the Holy Bible: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9). Ensure that you must confess your sins to the priest at the earliest possible chance.
4- Clothing your heart:
Of course I am not referring to the outwardly clothes, but a fundamental element that is important in preparing your heart and entering into God’s presence. Sometimes inferiority can affect the believer and he feels the unworthiness of standing in front of the Lord.
This is a true feeling and it is necessary for the believer. There will never be a time when the believer can truly feel worthy to draw near to God or to enter into His presence.
But who is that person that can claim his worthiness to be present in front of the Lord thinking that the way is paved to do so without any obstacles or conditions. Would he or she be fooling himself or herself? Even if he attempted to imagine that, his conscience would protest this myth.
Joshua, the great priest entered one day to stand in front of the Lord without wearing the appropriate garment by which one can stand in front of God. At this time, God’s angel came and took from him the filthy garment and gave him a fine garment. (Zach 3:1-5)
And what happened to the person who entered into the wedding without the wedding’s garment? Didn’t he end up in the outer darkness? (Matthew 22:11-13)
This issue of discussion is not literally about clothing, but about the theological aspect that pertains to it. This garment is simply Christ’s garment or being worthy of Him.
Therefore, the heart’s preparation to enter to God’s presence means that you have to be alert to this fact; that is, you do not deserve to be in God’s presence (even though you are a believer).
Only through Christ’s worthiness are we able to do so. So be aware always of this whenever you come to be in God’s presence. You have to come closer to the intercessor of the New Testament to be granted worthiness. He will clothe you with the garment of righteousness and He is the one who allows you to enter through His wounded side. He is the one who covers your iniquities and weaknesses, and he prepares you to be in His presence.
Under this condition, this meeting can happen and only under these safe grounds can we face the Lord and under the Cross, finally, we are able to meet the master.
Only through this garment are you permitted to meet with the King of Kings. Without this holy garment you will not be prepared to stand in God’s presence. This is what the Lord meant by saying:”… whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”(John 15:16)
For this, St Paul the Apostle said: “Through Him we have received grace. “(Romans 1:5)
Do not stop at this to be a fact of the faith in your mind but convert it to be a living practiced fact. This way, you are prepared to be in the Lord’s presence through Christ’s protection. How wonderful is the phrase that was mentioned in the paradise of the Fathers,” Without this name there will be no salvation at all.” As mentioned by the Epistle of St. Peter “There is no greater name under heaven was given to the people we are to be saved.” This way people can attain to come nigh to God and converse with Him.
5- Remembering God’s blessings and His Love:
What will indeed help you to sense God’s presence, is to remind yourself with God’s dealings with you as a father who nourishes you, cares for you, and protects you. This takes away the feeling of fear from you “…love casts out fear. “ (1 John 4:18).
This what is mentioned by David the Prophet to enter to the presence of God; we hear him say: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:2-5)
6- Spiritual Songs:
One of the important aspects to prepare your heart and enter into God’s presence is to sing spiritual Hymns. David the prophet says plainly:” Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:2)
What is important is to pay attention to the songs, not merely repeating them without any benefits. The spiritual song will reflect on a person’s experiences with God, and his heart will rejoice through each word.
Therefore, the spiritual song through its meaning, allows you to get in touch with God.
So when you go into your prayer room, attempt to choose an appropriate spiritual song and decide on the verses and sing them.
Do not be discouraged of how you sound. Sing to God as no one is listening but God. The main point is for you to be spiritually comforted with the song’s meaning.
Do not depend on the external feelings but through your inner self that is through faith. Believe that God dwells not only in your prayer room but also within you according to His promise “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (2 Cor 6:16).
As the Lord Jesus said: “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.” (John 14:23) and also he said: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation (3:20)
And based on this concept, St Paul the apostle said:”Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1Cor 3:16)
All those who entered in God’s presence through faith can experience this glorious fact. Saint John Saba said “Blessed is he who fixes his eyes on You ... Blessed is he who seeks You ... Do not seek Him outside of yourself while He is within you”
His grace belated Bishop Youannis said:”One may say God is present everywhere but for us there is one place in the whole universe where we connect to God. It is in the depths of our hearts…“You are the temple of the Lord” and there He will wait for us in, meet us and talks to us.
We have to look within ourselves and not outside if we are to meet the Lord and feel His presence. We ought not to let our thoughts wander to find Him outside our own selves and He is within our hearts.
Do you have this faith? Do you believe that you are in God’s presence who is dwelling in your heart.