“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” – Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” – NLT
“With closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life” – NAB
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” – RSV
“Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it” – GWT
Proverbs 4:23 is one of those token verses for me, one I constantly come back to and meditate upon. Above all else, guard your heart. The verse is short, and yet every time I return to it, something different strikes me. In recent times it has been “above all else” because I do so many other things that it is easy to forget to guard my heart above everything else. I’m busy making new friends, sharing my story with people, getting my book to publishers, ministering to teens, and in it all I forget to guard my own heart.
The Scary Prayer
People will often say that there are scary prayers and to avoid them at all costs. You know the ones, the prayers that challenge you, or give God a chance to really stretch you. Thanks be to God that He recently taught me to pray, “Lord, teach me to guard my heart with Your jealous love.” It isn’t just enough to guard my heart with my own strength, because my own strength isn’t enough. My heart – all of our hearts – are precious and dear to Him because He seeks to dwell in them. Believe you me, His love is a jealous love, just flip through the Old Testament and you’ll see countless examples of God’s jealous love for His people. Remember the Ten Commandments? “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Period. No other gods. No cute guy walking down the street, no job, no paycheck, no love before Me. Guarding our hearts with His jealous love is the surest way to keep them safe, and to make sure that He finds His home within them. Do you think He’s about to let someone who isn’t first seeking His heart come into your heart if He is guarding it? Not a chance in the world.
Imagine your heart being surrounded by God’s loving arms, a mighty fortress indeed. I am sure that no one and nothing in all the world is going to penetrate that fortress unless God wants it to.
The Holy of Holies
In the early Jewish church there was a place in the Temple in Jerusalem that was called the Holy of Holies. This place was the inner sanctuary of the church, so sacred and holy (aptly named) that only the High Priest could enter it once a year. When Jesus died, the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary was torn, granting all people access to the inner sanctuary (which is where the Ark of the Covenant, containing the Ten Commandments [read: the Word of the Lord] was kept). Each of our hearts is now the Holy of Holies, the place where He dwells. It is sacred and holy, and only those whom the Lord appoints should enter it. Thinking of your heart in this way, as the sacred inner sanctuary, helps us to realize just how precious our hearts are to God.
How do we actually guard our hearts? We could perform open heart surgery and build a wall around our hearts. Somehow I don’t quite think that is what the author of Proverbs is talking about. We guard our hearts through prayer, by staying close to the Sacraments – especially confession and the Eucharist – and by constantly throwing our hearts at His. Believe me when I say this isn’t easy. Something good and wonderful comes along and it is so tempting to say, “Okay, thanks for holding my hand God, but I’ve got this now!” We rest our hearts when we pray. Through prayer we come to know His heart more intimately, but also, He further makes His home in our hearts when we come to Him in prayer. Pray the scary prayer. Pray it daily. Pray it hourly. Pray it with each breath you breathe. Lord, teach me to guard my heart with Your jealous love. Trust me, He will answer.
Apparently God sends me all the scary prayers. Pray that prayer for your heart, but if you really, really want to be challenged, pray it for that certain someone in your life right now. Pray it for your future spouse.
Lord, guard ______’s heart with Your jealous love. Forbid me entry unless You will it. You know my intentions, if they are anything less than pure and holy, bar the gates of their heart, permit me not to enter. Wrap Your loving arms around their heart, creating an impenetrable fortress. Keep their heart safe and free from harm all their days. AMEN.
This article originally appeared on Ignitum and is used with permission.