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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” - Proverbs 4:23 

If you Googled the phrase, “What is most important?” you’ll find a diversity of answers.  Some say it’s making more money to enable them to do what they love most.  Some say it’s being physically healthy or spending time with family, while others prioritize being happy or knowing their purpose.  The list could be as long as there are people. What is most important to you?

The above answers are not intrinsically bad.  They are good things to pursue when in their proper order, but the Scriptures shed light on what is of first importance for this life and the life to come.  Before and above everything else in which you have a legitimate interest, or which is advantageous, the Scriptures teach us to “keep your heart with all vigilance.”  What does this bold instruction really mean, and why is it so important?

The Hebrew word for keep means “to watch, guard, observe, or tend.”  The phrase with all vigilance is literally “above all guarding.”  What an energetic way to express the supremacy of keeping one’s heart!  It should be the foremost, all-pervading aim of every person who desires to honor God with the whole of his or her life.

Physically, the heart is the central organ of the body.  But in the context of Scripture, it refers to the center of one’s deepest moral and spiritual convictions, especially in relationship to God.  The human heart is the central place that governs the mind, which includes the conscience, the will, and the affections.  It is the mysterious place where the human Soul and Spirit tie together.

Heart-keeping is important; that is where the whole of an individual’s outward life is birthed.  The heart is the origin of our affections, thoughts, attitudes, motives, and desires born either out of faith or from disbelief.  “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”  Life circumstances reveal one’s true character, which is the condition of our heart.  Not only does our “heart condition” affect our relationship with God, what flows from our heart in the form of speech or actions can bring either life or death to those around us.  Jesus Himself clearly addresses this:

“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

Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) is widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian, and he is one of America's greatest intellectuals.(1)(2)  At the age of 19, he began to write a growing list of life resolutions that would govern his life and conduct.  His list reflects an acute awareness of the importance of tending to one’s heart above all else:

“48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or not; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this, to repent of. May 26, 1723.”

“60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4 and 13, 1723.”

As Edwards modeled in his life, here are some practical ways to keep guard with all vigilance:

1)     If your feelings seem to be out of order, ask the Lord to show you what’s really going on.

2)     Stay away from things that can pollute your heart.

3)     Practice discerning and responding to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

4)     Above all, continually ask and depend on your Heavenly Father to sanctify your heart through faith in His Son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit working in you.

As we seek the Lord through prayer and fasting today, be reminded to guard your heart with all vigilance.  Also, remember that you are not left to yourself for this grand task!  It is your Father in heaven who empowers and enables you to do this by His mighty Spirit.  The result of heart-keeping is true and everlasting life!

(1)  "Jonathan Edwards", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, November 7, 2006 [January 15, 2002].

(2)  Marsden, George M (2003), Jonathan Edwards: A Life, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Justin Shanks
Friend of Christian Union
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