Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
I read and re-read this verse multiple times after running across it in my devotional time. I love the wording here for its poetic sound and feel. I love the imagery within the prayer. Even so, my mind kept returning to a question: What does it mean for a heart to be united?
My initial reaction was one of mild confusion: Can a heart not be united? Put another way, can a heart be divided? Jesus seems to suggest that it can. In the Sermon on the Mount, he warns people against trying to serve two masters, against dividing one’s allegiance. He teaches that such an attempt will fail, that men and women will ultimately love one master and hate the other (Matthew 6:24). In the pursuit of two masters, neither master will truly be honored. Israel exemplified this truth. They often attempted to worship the LORD and the gods of other peoples, resulting in God disciplining them. God’s reasoning for discipline? “Their heart is false [or divided]” (Hosea 10:2a). The people thought they could please God and idols at the same time. God was not impressed. He made plain his standard in Hosea chapter 6, where he said,
“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
This was not a new standard. God set this forth from the beginning, decrying idolatry in the Ten Commandments. Jesus then re-emphasized the all-encompassing nature of allegiance when he called his listeners to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Worship, then, is no half-hearted affair; worship demands total investment.
With all of this in mind, we can better understand what it means to have our hearts united. Such a prayer is a prayer for total devotion, for full surrender, for absolute commitment. A heart united to fear the Lord is a heart undistracted by any other pursuit. Indeed, if the fear of the Lord is a proper perspective of God and of self which results in a proper ordering of one’s life before him (see earlier posts here and here), then a united heart is necessary, for a divided heart fails to truly worship.
Let us then be people who echo this prayer. Let us pray for God to teach us his way that we may walk in his truth. Let us pray for God to unite our hearts to fear his name. Let us evaluate our own hearts to see that we are not operating with divided affections. May we then in all things, by God’s grace, live for the glory of God.