February 17, 2018

The Way of Your Heart

February 17, 2018


Psalm 32

Matthew 9:2-13

This weekend’s reading: Luke 23:34

Henri Nouwen in The Way of the Heart reminds us that prayer is not merely talking to or at God; it is learning to listen, to “dwell with God.” Our deepest prayers come from our hearts. From a biblical perspective, the heart refers to the source of all our “physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, and moral energies. . . . The heart is the central and unifying organ of our personal life. . . . The prayer of the heart directs itself to God from the center of the person and thus affects the whole of our humanness.” Such prayer transforms us, Nouwen says. It “opens the eyes of our soul to the truth of ourselves as well as the truth of God. We come to see ourselves as sinners embraced by the mercy of God.” [H. Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, New York: Seabury Press, 1981) 75-79]

Jesus says to the paralyzed man, lying on a mat, “Take heart! Your sins are forgiven” (Matt 9:2). This is not what the onlookers expected to hear. What does the forgiveness of sins have to do with healing? Today we know sickness does not come as punishment for a sin we have committed, but healing the whole person does involve more than curing physical ailments. The Latin root of salvation is salutem or health; to be saved is to be “heart healthy” in the biblical sense. Jesus restores the man physically, but his healing process starts with attending to the man’s heart. Jesus wants him to fully accept the forgiveness of God and thus become whole again. With the joy of God’s forgiveness in his heart, he can live in the fullness of life. In the Beatitudes, Jesus puts it this way, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Lent is a journey of the heart. As we walk toward Jerusalem with Jesus, our hearts are filled by his mercy and grace. Psalm 32 blesses those whose sins are forgiven, those of us who know the truth about God and have stopped trying to deceive ourselves about who we are. The psalm ends with a resurrectional statement—the word resurrect means to stand upright again. “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” In the new life of truth and forgiveness, we walk together in joy.


  • Jesus is accused in Matthew 9:11 of eating with sinners and tax collectors. What does Jesus say about this practice and the “health” of the community?
  • In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the crowd: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” What do you think this means?


  • What can we learn from children about “praying from the heart”?
  • Ask everyone to write draw pictures or symbols that express their heart’s deepest concern and greatest joy. Looking at the drawings, ask them to give a prayer from the heart about these joys and concerns.

God of all grace, you bring healing and wholeness to all creation. Guide us on our journey and open our hearts to those you call your friends. Give us thankful hearts for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ, the Great Physician. In his name. Amen