Your words echo those of God Himself who said to Samuel many years ago, “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). The heart matters most. We know this to be true, and we pride ourselves in believing it. But do we?
In parenting, we tend to focus on externals. The average parent seems satisfied with a child’s compliance rather than true submission. Compliance is achieved when the child does what he is told. This may occur after a long argument, multiple threats, or even punishment. As long as the child does what the parent wants, the parent claims the victory.
But the heart of that child has not been addressed. The unaddressed heart shows in the boy who is told to go to his room, and he stomps all the way up the stairs. It shows in the girl who has been told to set the table; she obeys by tossing the dishes and utensils on the table in a sloppy arrangement. You have compliance without submission, and that is not enough. Submission involves attitude as well as action.
Although we would argue that the soul is far more important than the body, our prayers typically do not reflect this belief. Prayer meetings usually contain long lists of physical problems and few mentions of spiritual ones. Even our private prayers for our children or ourselves are often full of physical ailments or the routine appointments of the day. We spend little to no time seriously praying over the spiritual deficiencies in our hearts. Of course, it is not wrong to pray for physical things. Jesus taught us to pray for “our daily bread,” but if you study all the requests in the Lord’s Prayer, you will find that the majority are spiritual needs (Matthew 6:9-13).
Relationship with God
Even in our relationship with God, we are too easily satisfied with externals—going to church, reading the Bible, living an acceptably moral life. Of course, those things are important. But at the same time, let’s not mistake the internal heart relationship with external actions. Many Christians who are so focused on doing Christian things neglect weightier matters. For example, they fail to heed God’s conviction. They refuse anything that requires too much sacrifice. Or they won’t allow God to occupy His rightful place on the throne of their hearts. David cried, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). That would be a good prayer for all of us.
A New Focus
Proverbs urges us to give our hearts careful consideration. It says, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (4:23). The heart in this verse, as in most other verses of the Bible, speaks of the inner man—his mind, will, and emotions. We must give dutiful care to this heart because the heart defines who we are on the inside, which in turn affects what comes out in our lives. But our struggle is that man looks on the outward; that is our natural tendency. It takes determined effort to be heart focused. It takes a change in the way we think. We must develop God-like thinking as we rear our children, consider our prayers, develop our relationships with God, and pursue all facets of life. --WPC