(This is based on a prayer I picked up years ago, when I read a book called “When I Don’t Desire God,” by John Piper. It is a compilation of Psalm 119:36, Psalm 119:18, Psalm 86:11, and Psalm 90:14. You can pray it as is, or take a sentence at at time and “amplify” it—pray it several times, in your own words, as you interpret the prayer back to God.)
As I approach your word this morning, Lord, incline my heart to your statutes, and not toward selfish gain. Open my eyes, that I may see—and behold!—beautiful things in your laws. Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. And satisfy me in the morning with your unfailing love.
Mark 3:22-30. Read it at least three times, maybe more. Read it slowly, marking any phrases that hit you or ideas that come to mind as you read.
I have read this passage many times in the past. As I read it this morning, I realized that, somewhere along the way, I honed in on a few ideas in the text, and now, every time I read it, it’s just those ideas that my brain focuses on. This is why repetition is a vital part of scripture meditation. By focusing on each phrase in a text and chewing on it over and over, it’s like looking at a stereogram; sometimes, you don’t see what’s there until you’ve stared at it for a while.
In verses 23-27, Jesus makes a very powerful statement. Very Powerful!
23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
When I was about twenty-five years old, I got together with a good friend and prayed through a spiritual inventory aimed at breaking strongholds in your life. We went through my life history, and I dealt with a lot of things through prayer. The process took a few hours, and involved confession, repentance, forgiveness (as in, people I needed to forgive, once and for all, going as far back as elementary school!), and more. (A similar document to the one we used is here. If you’ve never done anything like this, I’d encourage you to go through it and use it as a tool for spiritual growth. Everything on it won’t be relevant to every person, but much of it could be helpful.)
As I read this passage, I think of that experience. It was as if I had a divided heart—I wanted to do the right thing, but I struggled perpetually to break some bad habits and thought patterns. But praying through everything really helped.
Of course, it’s not a once-off thing. After time, I did find that some of the old junk came back again, and I realized that I needed to occasionally revisit some of the things on the list. I had new people to forgive and new temptations to overcome. And reading this passage was a good reminder to keep on praying, to keep my “house”—as in, my heart—united toward God.
Are there people you need to forgive? Temptations you need help to overcome? The application could be to pray right now. It could also be to ask a trusted friend to spend some time with you, going through a spiritual inventory and praying through some things together.