“Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.”
When the Lord lays judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, when he makes the living man complain on account of deserved chastisement for his sins, and thus brings him to search and try his ways, he raises up an earnest cry in his soul. “Let us lift up our heart with our hands,” and not the hands without the heart; not the mere bended knee; not the mere grave and solemn countenance, that easiest and most frequent cover of hypocrisy; not the mere form of prayer, that increasing idol of the day—but the lifting up of the heart with the hand. This is the only true prayer, when the heart is poured out before the throne of grace, the Spirit interceding for us and within us with groanings that cannot be uttered. “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” The contrite heart and broken spirit, the inward panting of the soul after his manifested presence, the heaving sigh and penitential tear will be regarded by him, when he will turn away from mere lip-service and bodily exercise.
But there is much also implied in the words, “God in the heavens.” This expression represents him as seated far above all heavens, enthroned in light, majesty, and glory unspeakable; and yet sitting on his throne of mercy and grace to bless the soul that waits upon him, full of love and compassion for the poor and needy one that lifts up his heart together with the hand, that he may receive pardon and peace out of Jesus’ fullness, and pants with unutterable longings that the Lord himself would graciously smile and beam love and favor into his soul.
This lifting up of the heart—the only true and acceptable prayer—no man can create in himself. God, who works all things after the counsel of his own will, can alone work in us thus “to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” Nature cannot, with all her efforts, and all her counterfeit imitations of vital godliness, accomplish this spiritual sacrifice. She may cut her flesh with lancets, and cry, “Baal, hear us,” from morning until evening, but she cannot bring down the holy fire from heaven. She can lift the hand, but she cannot lift up the heart. Depend upon it that in this spiritual communion with the living God, out of the sight and out of the reach of the most refined hypocrite and self-deceiver, much of the power of vital godliness lies. This lifting up of the heart when no eye sees and no ear hears, in the daily and often hourly transactions of life, in the lonely chamber, and on the midnight bed, surrounded perhaps by the world, and yet in spirit separate from it, is a secret known only to the living family of God.