It's the Heart . . . Not the Habit


Deb Shirley


How do you pray for family members?  

For years, my prayers went something like this: 

"Lord, please help them stop (smoking, drinking, gambling, criticizing …)

"Lord, teach them to be more (considerate, ambitious, loving, forgiving …)

“Lord, make them (listen to me, help me, love me more …)” 

"Lord … basically … make them what I want them to be!"

I was in the midst of one of these prayer moments when God got my attention. Mid-sentence I paused for breath; He intervened. His words were not audible, but they were precise as He shouted, "It's the heart I care about; not the habit!"  

How did this encounter affect the way I pray?  The basis of my prayer is found in Psalm 51:16-17 coupled with John 6:44.  It is simply this:

“Lord, your Word says that no one can come to you unless the Father draws them and you do not delight in sacrifice or take pleasure in burnt offerings. The only sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.  Please Lord, do whatever you deem necessary to break them and draw them to your cross of forgiveness.”

Is this an easy prayer to say?  No, it’s not; but it has been my prayer for several years now. I admit in the beginning I feared what it would take for certain family members to reach the point of brokenness.  However, Psalm 51 also tells us that God is merciful and compassionate –

His love never fails. Jesus’ desire is to see everyone at the foot of His cross. I believe He will be as gentle as possible in drawing my loved ones there, but I am grateful that He loves them too much to leave them alone in their sin. 

Does the prayer work?  It definitely works!  During the past few months, I have witnessed His answer in painful and remarkable ways. One family member suffered through a job loss, financial troubles, and marital problems.  Recently, she and her two children received Christ as their Savior. Her face now radiates His peace in the midst of her struggles.

God’s first priority is for people to give Him their heart. Then, and only then, can His indwelling Spirit begin the process of changing habits. That is exactly how God worked in me. When I sought His forgiveness, He didn’t say, “Go away and leave me alone until you get your bad habits straightened out. Then come back and I’ll accept you." No.  He simply whispered, "Bring me your heart my child.  I will take it, mold it, and make it into what I want it to be."

That’s my God.  He loves me – bad habits and all – and He loves my family – bad habits and all. After all, what are a few bad habits when compared to eternity?

Contact Information

Please feel free to contact me via email or mail

Deb Shirley

12467 McMath Trail

McCalla, AL  35111