Keva or Kavinah? By Lisa Burkhardt Worley

This week at school, I added two new words to my vocabulary—“keva” and “kavanah.” They are terms that originated in Judaism and are used in connection to a worship service or prayer. “Keva” represents the routine and structure of the prayer or service. “Kavanah” refers to the heart connection or devotion that occurs within the structure—it’s breaking out of the repetition and regularity to a place of devotion to God. It’s when you feel the Holy Spirit overtake you in the midst of a service. Those chills that come over you while worshipping. The “aha” moment that happens during a sermon.

I will admit that I’ve gone through the motions more times than I want to admit, especially when I am in charge of an event. I am more concerned with the details and find it difficult to put the heart wires together. My husband calls it “sergeant mode.”

For example, we held our monthly POP Chat on Wednesday night and my thoughts were Who’s next to speak? Are they running on time? My intentions were more about making this a good experience for others and keeping things moving, than about basking in the presence of the LORD.

Maybe you’ve also had trouble connecting to God at times.

But what I’ve learned from Judaism is that you must be intentional about finding that heart tie, whether it’s at a service, in a holy place like the Western Wall, or in your morning quiet time. Jewish people pray: “Vetaher libaynu le’ovdekha be’emet, Purify our hearts to serve Thee in truth—with Kavanah.” According to Eveleyn Garfiel, who wrote the book Service of the Heart “Devotion, intention, spirit too, are essential to a religious act, if it is to be properly carried out and religiously acceptable.” I think we can learn from our Jewish brothers and sisters.

I am intentional about reaching kavanah when I begin my morning quiet time with worship, if I am distracted or don’t feel a heart connection, then I keep playing worship songs until I am centered and in the presence of God. During my Bible reading, I pray for God to speak to me. I am often like Jacob who wrestled all night with God, saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:27).

The LORD desires whole-hearted devotion from us.

In Isaiah 29:13, He expressed his disappointment with the Israelites who had fallen away when he said, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (NIV). The Israelites apparently had keva but not kavanah.

So I am now on a mission to experience kavanah whether I am the one creating the routine or not. I will ask the Holy Spirit to help me stay focused on God and  make the heart connection every time.

In his book Practicing His Presence, Brother Lawrence says, “If a Christian is to truly practice the presence of His Lord, and do so properly, then the heart of that Christian must be empty of all else. All. Why? Because God’s will is to possess that heart, and He wills to be the only possessor of that heart, and the only possession in that heart.”

I want to give God all my heart, what about you? Every time. 24/7. I desire to be intentional about finding kavanah in my life. It’s time to break out of the mindless routine.

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