Harden not your hearts. Hebrews 3:8

Heart disease has been called the silent killer. Each year more women die from heart disease than from all types of cancer combined. One quarter of heart attacks suffered by men is unsuspected before they hit. One third of women who suffer heart attacks have no pain or symptoms beforehand. We can have heart disease and not be aware of it. We can even have a heart attack and not know it. But the deadly effects of physical heart disease pale when compared with the damage caused by spiritual heart disease—and its effect on our prayer lives.

Hardening of the arteries is a characteristic of a heart problem. In the same way, a hardening of the attitudes is a symptom of spiritual heart disease. We must have soft hearts to hear God’s voice. The book of Hebrews warns about the danger of hardheartedness. Three verses repeat this idea: “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Heb. 3:15; 4:7; see also 3:8). The word “if” has only two letters, but it is a big word. It means that we have a part to play and a choice in qualifying to hear God’s voice. Hard hearts receive no divine impressions. Our hearts should be so tender that a falling leaf would create an impression on them. But how often are our hearts so hard that a falling rock could bounce off without leaving a mark?

Our capacity to hear the speaking voice of God is directly linked to the softness of our souls. Therefore the tenderheartedness protocol is a requirement to enter God’s presence.

The book of Hebrews warns about hardness of heart, and the book of Revelation warns about hardness of hearing. All seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 received letters with the following message: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (see Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). God was speaking, but only those with hearing ears discerned His words. Not everyone was capable of receiving the message—only those with listening ears.

A proud heart is a hard heart. When our consciences are seared and our minds distracted, we cannot hear God speaking. Nebuchadnezzar’s proud heart produced a hardening of his mind (see Dan. 5:20). God chastised him for his blasphemous acts. He was sent out to pasture until his heart was humbled and softened.

We are commanded to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted” (Eph. 4:32). Difficult times can produce a callousness in our hearts. Periods of severe testing may serve to either soften or harden us. Having tender hearts is our responsibility. Achieving and maintaining pliable hearts requires intentional effort on our parts.

Where the glory of God resides, the voice of God is heard. Our spirits must be tender and sensitive in order to receive heavenly impressions and sense the moods of the Spirit. Samuel Chadwick said, “Prayer is an impossible task without the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Spirit is a person, and His disposition varies. As we walk with the Lord, we grow to know His ways. Romans 8:26 reminds us of our lack of understanding in prayer, but it goes on to say that the Holy Spirit “maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” These “groanings” are so deep that they cannot be spoken. As we stay in step with the Spirit, we sense His sighing, His moods, His burdens. That’s why sometimes in prayer we intensely weep over a person or a matter. Other times we are overjoyed in worship and praise. Our focus and passion in prayer will change as the Spirit leads us. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits, giving us assurance. But we also bear witness with God’s Spirit in our prayer lives—echoing His burden. Sometimes it is through groans.

When was the last time God squeezed your heart and it came out your eyes? God speaks in a still, small voice, and only those with responsive cores can enter into this vital fellowship.

I have suffered with allergies my whole life. Years ago it got so bad that I elected to have sinus surgery. Beyond question, this was the most agonizing experience of my life. The recovery was painful and extremely slow. Two months passed before I finally woke up one day and could breathe! It was amazing. I enjoyed my newfound wellbeing. Then I flew to Ireland. As I rose early one morning, my right lower sinus was blocked. Upon returning to the States, I went to the doctor. He informed me that scar tissue had blocked my sinus passage and that more surgery might make it worse rather than better. I have lived with scar tissue since then. A hard heart is like scar tissue in the soul. It blocks our communion with God. It dulls our capacity to hear His voice. It retards our communication with the heavenly Father. It makes prayer, which has been referred to as spiritual breathing, impossible. A calloused heart is insensitive to God’s voice.

It is important to note, however, that not every “silent treatment” is due to a hard heart. Sometimes God is simply disciplining us with silence: “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God” (Isa. 50:10). This verse addresses the person who fears God and is walking in obedience yet finds himself in a season of darkness. His heart is not hard, yet God feels distant to him. In times like this we must keep trusting in, relying on, and resting in the Lord. These dim seasons are not permanent; they will pass.

It is our responsibility to keep in step with the Spirit. How do we maintain tenderness toward the Lord? By obeying every directive He gives. By responding to His promptings. By humbling ourselves and fully complying with Him when repentance is needed. The discipline of fasting can also clear the lines of communication. When we find ourselves more hungry for God than for food, we should always follow our inner longings. Fasting is a form of self-denial that sensitizes our spirits by making us conscience of eternity.

If we want further guidance from God, the best way is by acting on the instructions He has already given us. The means to maintaining a tender heart are repentance, faith, and obedience. Del Fehsenfeld Jr. said, “Obedience is instantly doing all God tells me to do with a right heart attitude.” Obedience is immediate—instant. Obedience is active—doing. Obedience is complete—all. Heartfelt obedience is the key to blessing. By keeping our repentance current, we keep our hearts soft.


  1. A hardening of the attitudes is a symptom of spiritual heart disease. It is a worship disorder.
  2. Our hearts should be so tender that a falling leaf would create an impression on them.
  3. A tender heart is a requirement for hearing God’s voice. Where the glory of God resides, the voice of God is heard.
  4. “Obedience is instantly doing all God tells me to do with a right heart attitude” (Del Fehsenfeld Jr.).


  1. Do you sense a callousness in your heart toward God? How long has it been since you last heard God speaking to you?
  2. Cry out to the Lord—ask Him for a heart that is capable of sensing spiritual pain and spiritual pleasure. Ask Him for a tender heart.
  3. Employ the strategy for personal revival: pray, repent, obey, believe. Act on each of these now.
  4. Clear your heart from bitterness and bother. Daily keep in step with the Spirit.

This chapter was written by Harold Vaughan.

The chapter is taken from “Approaching God’s Throne: Biblical Protocols For Prayer”.  CLICK HERE for more information about the book.

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Harold Vaughan

View posts by Harold Vaughan
Evangelist Harold Vaughan is the founder of Christ Life Ministries, Inc. To date, his ministry has led him to preach in forty-eight states and many foreign countries. Click on "ABOUT" in the menu bar to learn more about Harold.
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