Thursday, July 7, 2016

How Can We Get the Desires of Our Hearts?

The next meeting of Quest Forums is taking place on July 10. We will be looking at another one of those “church–y” words that Christians often use but that can be frequently misunderstood. The topic this time will be prayer, and I thought my article for this week could take a short look at one of the things we are likely to discuss. Consider it an appetizer, and if you are interested, think about joining us for the main course this Sunday!

The Desires of Your Heart

One popular verse on prayer is Psalm 37:4, which reads, “Delight yourself also in the Lord,
and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” The first part of the verse is important, but it generally gets short shrift. Most of the time we focus on the second half, so that is where I’m going to start.

The reason this verse is associated with prayer is because of this “desires of your heart” concept. There is an implicit assumption, which I believe is reasonable, that desires have to be expressed. We communicate what we need with the Lord. That is one of the key aspects of prayer, known as supplication. In fact, we often think of it as the major purpose of prayer. That is not quite true (praise is more important), but it is still a legitimate form of prayer and one we are told to do by Scripture.

Psalm 37:4 ties into this concept because it seems to suggest a cause and effect. If you are faithful, when you tell the Lord what you need, He will give it to you. It is a promise, a promise that we can trust the Lord to give us what we require.

Reading the Promise Wrong

But there is a problem. Too often, this is treated as an absolute promise and an automatic formula. If you are really well behaved, living up to God’s expectations, then He has to give you whatever you ask. In other words, people sometimes read it as though it creates a debt. God is obligated to give us what we want if we serve Him properly.

There are a few major issues with this view. For one thing, that concept of God owing us anything is unbiblical. He is faithful, meaning we can rely on Him to fulfill His word and to look over us. But that does not mean we can force His hand. Thinking of Psalm 37:4 that way puts things in the wrong order. Our righteousness does not make God work for us. We are to be righteous because we know God is already watching over us.

For another, it can be ruinous to our faith. If we treat this promise as a formula, what happens when we don’t get what we want? Either we will think God does not actually care about us, or that we are not good enough for Him. We aren’t, of course, but that is beside the point. We are not to live up to God, but to trust Him. And we are to trust Him whether we get what we want or not. If we treat our relationship like a contract instead, we will be disappointed.

Reading the Promise Right

This leads us back to the first part of the verse, and a way of looking at the whole thing that could be more helpful. Remember, there is a promise here. If we delight ourselves in the Lord, we will get the desires of our hearts. It is a calling to a lifestyle, which is in fact a different aspect of prayer. Delighting in the Lord means to seek Him. That should be our attitude in prayer: not getting the things we want, but getting closer to our Father. And in turn, that puts a bit of a spin on receiving our desires.

You see, the promise is not just that we will get what we seek. It is that we will be given the desire to seek the right things. When we draw closer to the Lord, we have different goals. We hope to see His will done, rather than our own. We start to want the things He wants, and to accept them in His timing. That is when He gives them to us. And in that frame of mind, it is less about the gifts and more about our relationship with the giver.

This same idea is present in 1 John 5:14, 15. We get what we ask when our requests are according to God’s will, in keeping with His heart. The only way to know what that means is to approach Him, and to constantly draw closer to Him. Prayer is not wishing, and God is not a genie. It is how we communicate our love and dependence to our Lord and Savior.

If you have never thought of the promise of prayer this way before, I hope you got something out of this article. Maybe it will help you see what God wants to give you, which is most of all a relationship with Him. And if you have thought of Psalm 37:4 this way before, then I hope this was at least a little reminder. Sometimes life gets in the way and we think we are blocked from attaining the things we need. But God never stops loving us. If we trust Him, we can know we will eventually be given what He has in store. That hope certainly should cause us to delight in Him, and push us onward in life’s quest.

Thanks for checking out the Quest Forums blog! If you enjoyed this post, please consider following me here, on Twitter (@Quest_Forums), or on Facebook (“Quest Forums”). Links are in the sidebar. I am always looking for new questions and comments, so submit yours on any of these sites or by emailing And please, spread the word! The share buttons below are a great way to do that. I want to connect with as many people as possible, so if you know anyone with questions about the Bible, send them my way.

No comments:

Post a Comment