Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that give me trouble, but the parts I do understand.” That’s been true for me as well. One verse like this is Psalm 37, verse 4.
Everything comes from God; even our desires. This is why in Heaven there is no need for laws, or tears, or any fleshly institution. God is patiently ridding us of our own desires, pride, rebelliousness, and replacing them with Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, Goodness, Faithfulness, and Self Control. His desires, if you will.
At first reading, one can be forgiven for interpreting this verse to mean God will give you anything you desire as long as you delight yourself in Him. I can call this interpretation number one. We realize Interpretation number one isn’t true the first day we put it to the test. We don’t get a new Ferrari, or receive healing from cancer, or get married to (insert name here!) .
So if God granting us the desires of our heart is not unlimited, then what is the Psalmist telling us? We hear preachers and teachers telling us that if we delight in the Lord, the desires we have that line up with the His will are the desires He grants. I will call this interpretation number two. So praying for a new car, or relationship, or even healing may or may not be requests according to God’s will. It is here that God will give us a greater sensitivity as to what His will is, and we will deepen the quality of our requests, say, for salvation for a family member, or protection and wisdom for our leaders. This is the explanation I have stood on for most of my Christian life. One thing I knew for certain was that if it was God’s will, He would hear me, and I would receive my request (desire). John 4:17 even tells us this. So I would seek God’s will on a situation or person, and pray for that. On the one hand, this somewhat limited my prayers. I would eliminate anything in my perspective that wasn’t in God’s will. I tended not to pray for anything for myself as it seemed to be from the flesh, not the Spirit. On the other hand, I eliminated most of my superfluous prayers.
For the last few months, even this interpretation has made me uneasy. Look at Psalm 37:4 again. “Delighting in the Lord” is a condition of us receiving the desires of the heart. What if I am not “delighting” in the Lord? What exactly is “delighting”? Websters defines it as “extreme satisfaction”. Although I knew that I needed to align myself with God’s will, that didn’t seem to be the same as delighting in Him. The second interpretation, while true, was incomplete. There was something more here. Can I really say like the Psalmist in Psalm 42,
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.”
Really? All the time? How do we do that with a bad health diagnosis, a fight with a friend or family member, a lawsuit, in traffic?
I do not hear God audibly. He doesn’t give me winning lottery numbers, or tell me exactly when His Son is coming back. But I do know that he directs my paths, and sometimes in a real way. Some time this summer He began telling me my requests to Him in prayer were too modest, too small. He told me I was praying to too small of a God. I realized He wanted me to pray for more impossible things. So I started thinking of things that seemed impossible and that definitely would be in God’s will. I began to pray for 3 distinct requests. Things that could not happen. So far, one prayer has been answered, and one looks well on its way. As a result, I could see God working in the same way that He worked parting the Red Sea, or stopping the Sun in battle, or igniting the fire on Mt Carmel. THAT is Delighting in the Lord.
Delighting in the Lord is not something we feel or do. It is our response to what God does. By the same token, “granting us the desires of our heart” is much deeper than what we usually think. God doesn’t grant OUR specific desires, He gives us HIS desires. They aren’t initially our desires at all. As we walk through our Christian life, He conforms us to His image He gradually, or suddenly removes our fleshly desires, and imparts His Godly desires into us.
“Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. “
So what is our role in this transaction of changing OUR desires to HIS? If He gives us Delight, and gives our requests, what part do we play? First of all, we get to witness God in all His Glory and Power. Secondly, we submit to what God is replacing in our lives, knowing that in the end, God will have replaced all our fleshly desires with His Perfect Will, and we will, in every way, be one with Him This process will happen inevitably, (Philippians 1:6) but I would like to experience it sooner rather than later. Thus I pant for God as a deer pants for water. Come and join me!