Prayer: Desires of the heart
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” penned the psalmist (Ps. 37:4).
Philip Yancey prays for big things… things like peace in the Middle East and an end to homelessness in the USA. He writes, “I earnestly desire those things — and moreover, I believe God does too.” I also believe God desires these things and you probably do too. But does any one of us actually believe God will do these things in response to our prayers? Yancey writes,
“A friend of mine in Chicago tried to recruit some colleagues in urban ministry to join him in a season of prayer for an end to poverty in that city. Almost everyone he asked balked. “Why pray for something so idealistic and impossible?” they objected.”
This reminds me of an incident during my years in Bible College. The college badly needed a new bus. I had faith that God could provide one and began to seek out others to join me in meeting regularly to pray earnestly to that end. Sadly, in a college of over a hundred theological students, I found not one person who would believe with me and join me in prayer.
Well what’s going on here anyway? And just what is the psalmist telling us? On this passage Matthew Henry comments,
“He has not promised to gratify all the appetites of the body and the humours of the fancy, but to grant all the desires of the heart, all the cravings of the renewed sanctified soul. What is the desire of the heart of a good man? It is this, to know, and love, and live to God, to please him and to be pleased in him.”
Perhaps what the psalmist is saying is that when we delight in our Lord… when we love Him in the uttermost, our prayer… our heart’s desire… is a self-fulfilling reality. “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you,” writes James (Jas. 4:8). Or, as Jan Kempe writes in Faithful Hearts, “God’s answer to any problem is His Presence.” (Faithful Hearts, p. 41).
Like you, I still have many questions about prayer, about God’s answers, and about His non-answers. And I wonder at times, while we are asking God why He does not act, if He may not be asking us exactly the same question!
But my business — our business – is not so much to understand, as to pray, and to love, and obey. Let’s let us let that suffice for now. All will be made clear to us soon enough.
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