“If you just pray right, then God will answer your prayers.” Been there, tried that.
“If you just do all that He says, God will answer your prayers.” Also tried that.
“If you just love God, He will repay your devotion with many blessings.” Tried that too.
What is it about the human heart that makes us think we have any bargaining chips with Almighty God, that we can do something that will turn His heart to us and make Him perform whatever we want Him to do, like some cosmic genie without a bottle? Such is the depth of our pride and sinfulness.
We even misinterpret the Bible to make it say what suits our egos rather than what it does say. Psalm 37:4 has been a victim. In context, it is about being upset with the prosperity of the wicked, which reveals our tendency to envy and have temporary values. In this psalm, God first reminds readers of the eternal results of such ‘success’ then says,
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:4–6)
Before looking at what it really says, doesn’t this sound like, “Be delighted with God and He will give you whatever you desire”? Many think so. I might have thought so at one time, until a preacher corrected my thinking. God is not offering anyone a candy bag in this verse. Instead, He is saying that when my heart is delighted in Him, then whatever I want will be in line with what He wants. That is, His presence in my life makes a huge difference in my desires.
Once upon a long time ago, I was camp counselor for teen girls. One of them said to me that she didn’t want to become a Christian because she would not be allowed to do whatever she liked doing. She listed dancing, going to movies, and a few other social activities. I tried to tell her that giving her life to Christ did not mean signing up for a dark list of rigid rules. The reality is that when Christ comes into our hearts, He changes the desires of our hearts. What was once important is no longer a big deal. What once seemed ‘boring’ becomes exciting. I don’t think she believed me.
Imagining a change of heart is a challenge. When I was a teen, I told my mother that I’d never stop wanting to be creative. She said that could change, particularly when I became old and tired. I thought she was wrong, but last night when I could have been working on a quilt, it seemed easier to sit in an easy chair and work on a crossword puzzle.
Human desires of the heart come and go. If my activities rely on whims, who knows where the day will take me? But if I delight in the Lord and commit my way to Him, who knows what He will do? All that is certain is what the above verses say… that He will bring forth righteousness in my life. I will live justly, not because that is my nature or will, but because the Lord Jesus Christ lives in me. By delighting in God instead of focusing on my own way, I am giving Him permission to open me up. Not only will He bring out His desires through my motivations, He will also let the inner life of Christ display itself in righteousness.
A critic might say that sounds like being a puppet. Maybe it is, but what an adventure to let God pull my strings. When He decides what is important and what I should desire, good things never fail to happen.