You probably had one of two reactions upon reading the title of this post.
The first was a groan. I don’t want to. Not again. I’m tired of bringing these things before God and being met with silence week after week. I can’t keep doing that.
The other was a sharp intake of breath. That’s dangerous. Don’t write that. We’ve got too much bad theology out there. Talk about holiness and surrender instead.
Perhaps you had a bit of both reactions.
Indeed, I cannot guarantee that praying for your heart’s desire will get you what you want. I know Psalm 37:4 seems to say it will. But one look around the world should reveal that God isn’t exactly handing out heart’s desires like candy. There must be something more to that verse.
What if that’s not the only reason to pray for our heart’s desire?
Ever heard one of those sermons about how God wants access to every locked room in your life? This is one of them – the room labeled “unmet’s heart’s desires”.
God does care about our happiness. He’s not a detached, above-it-all, faintly annoyed God. That view is only distancing people from him. God does care about our happiness.
The catch is, we cannot truly be happy until we are holy. God could grant us our heart’s desires all day long, like a tired parent finally giving that six-inch sucker to their nagging kid, and our unsanctified heart would only get us sick. We need him in our hearts, in greater measure than anything else, to unlock the full joy of his gifts.
There are three reasons we can, and should, risk fervent prayer.
1. Because your heart’s desires are unlikely to change without prayer.
Say for a moment that your desires are selfish, or perhaps good but not within God’s will. What God often does here is change your prayers over time, molding them them into different lines. He might give you different wisdom or guidance on exactly how to pray. He might maintain the same desire but add onto it – like surrender, or just a fervency for him and his presence.
But it doesn’t happen if you just hang up the phone upon hearing a “no”. Don’t assume. Ask. God might have more to say.
Praying for our heart’s desire need not be a tightrope walk. If we include surrender in our prayers, we walk away with great spiritual benefit no matter the answer. I know that might not be what you want to hear; you might want to hear “Yes, God is going to give you your answer.” You’re looking at the wrong blogger for that. But I can guarantee that your faith muscles will be exercised, that you will emerge from your season of prayer with greater ability to balance surrender and hope, perseverance and letting go. This is enormous treasure – and a powerful weapon for later prayers that God does plan to answer.
2. Because God might actually give it to you.
Oh, yes – there is this part.
The amount of unanswered prayer out there, and the idolatry and self-centeredness of some people in prayer, have sent some other people to the other extreme: “It’s not about our desires. It’s about his glory. Just pray for that.” And it’s true. Yet I really struggled with what to do over my own desires.
God broke through my overthinking with this:
Sometimes it glorifies me to answer prayers.
This was a relief. Jesus answered many prayers, ranging from the trivial (wine at the wedding in Cana) to the heavy (healing and deliverances). He didn’t have to do any of those things. He could have denied those people and been perfectly righteous to do so; he could have asked each of them to “take up their cross”, find joy in disappointment, encourage others through their witness in the midst of trial. All the things our theology of suffering tells us to do. But he didn’t. He healed. And it was all for his glory.
3. Because it exposes the lies you believe about God.
A few years ago, I blurted this rather impetuous statement to God on a prayer walk: “It feels like I’ve had to scratch and claw for every good thing I’ve gotten in life.”
Classic first world problems. People in Africa have had to scratch and claw. And the greatest thing that could possibly be given – salvation in Christ, without which nothing else matters – is already mine.
But the feeling in my heart was still real, and God listened. He had a purpose in allowing it to surface. What he said in response was,
You think I’m stingy.
Sigh. “Yes, God. I do think that.”
It needed to be exposed before it could be dealt with. This is why I believe in prayer as a centrifuge for our hearts. Few things will force us to confront the lies we believe about God like praying for one’s desires.
Do you believe he’s stingy?
Do you believe he’s irritated with your requests?
Do you believe you’re undeserving of any blessings?
A cold, safe prayer life will not help with any of this. A wounded distance from God only allows our lies to stay hidden. It might feel like a highwire to trot out some of our old hopes again, but there is tremendous spiritual benefit to be found even if they are not answered. Do not undervalue that.
Pray for your heart’s desire. You are speaking to a generous, powerful, and thoughtful God. The worst he can do is say no. But no matter what, I don’t believe there is any way to come out of persevering, surrendered prayer without a mammoth pile of spiritual benefit. He will reward us for prayer, either through the answer, or what we learn of God along the way.