Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4, N.K.J.V.)
One popular interpretation of this verse contends that we shouldn’t take David’s words so simply and so literally. According to this interpretation, David didn’t mean to convey the idea that God rewards His choice servants by granting them what they ask for in prayer. Instead, he meant that God implants within — gives — His choice servants inner desires to do the things He wants them to do. Think of it as God hardwiring dedicated believers to want the things He Himself wants for them.
Those who hold to this interpretation cite Philippians 2:13, a New Testament passage, as evidence. That verse says:
for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (N.K.J.V.)
While I won’t dispute that God working in individuals to will His good pleasure does mean that He implants desires within them to do those things He already wants them to do, this really doesn’t seem to be what David had in mind for Psalm 37:4. I say that because this verse isn’t the only place in the Psalms where he mentions the idea. Here are two other places (both from the N.K.J.V.):
- Psalm 21:2: You have given him his heart’s desire, And have not withheld the request of his lips.
- Psalm 145:19: He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.
These two references make it clear that David believed that when a believer delights himself in the ways of the Lord, God sees to it that the believer’s requests get answered, “Yes.” These are the “desires of the heart” to which David referred. Therefore, while I understand the other interpretation and even agree with its premise in light of Philippians 2:13, I have to admit that the best commentary on any passage written by David is another passage written by David.
Furthermore, as far as a New Testament verse to back up this interpretation, Matthew 6:33 fits the bill pretty well. There Jesus says:
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (N.K.J.V.)
You see, seeking first the kingdom of God amounts to the same thing as delighting yourself in the ways of the Lord. Likewise, God adding all these things to you amounts to the same thing as Him giving you the desires of your heart. In both passages, the “things” (“desires of your heart”) get granted as the result of the walk with the Lord. I understand that some of our more no-nonsense Christians get a little uncomfortable saying that God rewards by way of earthly blessings, but that’s exactly what these passages teach.
Another passage that plugs in nicely here is John 15:7, where Jesus says:
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (N.K.J.V.)
Here again we see the cause-and-effect relationship. If the individual abides in Christ, and if Christ’s words abide in the individual, the rewards for that dedication come by way of granted desires (requests). Let’s not twist Christ’s words to make them mean something different than they mean.
Of course, it should be noted that any individual who truly delights himself in the Lord will not actually want anything that isn’t God’s will for his life. Even if the person requests such a thing by mistake or ignorance, any and all requests carry underneath them the requester’s permission for God to say, “No, that’s not My will for you.” With this understood, however, if you are delighting yourself in the Lord, seeking first His kingdom, abiding in Christ, and allowing Christ’s words to abide in you, you have every right to expect God to grant you the desires of your heart, add all types of “things” to you, and grant your requests. That’s why, if you are properly qualified, you’re crazy not to ask!