Desires of the heart

Desires of the heart

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. – Psalms 37:4

Psalms 20:4  May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.

What are desires? And more particularly, what are the desires of the heart?

A desire is something that people want or think they need. Visualize for a moment a two-year-old at a checkout lane in a grocery store. His poor harried mom has to deal with his repeated demands. They boil down to “I want what I want when I want it. And you don’t care what it does to the rest of us.” (Betty Draper, Mad Men)

Many assume that human “desire” is equivalent to a heartfelt yearning, craving, or longing. Such passionate desires would be parallel what the apostle John talks about regarding the lust of the flesh and the eyes.

1 John 2:16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.

At first glance, such an understanding seems plausible. Many people simply stop at that point without further reflection. But when the superficial layers are peeled away, additional investigation yields a deeper, more significant understanding.

What are heart desires? The desires of your heart “are what we want the most” (UBS). Our Father promises to give us what our “heart desires.” Of course, there are limitations. He would not give us something evil just because we desire it.

The Hebrew word translated as desire is mishalah. Mishalah is also translated request or petition. It is derived from the Hebrew verb shaʾal which is typically translated ask, inquire, or desire.

Could it be that the desires of our hearts are transformed into action through our prayers in the form of our requests and petitions? In this case, our heart desires are not selfish cravings. Rather they are our supplications made known to the Father through prayer. The phrase “he will give you your heart’s desires” could be translated “and he will give you what you desire most” (NET). The Hebrew literally reads “and he will grant to you the requests of your heart.”

Desires of the heart originate deep within our transformed hearts. Our prayers express our innermost desires. When we pray and the Father responds and answers, He grants the desires of our hearts.

King David shows us the way. When children of the King delight in the Father, over time a remarkable transformation takes place. Our hearts begin to desire what the Father desires for us.

Most often the Scriptures mean what they say. In this verse, this Scripture means what it says and more.   

The promise of Psalm 37:4 is that the desires of the heart will be realized as we delight in the Lord.

The context and flow of Psalm help unlock its meaning. This is where it gets interesting. The Psalm begins with an exhortation.

Psalms 37:1 Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong.

Wrongdoers and wicked people are often successful. How are we to respond to them? David provides us with an example of how to respond properly. He has calm, peaceful faith and does not fret or get upset.

The Hebrew word translated as fret or worry is tithhar. Tithhar comes from the Hebrew verb charah which means to become hot, burn, angry, get excited, or irritated. Hence, we are not to burn and become overly anxious when the wicked are successful.

Rather than focus on wrongdoers and burn with anger, children of the King should focus on the Father. It is sad to say that being obsessed with enemies and rivals is not something we can simply flip a switch and be done with. Rather, our obsessions are more like a dimmer switch that can be slowly turned up or down. In the process, we make the Father the focus of attention.

We are to trust Him (37:3), take delight in Him (37:4), commit our way to Him (37:5), be still before, and wait patiently for Him (37:7). We are to do good (37:3), acting out of justice and righteousness (UBS).

The Hebrew word translated as delight is anog. Anog means to be soft, delicate, or dainty. It came to mean to take pleasure in, take comfort, or enjoy. It even has the sense of pampering. We delight ourselves in the Lord we are pampering ourselves by finding comfort, joy, and pleasure in Him.


Pamper yourself, delight yourself in the Lord.

Father thank You for providing a better way to react to sources of irritation. Encourage me to delight in the LORD.


It is way too easy to respond with anger or jealousy to the success of the wicked. There is a right way and a wrong way. David models a better way (Psalms 37:1-9). “The alternative to anger is to surrender and trust in what the LORD has in store” (James H. Waltner). The right way is summarized in one phrase “Take delight in the LORD.”

When we face sources of irritation, children of the King have the option of choosing a better way to react. We can choose to delight ourselves in the Lord. David provides sound reasoning for his response. He explains that the prosperity of wrongdoers is often a reality. But it is fleeting and temporary.

Psalms 37:2 For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.

He uses two examples from everyday life, grass that dries up and spring flowers that wither under the hot sun. “It is a figure of temporary success and prosperity that is quickly ended by harsh conditions” (UBS). In contemporary English we would say they are “here today, gone tomorrow.”

When wrongdoers are successful, it often stirs up negative emotions within us such as resentment, anger, or jealousy. These negative emotions take our eyes off the Father and fix them on an object or person.

Stanley provides several steps of action to eschew negative emotions and develop positive responses. We are to recognize and confess our negative emotions. Be thankful for the success of others, and ask the Father to put love in your heart for them. We are to keep our focus on God alone. “Delight in Him, knowing that He’s promised to give you the desires of your heart. Focus first and foremost on what He’s done for you and on the promises He’s made to you through His Word. Always remember that God is God, and that it is His prerogative to bless each one of us in exactly the way He sees fit” (Stanley).


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