In this psalm, a petition for God’s intervention and protection in a forthcoming battle, there is a strong connection between God’s will and the action of the ruler. There is something comforting about this request to God, but there is a complexity to it as well.
Our hearts’ desires resonate deep within us. It may be related to a relationship, our work, the resolution of a problem, or recovery from illness. In the psalm, the heart’s desire is the defeat of the enemy and the blessing of the king’s military plans. In prayer we speak to God from the heart, bringing all that we have and are to the One who has the power to grant our requests.
All of this is at the heart of the spiritual life. We must also admit, however, the complexity of our petitions, even of our hearts’ desires. This is rooted in our capacity for self-deception. We may connect what we want with what we believe to be God’s will. Our petitions may have more to do with our human sin—greed, envy, pride—than we care to admit. A classical definition of sin is the heart curved in on itself. Our heart’s desire may be destructive, to ourselves and to others. The Bible itself tells the story of kings who went to war for the wrong reasons.
It is essential that we place our petition that the Lord will grant our heart’s desire in the context of the psalm. The action preceding this request is entering the sanctuary, making a sacrifice to God, and allowing God’s holiness to purify us. And the affirmation following this petition in the psalm is that we place our trust and confidence in the power and providence of God.
We do ask for God to fulfill our hearts’ desire, but we do so by placing those desires within the greater wisdom of God’s will.
O God, may the desires of my heart reflect the intentions that you have for my life. Remove my capacity for self-deception, and lead me to rejoice in your will. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From a human perspective, we tend to judge people by appearances: how attractive they are, how wealthy they seem to be. God’s standard, however, is not outward appearance but the attitude of the heart. David was the youngest brother in his family, but God knew his mighty heart and chose him as the next king of Israel. The psalmist declares that God gives victory to those who put their trust in God, not in the outward appearance of might. Jesus reinforces this truth with the parable of the mustard seed. Paul tells the Corinthians that we should no longer judge by what we see on the outside, for God changes what really matters—what is on the inside.
Read 1 Samuel 15:34–16:13. When have outward appearances prevented you from seeing someone’s value as a child of God?
Read Psalm 20. How do you discern whether your “heart’s desire” is in line with what God wants for your life?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-17. In what ways are you “urged on” by the love of Christ? How do you behave differently because you know Christ’s love?
Read Mark 4:26-34. When have you seen God make much of a small gift that you offered?
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