Monday, August 27, 2007

Unprayed Desires

"Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart." - Psalm 37:4 (NKJV)

This verse is often quoted to suggest two competing interpretations. On the one hand, some have suggested that God will grant whatever your heart desires. The power of positive thinking is invoked as people try to focus their attention into such laser-like precision that the powers that be (God I suppose) will acknowledge the intensity of one's desire and grant it on that merit alone. Many fine businesses have been built on this premise. "When you want it badly enough, you'll make it happen" goes the refrain.

Another interpretation, though, seeks to be more piously minded when approaching this concept of one's desires. Because it is acknowledged that we have the capacity to desire rather unproductive things, the caveat is always supplied that "so long as one's desires are in accordance with God's will." Though rightly cautious against entertaining a prosperity theology, it performs a differing yet also unhelpful service of launching people into a frantic expedition to discovery God's will so that they will have desires in accordance with it. Many a well meaning Christian has had undue anxiety inflicted upon them with the charge to uncover God's hidden will (since he seems to so maliciously conceal it).

To my mind, Psalm 37:4 calls attention more to the activity of God's granting over the believer's desiring. The desiring of the believer appears rather passive by contrast. The imperative rests in the first clause: "Delight yourself in the Lord." My obligation is to actively perform the delighting, not the desiring. God knows my deepest desires. He does not require my little reminders (like a child approaching Christmas thinking my parents will forget what my favorite toy in the store was).

The great irony is that he seems to enjoy granting (at least in my experience) the deep, deep desires of the heart; not the flighty whims that popped into my mind during the last commercial break of the Superbowl. There are desires that I have and can voice out loud. But then again, there are those desires that I hold so deeply and dearly that, in my depravity, I won't trust even God with them. Those are the desires I keep hidden, safe, locked away and secret. Things I want so badly that if I were to actually ask God for them, and he said "no," I'd be devastated.

Don't get me wrong. I pray for things all the time, but typically (if I'm honest) they come from a list of requests marked "spiritually deep enough sounding to get everyone off my back." The real desires, the secret longings, the internal aching for fulfillment in some category most often doesn't escape my lips. These are the "un-prayed" desires - the longings that we know we should trust God with but sin and depravity holds us back.

I didn't spend 5 minutes praying about coming to Dallas Theological Seminary. Oh I talked to God about the desire to teach, to be among mentors and have an impact among peers. But DTS was too great, too cool and too ideal for me to even ask God for it (SICK!). When I stood on campus for the first time, having just met with my mentor-through-the-mail Dr. Howard G. Hendricks, I knew my "unprayed" desire had been known by God and granted all the same. I felt the shame of having kept something from him that he'd known all along, apparently had intended to grant, but would have liked to have talked with me about. What intimacy did I miss out on with the Father by keeping those deep longings un-prayed? I felt the same thing years earlier when given the chance to become a kung fu instructor. He granted desires of mine that I had thought too deep to pray about. Oh the intimacy with the Father through the Spirit I had forfeited.

Now here I am again. Newly appointed as the senior pastor for Genesis Community Church, perceiving that God has granted desires for community impact and disciple development that I had longed for for years but never (and I mean never) prayed for. Oh I've prayed much more during the past few months to be be sure. Entering into the candidate process was a big clue to me that these desires must not remain "unprayed." Nevertheless, before that I never once prayed that God would appoint me as a pastor of a church in a community such as ours. He looked deeper into me than I care to look, extracted the desires that I'm uncomfortable with exposing and showed himself sovereign over my "unprayed" desires. His habit of knowing me so well, and granting the desires that I should have trusted him with, motivate me to delight in him all the more.

1 comment:

CaveBear57 said...

Thanks for this and for your honesty. Like you, I rarely pray for the deepest desires of my heart; those things that will bring Him honor and glory through my life, utilizing the gifts he has already given me to accomplish His will through me. I believe that if I will delight myself in Him (do the things He has already written in His Word), all the lesser “needs” and desires of this life will be taken care of. I pray that God will help me focus on Him and be all He desires for me. Thanks for making me think. I consider myself an intellectual, but I have a long way to go to catch you! I’m looking forward to good things at Genesis.