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What Does 'God Will Give You the Desires of Your Heart' Really Mean?

  • Sarah Frazer Contributing Writer
  • Updated Nov 10, 2023
What Does 'God Will Give You the Desires of Your Heart' Really Mean?

I can have anything I want. This was my first thought when I read Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

From the time I was a little girl, I was a perfectionist. When my mother would ask me to do something; I did it right away. My handwriting was neat and my bed had no wrinkles. Doing things right didn’t come from a sense of loyalty or love, but out of a desperate search for approval. I craved the approval of others like oxygen.

When I found Psalm 37:4 and Psalm 20:4, I finally felt like God made sense to me. Like a simple ‘1 + 1 = 2’ equation, I figured: I could do something and in return God would give me what I wanted. I could achieve a certain outcome because of my own behavior.

So began my journey of trying to please God to get what I wanted.

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Can I Make God Give Me the Desires of My Heart?

I claimed Psalm 20:4 for myself without truly understanding the meaning. “May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose.” God would give me what I wanted. I only needed to put Him first.

Many people struggle with these verses because life isn’t so cookie-cutter. I learned this the hard way. Growing up a bit, I realized even when we put God first, life isn’t always good.

I had friends struggling to get pregnant and others facing divorce. My misguided heart would wonder: what did they do wrong for God to take away something they wanted? Then my own world began to crumble as we went through a very rough adoption process.

Again Psalm 37:4 came to mind. How could this verse mean what I always thought it to mean? I put God first. I did what He wanted. So why was life so hard?

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What Is the Context of 'He Will Give You the Desires of Your Heart'?

Bible verses were never meant to be read in isolation. So as we ponder this question, let’s remember one important truth. God gives us both promises and principles in Scripture. The promises are things we know for sure will happen. Things like “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Principles are those general ideas which “mostly” happen in life. Sort of like, “This is how life works…” Many of the psalms and proverbs are really principles for life. Taken from observation and God’s inspired word we can say this is how it works most of the time.

Many commentaries believe Psalm 37 to be a teaching psalm. Another interesting fact is that it is an alphabetical Psalm: in somewhat broken order, the first letters of the verses follow the Hebrew alphabet.

The psalmist wanted to teach a lesson about life: If we go our own way, the way of the wicked, we will face hardship. Psalm 37:9 says, “For those who are evil will be destroyed…” In the same verse we read what will happen to those who follow God, “but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.” It isn’t a promise as much as it is a principle.

The same can be said about Psalm 20. Instead of a teaching psalm, this one is more of a prayer. Verses that start out with “may the Lord…” reflect a heart of prayer. The author’s prayer in Psalm 20 seems to be directed to the nation of Israel and future kings. The key to this chapter is Psalm 20:7. It says, “ Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

As with Psalm 37, we see the author is speaking in generalities. There is no promise in Psalm 20 of good fortune. The psalmist is simply observing the patterns and nature of life. Generally speaking, those who seek and trust God will prosper within God’s will.

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Who Is the Author of Psalm 20 and 37?

The author of Psalm 20 is King David. David was the second king of Israel, anointed by Samuel. Through David’s line God promised a Messiah.

In this psalm we find David’s prayer over his kingship. David was a man of prayer. His life, which is recorded in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, reveals to us his desire to seek God.  It seems David is reflecting back on his life in Psalm 20 to see how God had given him victory.

David does not focus the words of his prayer on his own attributes, but truths about God.

The author of Psalm 37 is David as well. In this psalm we find wisdom which might have come from David’s observation of life around him. In verse Psalm 37:25 we read, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” King David is reminding us that this is a psalm of observation.

The truths listed in these verses are principles for godly living. Do you want a blueprint for how to follow God? Read Psalm 37! I can imagine David sitting on a couch, an old man, and talking to his children. More than anything David wanted his children to follow God. Not for their own prosperity, but because following God is the only path to true satisfaction.

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Different Translations of Psalm 20:4 and Psalm 37:4

May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose.Psalm 20:4 (NKJV)

Our purpose for our life must follow God’s purpose for us. As we seek our desires, we must also keep in mind God’s purpose for our lives. God’s purposes might not be clear, but we can trust His hand in our lives. Our hearts will find satisfaction when they align with God’s purpose.

Take delight in the LORD, and he will you your heart’s desires.Psalm 37:4 (NLT)

In this version, we see God as the focal point. The arrangement of this translation suggests we will find our heart’s desire in delighting in God Himself. For if our hearts are looking to God to fill us, we will never be disappointed.

God has invited us to make Him first in our lives. When we do, He promises to be all we need.

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What Does it Mean to "Delight in the Lord"?

The idea of delighting ourselves in God means we make Him the most important thing in our life. When He is the number one desire, He will give Himself to us. When we have God, we have all we need.

In high school more than anything I wanted to be content. I happily dove into perfectionism. Moving through college, my perfectionist tendencies were revealed when I cried over a B in History. Then motherhood further destroyed all of my dreams of having a perfect house, perfect children, and a perfect life. Contentment never seemed to find me.

Ten years into motherhood now, I realize something I wish I could go back and tell my “new mother” self. Your husband will not complete you (contrary to a popular movie at the time). Your children will not satisfy. Your job (or lack of one) will not give you a sense of purpose. Your identity will not be in how you serve at church.

Our true desires must rest in God. Practically speaking, this means we spend time in His Word. Studying, praying, and listening to the Bible will never be a waste of time. In these moments, whether they be hours or minutes, we can help our hearts align with the One who will completely satisfy.

A Prayer for God to Give You the Desires of Your Heart

Lord God, help me make you my desire today. I want to delight in You. I see now I will never have my desires apart from life with You. Let me turn to You today as I walk through the ordinary moments. When life interrupts my well-thought-out plans, help me to trust You are still working. You promise to be everything I need (Phil. 4:19). I lift up this burden I’m carrying to you. I realize I’ve been seeking to please You, but what you really want from me is for me to delight in You. Help me to find you enough. In Christ’s name, Amen.

It took me a long time, and lots of tears to figure out God wasn’t just going to give me what I wanted if I was “good.” Instead, He would help me in my imperfection to see that my goals were simply misplaced. The focus is not getting what I want but finding my true delight in the Lord.

If we delight in the Lord, He becomes our desire. God will gladly give more of Himself to those of us who seek Him.

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headshot of author Sarah FrazerSarah E. Frazer is a writer, Bible study mentor, wife of Jason, and mother of five. With a background in missionary work, Sarah encourages the weary woman to find peace in Jesus. She is a regular contributor to the Proverbs 31 First 5 app writing team as well as a featured writer for Her favorite place to hang out is Instagram at @sarah_e_frazer.

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