Hearing the Father’s Heart for Us
Amos 7:7-17 or Deuteronomy 30:9-14, Psalm 82 or Psalm 25:1-10, Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37
Moses said to the people of Israel, “The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Hidden in this passage is the ache of God’s heart to prosper us. He wants nothing more than to shower blessings on us, to leave us so filled, so fulfilled that we can’t think of anything to want. Hear what it says. God does not prosper us because we deserve it, because we’ve earned it, but because it delights Him to do so! He doesn’t prosper us because we obey His commandments, but when we obey His commandments. These things happen in the same moment in time! They’re almost the same thing! The reason why we are prospered is because it delights Him, and it delights Him to prosper us “when we turn to the Lord (y)our God with all (y)our heart and all (y)our soul.“ (I prefer the ESV translation here, that uses “when” instead of the NRSV’s “because” or the NKJV’s “if.”)
When we turn our hearts and souls to God, God delights in prospering us. He aches to prosper us, but like any good parent, He does not delight to prosper us when we seek to live according to our own determinations, on our own strength. What good parent “reinforces” destructive behavior by rewarding it? No matter how good our intentions, if our hearts are not truly set on the Father, we cannot know His will for us and those around us, and nothing we do can prosper His good will for us and His Creation. Why would he bless those efforts, no matter how well intended? And so we hear the prophet’s favorite call, to “turn” to the Lord.
God is the only true desire of our hearts. We can want the best for our families, our children, our communities, but the best we can want is rubbish next to the desire for God. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8) We try so very hard to do what is right for our families, those near us, those we love, but our best efforts are as nothing compared to wanting Jesus Christ. We may “succeed” in small ways for them, but if we do it apart from God, what have we taught them except that God can’t be relied upon and that we can? That is a lesson I’m sure the enemy would be glad to reward from time to time so as to keep us from learning or teaching how beautiful our God really is.
When we set our hearts on God though, wanting only Him, something wonderful and unexpected happens. We discover that our desire to bless those around us is magnified one hundred-fold! What is different is that our love for our children, our parents, our siblings, our neighbors is replaced by God’s love for them. When we set our hearts on God, we receive in return God’s heart for those around us! Then we can want what is truly best for them, and God can prosper those desires in amazing ways.
This is what Moses meant when he went on to say,
“Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”
We don’t have to be biblical scholars to know God’s will for us and for others. We don’t have to know every word to be obedient to His Word because His will, His desire for us and His Creation lives in us! We turn our hearts to Him, and He speaks His love into our hearts, not just for us but for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the neighbor.
It is not easy to turn our hearts to Him. Indeed, it is quite impossible for us to want Him as He would have us want Him. Our hearts are too bent to desire God for God’s sake, and not (in some small measure at least) for what it can do for us. (In which case we aren’t wanting God, but what God might do for us, again!) That’s okay. Your Father knows that you are but dust. It is enough to want to want Him. (No, that’s not a typo, read it again…) If we will confess our brokenness and our desire to desire Him, He is faithful to change our hearts, to set them upon Himself, and then to give us Himself, the desire of our hearts.
Father, take our twisted hearts, our broken desires, and set them back where they belong, on You. And then, because our hearts know Your desire for others, prosper them, as You delighted to prosper our ancestors so long ago.
The first step, I think, in learning to turn to God in this way is to acknowledge that we have, for as long as we can remember, tried to figure it out for ourselves. Our motivations were the best we knew how to use as guides for our choices, but they were not God’s motivations, or God’s choices. God loved us for trying, but He didn’t love the attempts themselves, or the results, no matter how positive they may have seemed at the time.
Until I learn to see all those efforts as well-intended but utterly futile I will not find in myself the desperation that drives me helpless into my Father’s arms. And until that happens, I’m stuck trying again and again in my own strength, no matter how I try to claim otherwise.
Today, take a moment to recognize that anything done without first surrendering our desire and seeking God’s is utterly unable to set anyone free. Not as condemnation, but as a truth that breaks chains. Then pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I don’t yet know how to act out of Your will, and I know that my own will cannot produce Your kingdom. Make me desperate for Your Heart, for intimacy with Your Gracious Will.
In Jesus’ Name,
The paradoxical key to desiring what the Father desires is that you don’t try to figure out what He wants at all. You just turn all your desires toward Him. Want Him. Want the sweetness of His Presence. Want the weight of His Glory (which is His Goodness, Ex. 33:18-19). Don’t want Him in order to know His desire, want Him for Himself. Everything else will follow, but don’t look ahead. Keep your eyes on His throne.
Today, take a few moments to catalog all the “good” desires you’ve developed in an attempt to please Him. Begin to lay them at His feet, and pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I bring all my failed desires, even the ones I thought were beautiful, and lay them at Your feet. Please turn my heart toward You. Help me to want nothing more than You, nothing other than You.
In Jesus’ Name,
The first result for me in this substitution of the Father for other objects of desire was that, as I began to allow Him to satisfy this new desire in me, the intensity of my desire for other things (even good things, like “peace” or “righteousness” or “justice”) began to wane. Not that these desires don’t spring up again when I’m tired or not paying attention, but I know how to lay them down. Not by pushing them away but by filling my hands, my heart with Someone Else. Before we move in the direction of listening for the Father’s heart for anyone else, let’s spend some time here. Keep up the process of bringing your desires before Him and laying them down as a gift to Him. This might be one of those places in this “book” where you need to give “Day Three” more than a day. Maybe this whole week needs a week’s worth of weeks. I’m not sure.
“Today” take some time to check and see if your grip on the Father has lessened your grip on anything (don’t try for “everything!”) yet. Then pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I want to want You, and I’m not always the most patient. Help me to stick with this, to continue to pursue You and Your Presence until that desire really does begin to replace my other ones.
In Jesus’ Name,
When the Father began to entrust His heart to me, I was astounded at the intensity of His desire for His children. I began to understand why the prophets spoke of His fierce jealousy, his fiery wrath. What we gain when we turn our desire on Him is His Heart, for us and for all His creation. When we have begun to learn (Do we ever finish?) how to love with the Father’s love, we will begin to live out of His wisdom, and do for others what He wants for them. Sometimes that will look just like what we would have done if we’d done it on our own, but the results will often be quite different.
Because when we have surrendered our desires in favor of His, we free the Father to prosper us and our deeds. His power begins to pour through the same motions we would have walked through on our own, writing a whole new ending for our story.
Today, turn as much of your desire toward your Father as you can. Then listen for His overwhelming love as it pours forth to nourish His children. Listen for what it is He wants to do. Not what He wants you to do, what He wants to do. Then pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I bless You for entrusting the desires of Your heart to me. Help me to surrender my habits too, as I try to let You work through me. Keep me out of the way so that I can watch You work.
In Jesus Name,
Once I began to be able to differentiate between the Father’s desire for others and my own, it became easier and quicker to enter into prayer for them. I learned the gentle and healing sound of His song over us, and I confused His wants with my “ought’s” less and less. Slowly, as He led me into prayer for others that came from His heart and not my own thinking, I learned to hear His strategies for bringing that desire into being.
One of the hardest things to do, one that I’m still struggling mightily over, is to do nothing until I discern His will for a person or situation. Frankly, I’m too much like King Saul. When God doesn’t show up on my schedule, I’m all too likely to start the burnt offering on my own. And we know how that turned out.
Today, take a while to listen for the Father’s heart for a person or situation close to you. Listen just for His desire, not His strategy. Stay with the desire, pray the desire over and over. Pray it with passion, with laughter, or with tears, whatever emotions come with it. If no strategy arises in you, or if it sounds like an “ought,” don’t do anything. Just pray His desire. That is often enough, and is the heart of true intercession. If a strategy begins to take shape, hurray!
Then pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I want to see Your Kingdom come. I know now that I lack the wisdom to bring it forth, but I believe that You will use me in whatever way I am ready to be used. Thank You for allowing me to be a part of Your work.
In Jesus’ Name.
If you’d like easier access to Hearing His Voice than looking it up on a webpage, it is now available as both paperback and Kindle book. (But it will always be free here.)