Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

The life of a Christian is marked with surrender. It is a daily death to self. It is why although praying the sinner’s prayer and responding to altar calls are well and good, and the genuineness of those moments are not denied, the Christian life is so much more.

The above quoted verse is often treated as a magic verse providing a formula for answered prayers. At a Bible study a few years ago, though, a friend talked about how the verse actually means that if a person finds joy in God, then God Himself will shape the desires of that person’s heart. It hit me and that verse became radioactive to me. God sees my longings but He does not just see them, He shapes them too.

And so we can rest and stop striving. Everything about the Christian life is about loving. Loving God means delighting in Him, and having Him shape our desires so that we are aligned to what He wants for us. It is surrendering the dreams we have long nursed in our hearts, and trusting God to shape us and mold us and break us so He can make us whole. It is placing our trust in Him that as we are breaking, we let go of the things that we think define us and give us identity. We let God fill the emptiness that this letting go and daily death brings to us, and in the emptiness we see God come alive. We see His Word become real to us.

This is why prayer is surrender. We say “Our Father” because that defines everything else that we say after that. We are praying to our Abba who knows us better than we know ourselves, Who sees things from end to end and loves us forever and ever. We cannot come to God in prayer having agendas in our lives that we treasure more than we treasure God. This will make our prayers plateau and keep us from truly communing with God. This kind of prayer life can keep on for a while and we may feel no pain, but it edges God out of our lives until we can no longer hear Him.

Jeremiah 29:11 is oft quoted and rightly so. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” that verse says. But equally important are the two verses that follow it. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”   Our prayers are to be marked with the kind of seeking that surrenders everything at the feet of Jesus. This attitude is what opens our hearts to really see God, a stepping out in faith that is honest and open and vulnerable before our loving Father. This surrender may feel like a free fall into nothingness, but redemption is only for those who acknowledge their need to be redeemed. Filling with God is only for those who have not filled themselves up with the world.

A daily death is called for. We cannot withhold aspects of our lives from God. To live the Christian life means we trade our lives for His. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God, Paul says in Colossians 3:3. We can only hold fast to Jesus when we’ve pried our hands off of the things we used to hold dear. And our hearts’ desires will be given to us as we learn to delight in God, as we learn that He is infinitely better than this world’s best.