I ran across a verse in my daily bible reading that, while familiar, I’d never really considered carefully. It’s short and lyrical, something you’d see printed on someone’s wall or in a greeting card, or even recited at a wedding. Let’s look at the verse:
“May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose” (Psalm 20:4, NKJV)
It’s easy to skim this and think, “that’s lovely!” then keep moving. But if taken at face value it would be easy to miss the verse’s intent—full of both promise and warning.
Oftentimes, the words themselves can provide rich information, but the Hebrew words used in this verse are fairly run-of-the-mill and used all over the Old Testament. They don’t appear to provide any additional insight, being quite broad and able to be interpreted a number of ways based on context.
Let’s look instead at the two separate pieces of Psalm 20:4. My goal here isn’t an exhaustive study, but rather just highlighting a few deeper things to ponder.
“May He grant you according to your heart’s desire…”
When the bible talks about the heart, it doesn’t just mean our emotions or feelings like we often think of today. Instead it’s truly the core of who a person is. And so when this verse talks about our “heart’s desire,” it’s not talking about every single thing we’ve ever wanted in life, every wish and fleeting craving.
It’s referring to our deepest desires and motivations, the thoughts that drive us, the things which occupy our minds. It’s who we are at our rawest. Jesus is very clear that the desires of our heart will be reflected in how we talk and act, and will be reflective of where our priorities in life lie (Matt. 12:34, 6:21).
The verse asks that God grant His people their desires…but we also know from Jeremiah that the heart is deceitful and “desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). This feels like a worrying contradiction. So what are we to do with this?
There’s another translation for Psalm 20:4 that a few bibles use, where it says, “May He grant you according to your heart”. I quite like this translation, because it indicates a little bit more of the double-edged sword that this verse implies—if your heart isn’t right, what you get will not be right either. It implies that you should be careful what you wish for (or subconsciously focus on), because you just might get it.
Another of David’s psalms really gets to the crux of this idea better, or more completely. He says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). The Psalms are riddled with admonitions to get our hearts right, from “create in me a clean heart” to “Your law is within my heart” (Ps. 51:10, 40:8). And I believe this is a more fleshed-out version of what is meant in Psalms 20:4.
So let’s now look at the other portion of Psalm 20:4.
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“…and fulfill all your purpose”
The Berean Study Bible says “make all your plans succeed” and the King James says “fulfill all thy counsel”. The implication here is our intents, what we’re trying to accomplish.
There are technically two ways you could choose to understand this statement— the purpose God has for us in this life, or our own purpose (what we feel our purpose is in life, or the goals we seek to achieve).
It is good to have plans in life. Mankind was designed to need purpose and set goals, to work hard to achieve something. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with working toward your own plans in life.
However, there are a couple ways that this can become unhealthy, and work counter to our relationship with God. The first is that we get so focused on pursuing our plans that we lose focus on God, or we start to believe that what we achieve is due to our own abilities and efforts.
We forget that God chose the foolish and weak of the world (I Cor. 1:27). We lose sight of the fact that everything we accomplish is through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). We begin relying on human reasoning in decision making, our pride bubbles up, and we ultimately pull away from God.
The other thing we should consider is, what about God’s plans for us? God tells us, “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). Is there a chance we have unintentionally derailed one of God’s intentions for us by doggedly (or thoughtlessly) pursuing our own plans?
God tells us that there is a time and season for every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1). In other words, timing is everything. When you’re pushing toward a certain goal, at a crossroads, or looking to make a decision, it’s worth taking a step back and remembering to bring it to God to ask for His guidance.
I’ve gone to Him many times with a situation or decision and asked Him to make the way forward known. It’s okay to ask for specifics and push Him to help make things clear. On two different occasions in my life I’ve brought a very specific request to Him relating to my job situation and literally prayed, “Please show me where you want me to be and what’s right for this next step in my life. Please open one door, and one door only—I will walk through it, no questions asked, but I just need that one door to be super clear!” On both occasions He answered that prayer in a very obvious way.
Proverbs 16:9 tells us that a man plans his course but God establishes his steps—in other words, we’re not truly in control. And when we forget that, God sometimes has to do something to remind us. So we would be wise to assess our plans or “purpose”, and consider how they align with God’s word…and if He seems to be trying to get our attention in a certain area.
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What should we do with this?
This is the part where I wish I could give you tips or specific actions to put this into practice in your life.
But unlike some of the other studies on this site, that’s not really the point with this one. Sometimes the best we can do is bring certain topics to the forefront, and then it’s on us to ruminate on it and ask the right questions of ourselves…and of God.
Are your heart’s desires aligned with what God would want for you? Do you go to Him regularly in your prayers, bible study, or meditation, asking for Him to guide your direction and decisions? And even if you do, do you actually look for His answers and step out on faith? These are hard things to do and it’s challenging sometimes to feel confident that we’re seeing the right answers, but it’s one of those funny things where it gets easier with practice.
“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your words to the Lord, and your thoughts [plans] will be established” (Prov. 16:1-3)
Right after writing this study I happened to listen to a sermon that I think pairs well with it: Tim Pebworth – Counselor, Not Control
The congregation voices its invocation, asking the Lord to protect, help, support, and give David success. King David responds by assuring the congregation that the Lord answers prayer and will grant him victory over the enemy. He is certain the enemy will fall while he and his men will stand.
Psalm 62. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.What is Psalm 20 talking about? ›
Psalm 20 teaches us to trust God rather than human power, such as military might. “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7). Financial assets, no less than military assets, can be the basis for a false faith in human power.What is Psalm 20 4 5 devotional? ›
Psalms 20:4-5 In-Context
3 May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. 4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. 5 May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
Rousing the emotions; exhilarating.What does it mean that God will guard your heart? ›
The Lord means for us to guard our hearts by filtering our emotions, desires, thoughts, and responses through his Word. He is the watchman that protects our souls.What is the biblical definition of shaken? ›
Ultimately, “shaking” is the removal of whatever is imperfect or sinful from both heaven and earth, not the destruction of the earth in favor of heaven. The language here is a reference to Haggai 2, where “shaking” refers to the overthrow of foreign occupiers, so that Israel and its temple can be reconstructed.What does Kingdom that Cannot be shaken mean? ›
He wants us to understand what it means to receive a Kingdom that cannot be shaken – no matter what circumstances or challenges or fears or battles we must face. We may not enjoy being shaken in this manner – but God has real purpose in it all – and it is earthed in His amazing love for us.What does it mean he will never let the righteous be shaken? ›
He will never let the righteous be shaken…
We will all face trials and difficulties in this life. Jesus never promised us an easy life, he actually promised the opposite. But for those who trust God those difficulties will not shake us, they will not destroy us. That's what the Bible promises over and over.
Here's an example of how you can use Psalm 20 to pray for you and our church. 20:1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! Where in your life do you need the Lord to help?
The book of Psalms expresses worship. Throughout its many pages, Psalms encourages its readers to praise God for who He is and what He has done. The Psalms illuminate the greatness of our God, affirm His faithfulness to us in times of trouble, and remind us of the absolute centrality of His Word.Who wrote Psalms 20 in the Bible? ›
The psalm is attributed to David. This psalm and the following one are closely related: they are both liturgical psalms: the first is an intercession, the second is a thanksgiving; in both, the king is the prominent figure. Psalm 20 is used in both Jewish and Christian liturgies. It has often been set to music.What does it mean to make a joyful noise unto the Lord? ›
Make a joyful noise to the Lord” says the Psalm writer. The Hebrew word for “noise” is ruwa, meaning to shout in applause, to cry out in triumph. It is an energetic word that comes straight from the heart. Verses 1-3 of Psalm 100 were probably sung by worshipers approaching the temple for worship.What does the Lord bless and keep you mean? ›
This word communicates to us that God will place a hedge of protection around his children. Overall, the first line in this blessing means that when God will “bless and keep you,” He will provide for and protect you.What does the Lord bless you and keep you? ›
"The Lord bless you and keep you" is a setting of the Priestly Blessing, also known as the Aaronic blessing, from the Book of Numbers in the Bible (Numbers 6:24–26). The blessing, sung or spoken, is used at the conclusion of worship, baptism, ordination, marriage, and other special occasions in Christian worship.What does stirred mean in the Bible? ›
3:1-2, NKJV). To “stir up” here means to wake from sleep, to arouse, and activate the mind and understanding.What does it mean for a person to be stirred? ›
transitive verb. : to cause (someone) to feel a strong emotion and a desire to do something.What does it mean to feel stirred? ›
being excited or provoked to the expression of an emotion. synonyms: affected, moved, touched affected. acted upon; influenced. emotional. of more than usual emotion.How do you guard your heart spiritually? ›
- Know Your Identity. First, we have to accept our identity in Christ. ...
- Know The Power Your Have Been Given. Second, we have to accept the authority God has given us. ...
- Pursue True Identity. ...
- Get Honest. ...
- Seek Accountability.
- Get regular exercise. ...
- Control your risk for heart problems. ...
- Manage your blood sugar levels. ...
- Reduce or stop using certain medications. ...
- Protect against hearing loss and social isolation. ...
- Limit stress and get the sleep you need. ...
- Avoid all types of head injury.
shocked and upset by an unpleasant experience: He was badly shaken after the attack. She wasn't hurt but was very shaken up. Wayne scrambled to the road, cut, bruised and badly shaken.What does it mean when a person is shaken? ›
If you're shaken, you are profoundly upset and disturbed.What does your faith was shaken mean? ›
to make someone doubt something that they were certain was true.What did Jesus mean when he said the kingdom of God? ›
Kingdom of God, also called Kingdom Of Heaven, in Christianity, the spiritual realm over which God reigns as king, or the fulfillment on Earth of God's will. The phrase occurs frequently in the New Testament, primarily used by Jesus Christ in the first three Gospels.What does the Bible say about kingdom against kingdom? ›
 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.When the foundation are shaken What will the righteous be? ›
The Lord is laying bare all the foundations that men have so trusted. The Psalms speak of this: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). Think about it: Nobody — no politician, economist or financial expert — has been able to explain the sudden evaporation of great wealth.What does the Bible say about pressed down shaken together? ›
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.What Scripture says work out your own salvation with fear and trembling? ›
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.What does righteous mean in the Psalms? ›
It means moral, right, just, balanced, or natural etc.What Psalms did Jesus pray? ›
That Jesus prayed the Psalms is evident, most notably, perhaps, on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1; Matt. 27:46).
Because your love is better than life, My lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, And in your name I will lift up my hands.
- Psalm 23. The LORD is my shepherd. ...
- Psalm 121. I lift up my eyes to the hills; my help comes from the LORD. ...
- Psalm 138. I give you thanks, O LORD! ...
- Psalm 62. My soul waits for God alone. ...
- Psalm 46. God is our refuge. ...
- Psalm 117. Praise the LORD! ...
- Psalm 37. ...
- Psalm 1.
As human words to and about God, the Psalms instruct us in myriad ways about how to worship God. They teach us how to sing, dance, rejoice, give thanks, confess sin, grieve, express anger, make requests of God, proclaim God's name far and wide, and more.Why is it important to pray the Psalms? ›
The Psalms are a unique treasure of Scripture that connect a believer's head and heart in a rich and vivid way. While most of Scripture delivers words from God to man, the Psalms provide man with Spirit-inspired words to pray and sing to God.Who is David talking about in Psalm 20? ›
David was about to lead Israel into battle, and he needed the help of God in each of these ways. i. Because King David was about to lead Israel as a whole into battle, the language is full of references appealing to the LORD as the God of Israel. The LORD: Using Yahweh, the covenant name of God.What is the meaning of Psalms 20 verse 3? ›
Verse 3. Next, in Psalm 20:3 – the people ask that the king's religious devotion to the Lord would be accepted. That the Lord would remember and accept all the times when the king had offered an offering according to God's rules.What is Psalm 20 vs 23? ›
He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.How can I always be joyful in the Lord? ›
- Discover the Lord's Purpose for You. You are more than ordinary. ...
- Find Joy in Your Circumstances. One of the keys to finding joy is to recognize God's hand in your life, even during challenging moments. ...
- Remember That Joy Multiplies. ...
- Look for God in the Ordinary and Simple.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. We are about to celebrate the greatest joy we could ever know, the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was however, a night to endure before the morning dawned.How do you hear and obey God's voice? ›
- Come to God with your request for guidance. ...
- Wait in silence for God to speak for 10-12 minutes. ...
- Jot down any Scripture, songs, impressions, or pictures God gives you. ...
- Share how God spoke to you with your prayer partners and follow God's will.
To pray 'hallowed be Your name' means to ask God to let His name be worshipped, exalted, honored, and adored on earth as it is in heaven. It is to ask God to so move and act in the world, that people will worship and treasure Him above all else.Does God bless mean goodbye? ›
God bless (you)!
said when saying goodbye to someone, to say that you hope good things will happen to them : Good night everyone, and God bless. said when someone sneezes, to say that you hope they have good health: "Achoo!" "God bless you."
The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make His face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. The Lord lift up His countenance upon us, and give us peace, this day (night) and forever more. Amen.What does the Bible say about praying in numbers? ›
Prayer with the community is most powerful, for the Lord himself said: “Where two or three are gathered in my name I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).What does it mean to ask God to bless you? ›
First, when we ask God for a blessing, we admit that we need his blessing, and we confront the fact that we are not able to do everything we want to. We show that we need God's grace. Second, when we ask for a blessing, we intentionally present our deepest concerns to God.How do you respond to take care and God bless you? ›
Thank you for your kind wishes. I appreciate the sentiment. Thank you for your good wishes. Thanks for your sentiment!What does it mean I will lift up my eyes to the hills? ›
Since the colonial era, abolitionist writers turned to Psalm 121 as proof of God's protection for enslaved people. In his rendering, Bloch presents a shirtless black man with his eyes lifted “unto the hills,” seeking relief from God.What does Rend your heart and not your garments mean? ›
Rend your heart and not your garments” (Joel 2:12–13). In Bible days, people expressed sorrow by tearing (rending) their clothes. Everyone who saw them knew they were grieving. If someone wanted to demonstrate their repentance and sorrow over their sin, they would publicly tear their clothes.What does it mean the righteous shall flourish like a palm tree? ›
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree:
To “flourish like a palm tree” means to stand tall and to live long. The AMP says that the righteous will be: long-lived, stately, upright, useful, and fruitful. Palm trees have been important to humans throughout much of history.
1. Haughty eyes: Haughty eyes deals with pride and God hates pride. The eyes are the windows into pride. The phrase, “That person looks down on me!” That's the haughty eye and its full of pride. Pride is the original sin that goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
the ability to see the difference between things that are similar or to recognize that someone has a particular skill.What is the meaning of praying without losing heart? ›
"And Jesus told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart." The Lord wants us to know that he actually understands that our lives can sometimes seem hopeless.What does it mean in the Bible when they tore their clothes? ›
Tearing his clothes was for him a means of expressing his sorrow at the death of the king or a feeling of remorse for having quickened the death of Saul, even though Saul himself wanted it so. Rending of garments by David and his officials at the death of Saul and Jonathan was also a sign of mourning (2 Sm 1:11–12).What does it mean to clothe yourself in the Bible? ›
Clothed in Christ Eternally
Third, the imagery of being clothed in Christ describes the transformation of our bodies that will take place when we are resurrected from the dead. Paul explains that “this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor 15:53).
The palm branch is a symbol of victory, triumph, peace and eternal life, originating in the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean world (Wikipedia). Palms and palm branches have symbolic meaning to the Jews of today and in ancient times.What do palm trees symbolize in the Bible? ›
Early Christians used the palm branch to symbolize the victory of the faithful over enemies of the soul, as in the Palm Sunday festival celebrating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.What does a palm tree symbolize? ›
Palm trees symbolize abundance, eternal life, fertility, good luck, growth, longevity, righteousness, victory, and wisdom. In Ancient Greece and Rome, palm branches were given to victorious athletes or gladiators. Palm trees also have religious significance and symbolic value in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.