The psalmist says, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” I read this verse this morning in Tim Keller’s The Songs of Jesus. As I pondered the psalmist’s meaning, I came to realize the psalmist is not suggesting we must earn God’s ear. Rather, he is telling us God will not listen to our self-destructive prayers. God loves us too much to help us kill ourselves. If the desire of our heart is for something other than God’s glory and kingdom, he will frustrate, rather than grant, it. It is only when we delight ourselves in him that he gives us our desires. He simply loves us too much to do otherwise.
This is a profound truth. Far too often, despite my theology, I believe I must earn the right for God to hear my prayers. I operate as if I must prove myself to God before he will work all things together for my good. This is a gross perversion of the gospel. Paul writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved me in Christ before I had done anything, either good or evil. He loves me because he chose to love me because he chose to love me even before the foundation of the world. He calls me to repent and believe, not because I am worthy, but because he is gracious. Only when I believe this will I be free to take my hard, cold, sin-loving heart to God and ask him to renew and transform it into a heart that loves and delights in him.
If you find yourself cherishing iniquity, as I too often do, do not attempt to change your heart so that God will hear your prayers. Rather, take your heart to God in prayer, and ask him to change it. Ask him to cause your love to abound more and more, as Paul does in Philippians 1. Ask him to incline your heart toward him, as the psalmists so often do. Ask him to take away your heart of stone and replace it with a soft heart of flesh, according to his promise in Ezekiel 36.
You cannot change your heart any more than a leopard can change his spots. However, God is more than able; he is willing. You don’t have to earn the right; you simply must ask.