Reading through Psalm 119, I was struck by the psalmist’s desperate yearning for a wholehearted devotion to the Lord in a multitude of ways. Over and over, five times to be exact, the psalmist uses the phrase “whole heart” to describe the way he wishes to seek God, observe the law, keep His precepts, and cry out to Him. This fervent desire present throughout Psalm 119 is a beautiful model for Christians to love God’s Word so deeply that it will shape every aspect of their lives.
Seeking God With A Whole Heart
“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart” (Psalm 119:2)
“With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!” (Psalm 119:10)
Seeking God is a wholehearted affair. In Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon, he delivers the Lord’s assuring message to them, but He reminds them how they must seek Him. At the end of the seventy years, God tells them “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.” The Lord found the need to specify not that they should merely seek Him, as if they should seek Him in the same way we seek anything in the world, but that they should seek Him with their whole heart.
Looking around at the culture today, we will see Christians (those who should be seeking the Lord with a whole heart) with a belief in God that lacks a desire for Him above all things. Instead, the things of the world appear more pleasing than Him. We should not be surprised by this because this is exactly what Paul explains in Romans 1:21: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
C.S Lewis famously observed the human tragedy of half-heartedness that has been seen through the entirety of the Bible and still today:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
So, what do we do? Our hearts must change. If we want to be wholehearted, we must realize, as Paul says, that our foolish hearts are darkened, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:8,11).
We were helpless with our hard hearts, but God’s redemptive plans provided us with reconciliation through which God renews our hearts and gives us new affections for Him. Thus, our wholeheartedness must begin with praising God through Jesus Christ for the miracle He has performed in our hearts and minds in order that we might seek God to begin with. Pray to realize the extraordinary nature of this miracle that your life might be encompassed in seeking God wholeheartedly. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).
Observing God’s Word With A Whole Heart
“Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:34).
“The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts” (Psalm 119:69)
Before seeking to observe or keep God’s Word, the psalmist prays for understanding. How can we accomplish what we do not yet grasp? The psalmist looks to the giver Himself, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). James tells us we should not be afraid of asking for these things, but “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Obeying God wholeheartedly begins with an understanding that is not lacking and that which only God can give.
This understanding is meant for illuminating the Word of God for us—that we might keep in step with it and that our joy might be full (John 15:11). The psalmist in verse 69 then displays his desire to wholeheartedly follow in God’s Word despite his worldly circumstances. Although “the insolent smear [the psalmist] with lies,” he still persists in wholeheartedly following the Lord’s precepts. He displays that our wholehearted pursuit of the Lord involves understanding, observing, and persisting in keeping His Word even amidst persecution.
Crying To The Lord With A Whole Heart
“With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord!
I will keep your statutes” (Psalm 119:145).
Wholehearted prayer is the pursuit of this psalmist, and it must be our pursuit as well. Our prayers are a way of pursuing our joy in God through watching Him work on our behalf. The earnest prayer that is answered will bring glory to God and joy to us. Thomas Brooks, the Puritan preacher and author, describes the significance of wholehearted prayer:
“It is not a piece, it is not a corner of the heart, that will satisfy the Maker of the heart; the heart is a treasure, a bed of spices, a royal throne wherein he delights. God looks not at the elegancy of your prayers, to see how neat they are…but at the sincerity of your prayers, how hearty they are. There is no prayer acknowledged, approved, accepted, recorded, or rewarded by God, but that wherein the heart is sincerely and wholly…God neither loves halting nor halving; he will be served truly and totally…. God hears no more than the heart speaks. If the heart be dumb, God will certainly be deaf. No prayer takes with God, but that which is the travail of the heart.” – Thomas Brooks
Let our prayers be many and wholehearted and our joy be full in watching the Lord deliver us from our present evil in order to bring Him glory. When we acknowledge the miracle God has done in our hearts, we seek after Him earnestly and ask for understanding that will lead to observance of what He desires for us. Even in the midst of persecution, our wholehearted prayers to the Lord will bring joy to us and glory to Him.