This lesson plan is the second in a four-part series for children to encourage them to love God. To learn more about this Bible curriculum, including tips for teaching it, see the introduction page for Discovering the Divine.
This Bible lesson would work for either Sunday School or Children’s Church. It was written for older elementary children, but could be modified for any age group.
Bible Passage: Psalm 84
Bible Story Title: The Heart of Longing
Target Age Group: 4th – 5th grade
Target Time Frame: 50 minutes
Original Teaching Context: Children’s Church
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Exegetical Idea: The psalmist experiences a deep longing for the presence of God, symbolized by the Temple of Jerusalem.
Pedagogical Idea: When we have experienced God as the psalmist, the heart of longing for His presence develops within us.
Cognitive Aim: The students will know what the heart of longing looks like and will learn the Hebrew meaning behind the word “yearned.”
Affective Aim: The children will desire to have the heart of longing for God.
Behavioral Aim: Children will memorize Psalm 73:25
Memory Verse: Psalm 73:25, “Who I have in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth” (ESV).
Lesson Two Overview
1. Create Longing (10 minutes) Gives the children an idea of what it is like to long to be somewhere wonderful. Supplies: Pictures of beautiful vacation spots
2. God Revealed (15 minutes) Read the Scripture and learn about the heart of longing. Supplies: Bibles, Picture of the Jerusalem Temple
3. Personal Pursuit (15 minutes) Get geared up for the journey of faith, having a heart of longing. Supplies: Visors, walking sticks, canteens and compasses, cardstock “hearts of longing”
4. Daily Knowing (10 minutes) Memorize Psalm 73:25, worship through song. Supplies: Cardstock Hearts, Song “Give Me Jesus” by Jeremy Camp
1. Create Longing (10 minutes)
Show children pictures of beautiful vacation spots.
- Question: Where would you like to go the most? Would you rather spend a thousand days here in your hometown, or one day in this wonderful vacation place? Why?*
- Explain that today we are going to read a psalm in which the psalmist (the person who wrote the psalm) states that he would rather spend one day in the courts of the Lord than a thousand days anywhere else, even a beautiful location on earth. This is because the psalmist knew who God is. As we discover who God really is, the irresistible goodness and greatness of His character will draw us to Him.
- Pray for God to show you through His word what it looks like to long for Him to the point where we desire nothing else on earth.
* If you have a student from another country, encourage them to share about the beauty of their hometown or country they have been in. They may long to be home everyday. Encourage them to explain why they have a deep desire to be home.
2. God Revealed (15 minutes)
- Ask children to turn in their Bibles to Psalm 84. Allow them to volunteer to read it aloud:
1 How lovely is your dwelling-place, O LORD Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. 5Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. 8 Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob. 9 Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.10Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. 12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.
- Show the children a picture of the Jerusalem Temple. It is best to find one that shows the door to the temple and the outer courts.
The psalmist said he would rather be a doorkeeper at the house of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. The doorkeeper was not even in the temple, but the psalmist has such a desire for God’s presence, He would rather have the job of a doorkeeper than dwell in the tents of people who do not love God. He would rather spend one day in the temple courts than a thousand days anywhere else!
This psalmist physically longs to experience God’s presence. The temple of worship in Jerusalem symbolized God’s presence with His people. The psalmist could not be at the temple, and he writes of how blessed the people are who are able to dwell in the Lord’s house, in the temple of Jerusalem. He emphasizes the journey to the temple when he speaks of passing through the Valley of Baca. It was a very dry, desert place. God makes the dry place of the Valley of Baca into a place of springs. The ones journeying to Jerusalem go from strength to strength, fully relying on God to get them to His temple.
3. Personal Pursuit (15 minutes)
Allow the children to gear up for the journey. They have visors, canteens, and compasses. (The children can wear this gear while giving the presentation to the church, explaining to them the journey of faith).
- Explain to the children that our journey is walking through this life until the day we reach the heavenly Jerusalem, eternity with God, which is like the psalmist’s journey to the Jerusalem temple. (Option: You could have the children actually walk as if going on a journey as you’re explaining this concept). During our journey of faith, we will go through hard times, like the Valley of Baca. When we are seeking God with all of our hearts, yearning deeply for Him, we know that He can make those dry places into springs of life. We have to rely fully on Him, from strength to strength, for each step we take on this journey. We will definitely go through difficult things in this life, but when we have a heart that longs for God, we are able to press on until we reach our destination, eternity in His presence. Then we will know Him to the fullest extent possible!
- Question: Is there something that you are missing that the psalmist had and that you need on your journey of faith? (The heart of longing)
- Pass out hearts to each child. We cannot make it on this journey if we do not have a heart of longing for God.
- Reflection Time: Allow children to silently think about this question with their eyes closed. What would having a heart of longing look like in your life? After a time of reflection and silence, allow the children to discuss their thoughts. (Desiring to be God’s presence everyday, enjoying and looking forward to times of Bible study, prayer, and worship, excitement in spending time with God and other believers, etc.)
Explain to the children that as we know God more, we develop a heart of longing for Him. When we know who He really is, we always want to spend time with Him! This kind of yearning only comes from yada knowing Him.
4. Daily Knowing (10 minutes)
The children will memorize Psalm 73:25. Explain that the psalmist in the Scripture desired to be with God more than anyone else. This Scripture can be their prayer to God to desire nothing on earth besides Him. Have them right down this Scripture on their cardstock hearts and hang them in a place at home where they can see it everyday. Remind them that this is the heart that God wants them to have, and as they begin to know God intimately, they will experience a deeper longing for His presence.
- Have a time of group prayer with the children. Share concerns and praises. Encourage the children to pray for hearts of longing and for a greater knowledge of God. Point them to His character in your prayer, praising Him for who He is and all He is revealing to you.
- Teach the children “Give me Jesus” (Words are at the end of the series). Allow them to listen silently and reflectively once, and then join in worship the second time through the song. The children can sing this song in the performance for the church body after the end of the series.
- Remind the children that their knowing of God does not end once they leave this room, but they need to pursue Him daily in their lives. Encourage them to pray this week asking God to create within them the heart of longing like the heart of the psalmist has for Him.