Prayer Changes Things… Like Our Hearts – Psalm 119

The second message in our 21 days of prayer and fasting

Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

 Sermon Video

Sermon Audio

Sermon Notes

Is there a couple in your group of friends or in your family that to look at them you would never have thought they would get together? A couple that you think, just based on a superficiality, you’d never think would work out? However, once you get to know them, how they relate to one another, what they have in common, you can see how they click? When you get to know them you see the love they have for one another and how it draws them together. There are many things in life that based upon a superficial knowledge, it doesn’t make sense how it comes together. However when you dig deeper, it makes complete sense.

When the Jews celebrate this important week of passover, they read Song of Solomon. If you have only a general awareness of passover and a general awareness of the Song of Solomon, that doesn’t make much sense…Passover is one of the major Jewish holidays. Passover is the celebration of God’s deliverance from Egypt through the death angel. When a death angel passed through Egypt and every doorpost where there was not the blood of a lamb spread, the oldest son of that household would perish.

The Jews had prepared for this passing over of the death angel by sacrificing their best lamb, eating it’s meat, and spreading its blood over their entry ways to their house…

It was a way for them to show they trusted in God to keep them safe, but it also pointed to the day that Jesus would come and be the passover lamb for us, his body would be broken, his blood would be spilt so that the judgement of death would pass over us.

Jesus would take passover with his disciples and establish a new tradition for them, one that we follow to this day. The ritual of drinking the cup of grape juice which represents his blood and eating unleavened bread which represents his body, both of which were given for us.

Jews continue to celebrate Passover look back to the night in Egypt. We celebrate communion looking back to the cross just outside of Jerusalem. Now, this seems out of place if your familiarity with Song of Solomon is that it’s the book about love and its the book that’s extremely erotic in its poetry…

Song of Solomon might seem out of place to you if you only know about it as the book of the Bible that has a lot of allusions to sex.

Song of Solomon isn’t just about sex, its about love and what the Jews are recognizing by reading Song of Solomon is that Passover isn’t just about blood and sacrifice, its about love.

Similarly, I want you to see that Prayer isn’t just about getting God to act on our behalf, it’s about love.

Prayer is about more than asking God for help.

Prayer is about love.

What we read in the Song of Solomon is not a cheap sexual experience, it’s not a one night stand, it is a loving relationship between two people who adore one another, long to be with one another, to speak to one another, to write to one another, to simply be together.

It’s a book of intimacy and not merely sexual intimacy, but personal intimacy. This is what God desires to have with us, what we are designed to have with God, a relationship. An intimate relationship.

In our culture, sex is often portrayed as something that comes at the beginning of the relationship, in a hook-up culture the idea of meeting merely for sex is lauded as natural and normal…but sex is meant to be the fulfillment or destination of a strong personal relationship, not the substitute for one.

Hopefully everyone is on the same page with me on that, hopefully everyone here gets that a relationship where you only come together for sex is not an intimate relationship anymore than a prostitute has a intimate relationship with his or her client.

With our heads in that space, with our heads clear on the difference between sex and intimacy, let me ask you what your prayer life is like…

Is your prayer life such that you merely come to God to get what you want? That when you’ve got what you want you then are done praying and you only return to prayer when once again you need something?

Prayer is meant for more than wish or need fulfillment.

God has not made prayer available to us so that we can merely get what we want, God is happy to answer our prayers and he takes delight in answering prayer, and prayer absolutely changes things, prayer grasps the heart of God and he moves to respond, he hears our cries, he answers our prayers… So prayer is definitely about that, but it’s more than that…

What I want you to see is that we have missed the true nature of prayer if we treat it as something we pull out when we need something.

Prayer is not 911 that we call on when catastrophe strikes…

It’s not mobile ordering that we use when we want to call ahead…

It’s not like a genie in a bottle that we turn to when we have a wish

Its’s not a hookup we make when we want something…

In Psalm 119:57-64 we see how prayer changes us more than anything else…

Let’s read that together.

One of the characters in Greek mythology is the supposed “god” of Antaeus. Antaeus was the son of the Greek “goddess” of the earth, so Antaeus gained strength from the ground. Whenever he was in contact with the ground, he was strong and renewed.

The story of Antaeus’ battle with Hercules is that Hercules was much stronger than Antaeus but whenever he battered Antaeus and threw him to the ground, the ground would revitalize Antaeus and heal him.

So Hercules picked him up off of the ground and crushed him while holding him up in the air…

It’s not clear if our idea of “staying grounded” comes from this story, but the moral it attempts to teach seems to be that we must stay grounded, stay connected to our source of strength if we are to be successful, if we are to achieve our goals, if we will avoid being broken down, beaten up, and crushed…

Prayer keeps us grounded to our source of strength.

The poet begins this stanza of his epic poem about God’s Truth with

v. 57 “Thou art my portion, O Lord!”

The word that the poet uses is “portion” which means my share, my part and it was often used to speak of a tract of land that a man owned. In an agricultural society, if you didn’t have land you were nothing. If you didn’t have land to grow your crops and for your flocks to graze on, you had little. Your life was bound up in and upon the land…

The poet says, God you are the substance of my life. You are the ground where I get my strength, you are the source of my strength, you are the source of my life.

Jesus would refer to himself as the Living Water and the Bread of Life. He is our source of strength and hope…

Prayer brings us back to a recognition of this, fasting does too.

When Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, Satan comes to Him to tempt Him and he says, you must be hungry why don’t you turn the stones to bread?

Jesus says, man does not live by bread alone!

Jesus is saying that more than he needs bread, he needs God!

This foundational truth, this powerful principle is clear to the poet here because of what he was been engaged in, we see from the following verses he has been engaged in prayer.

v. 58 “I entreated thy favour with my whole heart:”

I begged for your favor, I was calling out to you in prayer. God I was asking you to move, God I was asking you to help me, God I was asking for your blessing…

Then something happens…

59I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.

60I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.

In prayer, I thought on my ways, realized how much I need you, turned my feet to your truth and then I made haste and delayed not to keep they commandments…

Time in prayer, reflecting upon his own ways and upon God’s power caused him to run toward God!

In prayer there was this intimate exchange, this getting to know one another, this getting to see himself in a different light and getting to see God’s goodness up close and it causes him to RUN toward keeping God’s commands.

When we enter into God presence in prayer and in His word, we see our selves in a new way, our hearts are turned toward His truth and we are moved to run toward HIM!

If you have ever been in love, you’ve experienced this in some degree, you have spent time with that person, gotten to know them, conversed with them, laughed with them, shared with them, and when you’re in their company you see yourself differently, you see yourself longing to set aside your plans so that you can set off on a new plan together… You wish to run toward that shared life.

Many people who never pictured themselves settling down and having kids can not picture themselves doing anything else once they meet the one.

Eugene Peterson writes that in the old civilizations in the middle east it’s common to find that modern structures are built upon the foundations of buildings that are hundreds and hundreds of years old- even through the people who live there don’t know it, the generations before them who returned to their broken and war torn towns would repair and rebuild by using the same foundations and cornerstones that were placed generations before them…

We often live our lives not realizing what foundations we have been blessed to walk upon, that even though the building has been broken down and repaired and rebuilt, there is a foundation that generation before us built back upon…

For believers, when we get grounded, when we get back to the Bible and back to spending time with Christ, we find that there are foundations, truths, graces, mercies, and providences that have been there all along but have become forgotten… They’ve been covered up by the building, going, and doing of every day life.

Every revival and major move of God has come about, not as the result of a new development in strategy, technique, or method but when God’s people get back to the foundational elements of spirituality. When the people turn back to their Bibles and dedicate themselves in prayer the results are dramatic….

We experience God’s power and transformation most when we connect to the ancient foundational truths.

Community Groups is not a new idea, but an old one.

We are establishing Community Groups and Bible Studies with the strategy of John Wesley as a template who developed his plan from Christ’s example with the disciples.

In Robert Gallaty’s book he lays out how John Wesely’s strategy was to establish Gatherings, Societies, and Bands.

Services, Community Groups/Bible Studies, and Discipleship Groups.

Based upon Jesus’ strategy of 70-120 followers, 12 disciples, 3 in the inner circle….

These are just tools for bringing people into close contact with God through His word and in prayer with other believers.

Whenever the people turn to their Bibles and dedicate themselves in prayer the results are dramatic….

We see this happening in the life of the poet.

Look at the verses that follow…

61The bands of the wicked have robbed me:

but I have not forgotten thy law.

They can take everything from me, but they can’t take my love for you and your truth!

62At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.

I praise you all the time, even at midnight I’ll wake up to praise you!

63I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.

My relationships with other believers are stronger!

64The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.

Prayer changes things, but prayer changes us the most.

Prayer is a lever which nudges the heart of God, but catapults us. Last week we spoke of prayer being like digging ditches. Digging the ditches and trusting God to send the water.

Today, I want you to see another way prayer is like using a shovel. If you have ever used a shovel to pry something up, like a rock or a large limb, you know that the laws of physics make it easier to get leverage using the length of the hammer…

The longer the lever, the more power it provides.

Prayer is like a lever in that we, small beings that we are, have the opportunity in prayer to move the heart of God.

However, the lever works two ways….

If you’ve ever had the rock you were prying fall back onto the shovel, you know that it can almost catapult you.

If you have ever stepped on a rake, you know at what speed the handle can fly up from the ground..

“Levers can be used to exert a large force over a small distance at one end by exerting only a small force over a greater distance at the other.”

Prayer leverages the heart of God- prayer changes things.

Prayer catapults the heart of man- prayer changes us.