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Do Your Prayers Match Your Needs?

Jonah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Assess the quality of your prayer life by considering your motivations to pray

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Introduction

This morning I would like to discuss the subject of prayer with you but before I do that I want to first discuss the idea of values.
What are values? More importantly what are Christian values? Simply stated a value is, “the quality of being useful or important.” When we speak about value we must also include the ideas of quality and price.
Let’s say you desire a widget but you don’t know much about them. You go out to the barn, saddle your horse, jump on and gallop down to the general store, tie old Ed the talking mule to the hitching post, go inside, find the section where the shopkeeper keeps her or his widgets. As you stand in front of the widgets you begin to try to quickly educate yourself about them. More than likely you will begin by using the price to determine quality. At some level you will make a decision regarding value.
But what about Christian values? According to David Clyde Jones
The biblical view of values is that they are objective and normative…say[ing] “These things are valuable and therefore ought to be desired and sought.” This stands in opposition to the subjective view, which says, “These things are desired and sought; therefore they are valuable, at least to those who seek them. (p.15 Biblical Christian Ethics)
Let me restate this.
If we view something objectively - it is valuable and should be desired and sought.
If we view something subjectively - we find it desirable and some consider it valuable.
God values things. In His valuation of things He also considers quality and price.
…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy or praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and seen and heard in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Think about it. says God loved, or valued, each of us so much He sent His only begotten Son (price)…that we should not perish but have eternal life (quality).
If you think about Paul’s list of values it reflects the character of God.
Friends, if you think about this the only way each of us is able to experience the “good life” is to pray to God to receive the very things He desires to give us. Besides that…He commands us to pray.
Paul demonstrates this when he says
Philippians 4:6–8 ESV
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:6–7 ESV
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
So having said all of that I would like to talk with you today about prayer. There are a great many prayers in the Bible and you have certainly heard pastors preach about all of them. Usually what you hear is pray this way or do not pray that way. That will not be our approach today. Today I want us to consider what we ask for. Stated differently I want us to consider the quality of our prayer lives.
If the Lord answered each one of your prayers today providing everything you have asked for in the very manner you desire…would you have everything you want or need?
If the Lord answered your prayers for others today…would they have everything they wanted or needed.
Clearly the answer to these questions is no. The reality is we are frail, life is complicated and evil lurks. Many times we do not know what it is we should prayer for. That’s ok,
Matthew 6:8 ESV
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”
Jonah chapter 2 records the prayer of Jonah. Let’s read about the prayer of this prophet comparing it with our own prayer lives.

Jonah 1:17–2:10 ESV
17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. 1 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord!” 10 And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.
Jonah 1:17-2:

Introduce Jonah

If chapter two were all we had to know about Jonah we would think he was fabulous. The problem is chapters 1, 3 and 4 demonstrate him to be petulant. In chapter 1 we hear that the word of God has come to Jonah. God wants Jonah to go to Ninevah and “call out against it.” The Lord intended to bring a blessing to Ninevah but Jonah was not willing. Rather than go to Ninevah he went down to the ports, found some sailors going down to Tarshish, paid them and boarded the boat going down into the belly of the ship…the great storm…Jonah said throw me overboard down into the ocean. So they chucked Jonah overboard! This is where we resumed with the text.
I should make some apologetic about a fish.

The first thing we see from the text is Jonah was willing to pray.

Look with me in chapter 1:17-2:1 READ
Apologetic about “a great fish”
You’ve heard people say “I had nowhere else to turn” well… Jonah was in the belly of a fish! Jonah quite literally made such a mess of his circumstances. Friends, have you ever wondered why you do not find stories of Jewish folks in the Bible living lives as mariners? It is because they hated the sea. They were afraid of it. Drowning for a Jew was the worst form of death. In fact their enemies would sometimes drown them to add insult to injury.
Friends you may also be saying to yourself…This is a little bit harsh for God to have a fish swallow him up. Remember…Jonah is sinning. Ninevah is landlocked. Tarshish is a coastal city. And by the way, Jonah asked to be thrown into the sea. He was trying to escape God! When you think about it a fish was the most merciful thing the Lord could have provided. The WCC states God interacts with us through Providence and Creation. The Lord could not have sent a submarine or a GPS guided water drone. He could only send a fish!
And then there’s this…3 days! What other options was he considering for three days?

ILLUSTRATE

Friends this is a really easy verse to illustrate. Each of us has things we have been reticent to bring to God. Each of us has things we still hold on to. Each of us has things we refuse to give up.

APPLY

Friends, let me encourage you to go to God quickly. His desire is for you to live the “good life.” It is not His desire to withhold good things from you. The 10 commandments are not a list of prohibitions; the 10 commandments is a list of items that will keep you in good standing with your Lord. It is unnatural to desire to do any of those 10 items.
Romans
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

The next thing we see is why Jonah prayed.

(2) I called our of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; you heard my voice
Notice that when Jonah called the Lord responded.
Notice also that Jonah equated this to calling from Sheol. The word literally means underworld and was considered to be the place of Hell.
(3) For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All your breakers and billows passed over me.
The word You had cast me is literally You made me cast myself
Jonah is very physically going down, down, down
(5) Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, Weeds were wrapped around my head.
(6) I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with hits bars was around me forever.
Struggling to swim, fighting to breathe, drowning! Jonah was not physically or personally able to fight harder than he was. Worse…seaweeds were now enwrapping his head and he has been pulled down to the roots of the mountains where the bars of the earth have shut behind him.
You might say, “He’s finished.”
Friends outside the crucifixion it is difficult to find a more emotional text. The prophet of God has gone to great lengths to escape the Lord’s presence.
Imagine how that would make you feel. If one of your loved one’s did all they could do to get away from you when all you wanted was the best for them. Perhaps this is true in your life. My mom and dad currently struggle with this. Don’t worry it’s not me! They feed me, I keep going back!

ILLUSTRATE

Maybe you are asking yourself, “How could he let himself get that far gone?”
Maybe someone in your family has done something similar. Maybe you have done something similar.
My heart breaks for drug addicts and others who live alternative lifestyles. Their vices are not what the Lord desires for their lives. They are killing themselves. Perhaps they feel as if they too have descended into the abyss, down to the roots of the mountains where the bars of the Earth have shut them out.

APPLY

Maybe someone in your family has done something similar. Maybe you have done something similar.
Reach out to them. Beg them to invite the Lord into their lives.
He will not forsake you nor abandon
Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV
6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

The final thing we see is that Jonah expected the Lord to act

Look

CLOSING

Friends
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