“Incline my heart to Your testimonies and not to selfish gain.” Psalm 119:36
Psalm 119 is my prayer guide for the Cruciform Life. The psalmist employs about eight different Hebrew words that all refer to the Law of God (laws, commands, precepts, rules, testimonies, etc.). Jesus said that all of the Law hangs on loving God and loving others (the vertical and horizontal relationships that make up a cruciform or cross-shaped life…see Matthew 22:36-40). So, whenever I come across these words for the Law as I am praying through Psalm 119, I substitute “loving God and loving others” for “law” or “commands” or “rules” or whatever term is used there. For example, I would pray Psalm 119:36 this way:
“Father, incline my heart toward loving You and loving the people in my life, and not to selfish, ‘me-first’ gain. Please Father, by the power of Your Spirit bend my heart toward a greater passion for You and an increasing compassion for people. Don’t let my heart be set on my own selfish pursuit of comfort and control. Take my ‘me-first’ heart and make it a ‘you-first heart’ . . . a heart that says ‘you first’ to You and every person I come in contact with today.”
Now, as we pray that God would make us Law-keepers, you and I have to keep in mind that the power to obey the Law of Love comes from the Spirit, whom we receive as we embrace the gospel again and again (see Galatians 3:1-5 where Paul chides the Galatian church for getting the Law cart before the Gospel horse). So, that means that the inclination of heart to love God and others that Psalm 119:36 asks for is one that only comes when by faith we receive the love of God for us as it is offered to us in the gospel (Galatians 5:6, 1 John 4:19). We must remember that in the New Covenant, which was ratified by the blood of Christ, God promised His Spirit would dwell in our new hearts and cause us to walk in love for God and people (Ezekiel 36:25-27, Luke 22:20). Because of Christ’s work for us on the cross we pray the prayers of Psalm 119 from blood-bought, grace-motivated, Spirit-empowered hearts.
It is the grace of God displayed in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ that bends my heart away from self-satisfaction and toward savoring God and serving people (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). So, while I pray the prayers of Psalm 119, asking God to give me a cruciform life, I must remember to ask and then listen. I must ask for a “you-first” heart while confessing the stiffness of my “me-first” stubborness, and then I must hear Him preach the gospel to me with fresh applications of heart-bending grace.