(Preached at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, Wed. 4-29-15)
Yesterday, a well-known pastor wrote on his Twitter account something about all of the troubles our world is facing right now: the killings by ISIS, the earthquake in Nepal, the riots in Baltimore, and the Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage, and he ended with something like, “Come, Lord Jesus” and then he quoted part of the verse from the Model Prayer, “Let Your Kingdom come.” Well, I don’t think that’s a WRONG use of those words — we DO want Jesus to come back and set up His Kingdom on earth — but I also think that praying for His Kingdom means more than just that. Tonight we are going to look together at this second major category of prayer request that Jesus gave us in the Model Prayer: “Thy Kingdom Come.”
We have seen in our study so far that the Model Prayer is not just a “script” that we are to pray repeatedly back to God, but that Jesus gave it to us as a MODEL of the categories that God wants us to talk with Him about when we pray. Last week we saw that the opening request of the prayer: “Hallowed be Thy name” means that we are to begin our prayers with praise to God. We looked at 3 scriptural ways we can praise God, including using scripture, singing, and thanksgiving. (I’ve been delighted to hear from a number of our people who have put this into practice this week!) Tonight we are looking at the second division of the Prayer, which says: “Thy Kingdom Come.”
I. The Meaning of Kingdom Praying
What does it mean to pray “Thy Kingdom Come”? A lot of people think it means, like that pastor said, “Lord Jesus, come back and set up Your kingdom!” — and there is some truth to that — but I believe it also means something MORE than that.
The word, “Kingdom” used here in Matthew 6:10 is the Greek word “basileia”, which means “rule”, or “reign.” So when we pray for the Kingdom of God to come, part of what we are praying is that the “rule” or “reign” of God would be extended in the world.
Matthew 4:23 says that Jesus went about, “preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.” He was spreading the Kingdom — how? By preaching. God’s Kingdom is not a kingdom like the other kingdoms of this world. His “kingdom”; His “basileia; His “rule”; His “reign” is in the hearts of people, as His gospel is preached and His word is spread.
This is what Romans 10 describes: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” So the Kingdom comes into hearts as they hear the word of God. But as Romans 10 goes on to say, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” God’s Kingdom spreads in the world as pastors, staff members, missionaries, and church members share the gospel of the kingdom. So praying for the Kingdom to come would include praying for your church, preachers, and missionaries and all of those who are spreading the gospel of the Kingdom, and advancing His Kingdom’s work here on earth.
So when we come in our Model Prayer outline and begin to pray for the 2nd request, the Kingdom, we will want to pray for our church’s mission and gospel ministries; for our pastor and staff; for specific Kingdom projects we have going on; for unreached people groups on mission fields, and for the missionaries and mission projects that are on our hearts — as well as the Kingdom work that God has given to US.
II. EXAMPLES of Kingdom Praying
We see examples of this kind of “Kingdom Praying” in the New Testament:
— We looked at Acts 4 last week, and how the early church prayed after Peter & John had been threatened and released. We saw that, significantly, they began their prayer with praise (scripture from Exodus 20). But for what did they pray? For their Kingdom work! Verse 29 says they prayed: “And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence …” and :31 says “And when they had prayed, the place where they had prayed was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” And the Kingdom of God WAS spread as they went out and even more people came into the Kingdom through their witness, after they had prayed.
— In Acts 13 we see another example of Kingdom praying by the early church. Verses 1-3 read:
“Now there were at the church at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”
This passage is SO rich; I could spend a whole message or more on it — but let’s look at just a couple of things real quick:
— first, notice again that they began their prayer with praise. In fact, :2 says they were just “ministering to the Lord” — in other words, they were worshipping. It doesn’t even say that they came together specifically to pray for missions; they just began worshipping, and OUT OF that worship, God gave them direction for their Kingdom prayer and work. This just reinforces what we talked about last week regarding the priority of worship in our prayers.
— and secondly, when, out of their worship, God gave them direction to send Paul & Barnabas on mission, they spent time praying and fasting to send them out (:3). That is kingdom praying. And you know that they continued those prayers for them after they had gone out on mission as well. They were praying that the Kingdom of God would be spread throughout the world through these missionaries that they were sending out.
The Apostle Paul himself was devoted to Kingdom praying, and encouraged others to pray for Kingdom work:
— He said in Ephesians 6:19, “Pray on my behalf, that utterance would be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” He wanted the Ephesians to pray for God’s kingdom to spread through his witness.
— Then in Colossians 4 he encouraged the Church at Colossae to devote themselves to prayer, and said in :2, “praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ …”. Again, he was asking them to pray for God’s kingdom work through him and his fellow workers.
— He told the Romans in 15:30 “to strive together with me in your prayers to God.” The word “strive together” is “sun/agonizo”, literally, ” to agonize in labor/with”. He was asking them to be fellow workers with him — not physically, because they couldn’t be there — but in prayer, as Kingdom praying partners.
We could go on and on with examples like that.
— Although it does not specifically state it, I personally believe there is some evidence that Jesus interceded for His disciples’ Kingdom work when He sent out the 70 in Luke 10. It says in :1 that He sent them out in pairs, implying that He stayed behind. Then :17 says that they returned to Him and reported with joy the good results they had, and in :18 Jesus says: “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” It implies that He was back praying for their Kingdom work; that He was interceding for them as they went out, and was doing the “spiritual warfare” of prayer, and saw “Satan fall from heaven like lightning” — He saw the devil’s power crumble before His prayer and their ministry.
And then, it is significant that in the very next chapter, Luke 11, Jesus was praying, and the disciples came to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray …”. They SAW the power that Jesus had in prayer, and the power that He had in His kingdom praying. They had just seen the power they had had as they went out on mission as He was praying, and they wanted that kind of power in prayer.
(And it is significant for us that what He gave them when they requested to know how to pray is Luke’s version of this Model Prayer! If we want spiritual power — and power for our preachers, and teachers, and missionaries, and all of those who are doing God’s Kingdom’s work — then let’s pray this way!)
III. THE PRIORITY OF KINGDOM PRAYING
I believe it is significant that the place for Kingdom praying comes where it does, immediately after the praise section.
As I mentioned in the introduction, there are several items of consequence in the structure and order of the Model Prayer, for example:
— Beginning with praise
— God’s concerns are first, and ours are second: “Thy … Thy … Thy …” THEN “us … our … us …”. The requests regarding God’s name, and Kingdom, and will, all come before our own personal concerns.
— And I think that placing the Kingdom request here is an extension of that. Before we get to any of our requests, we are to FIRST pray for the requests of God’s kingdom.
We see in scripture a number of times when God tests His people, to see if He really is their God — their priority.
— One example is in regard to tithing. Are we willing to give God the first 10% of our income, even if we do not know how the rest of it is going to work out? It is a test. And if we pass that test, and give Him the first 10%, He will supply our needs. But have to be willing to give Him first priority.
— There is a very specific example in which a person was tested like this: the widow of Zarephath that the prophet Elijah met during the drought in the land (I Kings 17) He asked her to give him a little drink, and a piece of bread. She told him she only had a handful of flour to eat, and then she and her son would die. He told her to make a little bread cake for him first, and then one for her and her son.You can imagine that was a difficult test for her, but the Bible says she did that — and when she did, her bowl never ran out of flour, or her jar of oil, for the whole time of the drought. But she was tested: was she willing to make GOD’S Kingdom request to take care of His prophet, the priority, even before her own need?
I think it is similar with the outline of prayer here. Jesus teaches us here to put His kingdom’s requests first, before we bring our own needs to God. We may have something in our lives that we think is an urgent request for ourselves: maybe our health, or finances, or our job, or whatever. But He says, you bring the requests for My Kingdom first — and then I will see to your needs. But make My Kingdom the priority.
It is just as Jesus said later in Matthew 6:33, “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Jesus applies that verse for us in the Model Prayer: FIRST we are pray for the requests of His Kingdom — THEN we can ask for our own. “Seek FIRST the Kingdom …” — then our other personal requests will be added unto us. So the structure of the prayer here shows us the priority of Kingdom praying.
IV. THE PRACTICE OF KINGDOM PRAYINGSo how does this work in practice? How do we pray our Kingdom requests? You can do your “Kingdom Praying” however God leads you, but just as an example, here is how I have set mine up:
— After I open my prayer with praise (generally a Psalm, singing and thanksgiving, like we talked about last week)
— Then the first thing I do is pray for God’s Kingdom requests: pastors, staff, our church, missions & missionaries, etc.
— But over the years, I have gotten so many of these requests that I am praying for, that I have split them up over the week: For example, on Sundays I pray for our church services, as well as for pastors and ministers of music who are doing God’s Kingdom’s work that day. On Tuesdays I really focus on the Kingdom work through the church I am currently serving in. Thursday is my big MISSIONS prayer day: I pray for a number of mission points and missionaries, in Vietnam, India, Nepal, Turkey, Rome, North Africa, etc. And Saturdays I pray for God’s Kingdom work in the hearts of people who need to be saved. That spreads out the “Kingdom” requests for me somewhat, because I can’t do them all in one hour a day.
Cheryl does hers differently (of course! 🙂 She has a prayer booklet that gives you a different prayer request every day of the month for the unreached people groups in Southeast Asia that my sister is working with. Cheryl also has a little APP on her iPhone called “The Joshua Project”, which gives you a different unreached people group to pray for every day, with a little description of who they are, and some of their specific prayer requests. The APP also keeps track of how many people prayed for that unreached people that day, so she loves to glance at that and see how many are praying for them that day.
You can choose to organize your Kingdom praying time any way that you want to — pray for your church and all your pastors & staff & missionaries every day; or if you have too many, pray for different staff, or for a different country or missionary every day; you can use prayer guides or books or whatever. The important thing is that in SOME way, you pray daily for the work and the workers of the Kingdom of God here on earth.
V. OUR COMMITMENT TO KINGDOM PRAYING
Our commitment to praying for these Kingdom requests should be one of our highest priorities in ministry — and in our whole life.
This week I have been reading in Romans in my New Testament “pure milk of the word” reading. In 1:9-10 The Apostle Paul writes: “God … is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you , always in my prayers making request …”. So Paul was continually praying for the church at Rome, he said.
BUT we need to remember that they were not the only ones he was praying for:
— He told the Ephesians in 1:16 “(I) do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers”
— He also told the Philippians that he was “always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all.”
— He told the Colossians in 1:3 that he was “praying always for you” and in :9 that since the day he had heard of their faith “we have not ceased to pray for you …”.
— He also told the church at Thessalonica in 1:2-3, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love …”. He constantly prayed for their “work … and labor” for the God’s Kingdom.
— He told Timothy in II Timothy 1:2 “I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day …”
That is quite a testimony regarding his intercessory prayer — always praying for all of these churches and people. The Apostle Paul was either the biggest liar you have ever seen — or he must have spent countless hours in prayer for the Kingdom work of these ministers and churches.
We know from Acts and other scriptures that he was also out doing preaching and teaching and discipling people, but we see from these letters that he was also constantly praying for the Kingdom work through the churches. It appears that Paul must have spent as much time PRAYING for the Kingdom work, as he did actually going out and DOING it. And I think that would be a good goal for us to shoot at: to spend as much time praying, as we do “doing.” We need to realize that our prayers are as essential for the work of God’s Kingdom as the work we “go out” and do.
It’s like Oswald Chambers wrote: “Prayer does not equip us for greater works; prayer IS the greater work.”
Now, I think most of us would have to say that we don’t come anywhere close to that level of prayer — I know I don’t. But we can start where we are in our Kingdom praying: start having a daily time of prayer, AND make sure that we are including some significant time in prayer every day for requests for God’s Kingdom’s work.
We need to see that our work of praying for the Kingdom is VITAL. II Corinthians 10:3-5 says “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are divinely powerful …”. And the way that we exercise that power is in prayer for God’s Kingdom work.
Several years ago, on my last mission trip to India, 4-5 of us from our group went out walking, while the rest stayed back at our lodging. While we were out, we came across an Indian wedding, under a huge tent, with a large crowd and elaborate festivities. The hosts invited us in, since we were esteemed foreigners, and we were hoping to have some opportunities to witness, so we went in. But we had been there for some time, and none of us were getting any open doors to share. After some time, though, I was able to witness to the head waiter, and when I went to tell some of my friends, it turned out that they had ALL had opportunities to share as well. We went back to the hotel excited — but it was there that we heard “the rest of the story.” The group at the hotel thought we had been gone for some time, and some of them began to worry about us, so they decided to pray. And one of the things they prayed was that we would have an opportunity to witness. And the best we could determine, the time they decided to begin to pray for us, was the very time that God opened the door for us to share!
One of the lessons there is that the ones who were praying were just as important as the ones who were going — for without the prayer, there would have been no sharing. In the same way, we who are church members, and who stay here in the States and send out missionaries, need to see the importance of our role in “holding the ropes” for our church, staff, and missionaries in prayer. We must not underestimate the importance of Kingdom praying.
That expression “holding the ropes” comes from the story of William Carey, who was a shoemaker who lived in England in the 1700’s. He was not a preacher or a missionary at first, but his heart broke for the unreached peoples of the world. They tell us that he kept a map of the world on the wall in front of the bench where he made and repaired shoes, and he would pray over that map. One day he went to a meeting of the London Missionary Society, and at the meeting they asked the question: “Who will go down to the heathen and take them the gospel?”
Carey answered: “I will go, … but you must hold the rope for me.”
The picture, of course, is that of a person who is going down a well, or a steep mountain, and they have people behind who are “holding the ropes” for them to keep them steady and safe. That expression “holding the ropes” has become a popular expression for the responsibility of those of us who do not go on mission, that we will support those who go with our giving — and especially our praying.
So we see that Kingdom praying is one of the single most important responsibilities we have in our Kingdom work. We need to make sure that every day, as part of our morning prayers, we are doing our part to “hold the ropes” for our church, for our pastor, our staff, our ministry leaders, and missionaries — and whatever work God has called us to do personally for the Kingdom.
Remember that quote from Oswald Chambers: “Prayer does not equip us for greater works; prayer IS the greater work.” And that’s what we are doing when we PRAY for KINGDOM requests.
Let’s practice some of that “greater work” together right now, following the outline of the Model Prayer:
— Psalm 42
— (Jim lead in worship songs: “As The Deer” & “Seek Ye First”)
— pray for at least one of our staff members tonight
— pray for one aspect of our church’s ministry — whichever is on your heart
— pray for a lost person to be saved
— pray for a missionary you know; for a mission country on your heart: Romania (Stefan Berci); India (Ebenezer mission) NEPAL in aftermath of the earthquake; other …
GOD’S WILL: for yourself/someone you know (Josh/Dave/ Chelsea Riddle)
— others on your heart
— your own special requests
— Ask for your own
— Ask God to show you anyone you haven’t forgiven
Ask God to protect your marr/family/kids/ someone traveling/ guard our church from Satan’s schemes