William Carey was a shoemaker who lived in England in the 1700’s, but his heart went out to the people groups all around the world who had never heard the gospel. Carey 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 all day long while he worked. 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 down (to India) if you will hold the rope for me.” That phrase, “hold the rope” refers to how a person might go down into a well, or into a steep ravine, to rescue someone — but they have people behind who are “holding the rope” for them to keep them steady and safe. That expression “holding the rope” has become popular over the years as a way of expressing the responsibility that Christians have to support our missionaries who are doing God’s Kingdom work, through our giving and our prayers.
This morning we are continuing our study in Jesus’ Model Prayer. We have seen over the past weeks 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, or outline of the things 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 to praise, including using scripture, singing, and thanksgiving. This morning we’ll look at the second division of the Prayer, which prays: “Thy Kingdom Come,” one of the most important things a Christian can pray about every day. Here Jesus tells us that we need to talk to God daily about His Kingdom work.
I. The Meaning of Kingdom Praying
What does it mean to pray “Thy Kingdom Come”? A lot of people think it means something like: ”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.” Jesus was spreading the Kingdom — how? By going and preaching the word in the world. That is how His kingdom — His rule in people’s hearts — spreads. See, God’s Kingdom is not like other kingdoms of this world, which spread their rule by means of force.
There was a report in the news not long ago that Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria were taking huge swaths of territory for themselves by going into predominantly Christian villages and hacking the residents to death with swords. That’s how they’re spreading their “kingdom” — and quite honestly, that’s how most kingdoms of the world spread their reign: through force.
But Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting.” But Jesus and His servants did NOT fight — and we do not use violence today to spread His Kingdom — because His Kingdom is not like the kingdoms of the world. His “kingdom”; His “basileia; His “rule”; is in the hearts of people, who are converted to His kingdom as His gospel is preached and His word is received.
This is what Romans 10 describes: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” God’s Kingdom comes into hearts as people hear the word of God and respond to it. If you are part of the Kingdom of God today, it is because there was a time in your life when you heard the message that your sins separated you from the King of Universe, but that King, Jesus, came and died on the cross to pray for your sins, that you might come back to Him. You heard that message, and you responded to it with faith in your heart. That is how you came into the Kingdom of God.
But Romans 10 goes on to say, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” God’s Kingdom spreads in our world as pastors, and staff members, missionaries, and church members share the gospel of the kingdom with people who hear. So praying for the Kingdom means praying for your church as we share God’s word; praying for missionaries as they spread the gospel of the Kingdom, and praying for lost people to hear the word and be saved.
God’s Kingdom is not advanced in this world by force. His kingdom is not advanced by political power. God’s Kingdom work is advanced through PRAYER! II Corinthians 10:3-5 says: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” Paul says we Christians don’t “fight” like the world does. We don’t fight with swords; we “fight” with GOD’S power — “divine power” — through His word and PRAYER. So to advance God’s Kingdom work in the world, we don’t fight; we share God’s word, and we PRAY! We PRAY for pastors; we PRAY for missions and missionaries; we PRAY for lost people to be saved. That’s what it means to do “Kingdom” praying like Jesus is talking about here.
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 they began their prayer with praise (scripture from Exodus 20). But they went on to pray for God’s Kingdom work: :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 DID spread as they went out and even more people came into the Kingdom through their witness, after they had prayed.
— Then 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 … 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; some time we’ll spend some more time with 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 worshiping. They didn’t come together specifically to pray for missions; they were just worshipping, and OUT OF that worship time, God spoke to them, and gave them direction for His Kingdom work: to send those missionaries out. This just reinforces what we talked about last week regarding the importance of worship in our prayers. When we make worshiping God a priority in our prayers, amazing things can happen for His kingdom!
— and secondly, when God gave them direction to send Paul & Barnabas out on mission, they then spent time praying and fasting before they sent them out (:3). That is kingdom praying: praying for God’s kingdom to spread in the hearts of men through the workers He sends out.
The Apostle Paul himself was very devoted to Kingdom praying, and he encouraged others to pray for Kingdom work:
— In Romans 10:1 he says: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” Paul prayed for lost people to be saved: for God’s “kingdom to come” in their hearts.
— 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.
— He told the Romans in 15:30 “to strive together with me in your prayers to God.” The words “strive together” in Greek are “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 right there with him — but as Kingdom praying partners, they could help him to do his work through prayer.
— Although it does not specifically state it, I personally believe there is 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.” That implies that He was back praying for their Kingdom work while they were out; that He was doing the “spiritual warfare” of prayer, and He was watching “Satan fall from heaven like lightning” — He could see the devil’s power crumble before them as they went. Of course, the real power of what happened was not in the disciples as they went; it was in the LORD who was behind praying. And that’s a good lesson for us: Kingdom power is in PRAYER! If we want our church to be strong, we need to pray. If we want our ministers to have power, we need to pray. If we want people to be saved, we need to pray. Kingdom power comes through kingdom praying, and no other way!
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 Jesus had in prayer, and they wanted that same kind of power themselves. And it’s significant that what Jesus gave them when they asked Him how to pray, was Luke’s version of this same Model Prayer! If we want spiritual power — and power for our preachers, and teachers, and missionaries, who are doing God’s Kingdom’s work — then we need to pray the way that Jesus taught us here! We need to pray Kingdom prayers.
III. THE PRIORITY OF KINGDOM PRAYING
It is significant that the place Jesus gave us for our Kingdom praying comes where it does in this Model: immediately after we praise God. I’m sure that Jesus put Kingdom praying where He did in this Model Prayer, on purpose:
— As we saw, we begin with praise because God is worthy of it.
— Now we see that when have finished praising, the first requests we make are all for GOD’S concerns, not our own. We start praying about: “THY name … THY Kingdom … THY will …”. THEN later, we’ll pray about “our daily bread,” “our sins,” and our protection. But God’s name, God’s Kingdom, and God’s will, all come BEFORE our own personal requests.
I believe this is purposeful. God is saying: You put Me first, and then I will grant you the other things you need. But put My name, My Kingdom, and My will first. There is a test for us in this.
It’s like when the prophet Elijah met the widow of Zarephath in I Kings 17 during a drought in the land. Elijah asked the widow 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 were going to die; that was all they had! Elijah told her: make me a little bread cake first, and then make something for you and your son.You can imagine what a difficult test that must have been for her, but the Bible says she did what he asked — and when she did, her bowl never ran out of flour, and her jar never ran out of oil, the whole rest of the time of that drought. But she was tested in this: was she willing to put GOD’S Kingdom first, even before her own needs? (We do a similar thing when we TITHE to God first, before we start meeting our own needs. It’s a test of our commitment: are we going to put God first?)
I think it is similar here in this outline of prayer. Jesus teaches us here to put His kingdom requests first, before we even bring our own needs to God. We may have something that we think is a really urgent request for ourselves: maybe it’s our health, or our finances, or our job, or someone who is really on our heart. But He says, you bring My Kingdom requests first — and then I will see to your needs. But make My Kingdom the priority in your praying.
This is a great example of what Jesus said later in Matthew 6:33, “Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God … and all these things will be added unto you.” FIRST pray for the requests of His Kingdom — then LATER we can ask for our own needs. The structure of the prayer shows us the priority of Kingdom praying.
IV. THE PRACTICE OF KINGDOM PRAYING
So how does this work in practice? We want to be practical in these lessons: HOW do we pray our Kingdom requests? I think you are free under God to set up your “Kingdom Praying” however God leads you to, but let me just give you an example of how I do mine:
— After I open my prayer with praise like we talked about last week, generally a Psalm, with some singing and thanksgiving;
— Then the first thing I do is pray for God’s Kingdom requests: pastors, staff, our church, missions & missionaries, etc.
Now, over the years, I have accumulated a lot of different requests for pastors and churches and missionaries, so what I do is split them up over the week, and pray for some different ones each day. (I got this from a man I’m going to talk about in just a minute …) For example:
— On Sundays I pray for our church services, as well as for pastors and ministers of music I know all over the country who are doing God’s Kingdom’s work that day.
— On Mondays I pray for a mission pastor family in Romania & for Grozdan in Bulgaria, who spoke here last year.
— On Tuesdays I really focus on praying God’s Kingdom work through our church, and I also pray for our Angleton Christian School, and for Dan & Meredith Shuman.
— Wednesday I pray for several pastors and workers in India.
— On Thursday I pray for several mission works among Oriental peoples in China, Vietnam, and here in the U.S.
— Fridays I pray for a couple of young ladies who have become missionaries out of churches I have pastored.
— And on Saturdays I pray for Bobby Fuller and the Port Ministry, & Jackie Fuller and her Kingdom work through the Pregnancy Help Center; and I also pray for God’s Kingdom work in the hearts of people who need to be saved.
See, this spreads out my “Kingdom” requests throughout the week, because it would be hard do them all every day.
Cheryl does hers a little differently (of course! 🙂 She has a little app on her iPhone called “The Joshua Project”, that gives you a different unreached people group around the world to pray for every day, with a description of who they are, and some of their specific prayer requests — and it’s neat because it actually shows you on the app how many other people are praying for them that day with you. She also prays for different missionaries each day, and for some individual people to be saved.
You can choose how to organize your Kingdom praying time any way that you want to: several of you have told me that you pray for me as your pastor every day, and I appreciate that greatly; I NEED it! Or you may split up your praying and pray for different Kingdom requests, pastors & staff & missionaries each day. Do it however God leads YOU to. The important thing is that in SOME way every day you are praying for the work and the workers of the Kingdom of God here on earth. And be sure that you give it the PRIORITY place that Jesus shows us, that it should have in our praying. If all you have time for, is to praise God, and pray for His kingdom work, then you’ve done the most important praying you have to do. “Your Father knows the other things before you ask.”
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.
In Romans 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 …”. Paul was saying that he was continually praying for the church at Rome. That’s good! BUT we also need to remember that the Romans were not the only ones Paul 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 (1:4) 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.”
— He told Timothy in II Timothy 1:2 “I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day …”
Paul had an amazing commitment to intercessory prayer — he was “always” praying for ALL of these churches and ALL these people! The Apostle Paul was either the biggest liar you have ever known — or he spent countless hours in prayer for God’s Kingdom work through these ministers and churches! Paul had an enormous commitment to pray — 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 let’s start where we are in our Kingdom praying:
— First, make sure you are having a daily time of prayer. That’s step 1!
— Then, when you ARE praying every day, make sure that you include at least some aspect of God’s Kingdom’s work in your prayers each day. Our prayers for God’s Kingdom work are VITAL. Like II Corinthians 10 says “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.” The way we advance God’s Kingdom in this world, is through prayer. Every so often God gives us a real glimpse of that.
Several years ago, on my last mission trip to India, 4-5 of us from our group went out walking one afternoon, while the rest stayed back at our lodging. While we were out, we came across an Indian wedding celebration, which was being held in this huge tent, with a large crowd and elaborate festivities inside. When the hosts saw us walking by, since we were Americans and were considered to be esteemed guests, they invited us to come in — and we went in, hoping we might have some opportunities to witness while we were in there. But some time went by, and none of us were getting any good open doors to share. After about an hour, though, I finally had a good opportunity to witness to the head waiter, and when I told some of my friends about it, I discovered that after a difficult start we had ALL had opportunities to share the gospel that afternoon. So we went back to the hotel excited — but it was there that we heard what Paul Harvey would call: “the rest of the story”! The group back at the hotel saw that we had been gone for a good while, and wondered if we might be having some trouble, so they decided to pray for us. And one of the things they prayed was that wherever we were, God might give us an opportunity to witness. And the best we could determine, the time that they began to pray for us, was the very time that God opened the door for us to be able to witness!
One of the lessons we learned there was the importance of Kingdom praying. Without the prayer, there would have been no sharing. PRAYER OPENS THE DOOR for God’s Kingdom work. And it’s not just overseas. We Christians here in the States need to realize how important it is for us to “hold the ropes” for our church, for our ministers, and for our missionaries in prayer. We must not underestimate the importance of our Kingdom praying.
It’s like Oswald Chambers said: “Prayer does not equip us for greater works; prayer IS the greater work.” Prayer is how Christians do battle; prayer is how God’s power is channeled to God’s Kingdom work.
So Kingdom praying is one of the single most important responsibilities you & I have before God. 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 personally to do for His Kingdom.
Back in the 1980’s, when I was pastoring my first church in Oklahoma City, one day I was reading the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, the weekly state Baptist newspaper. Near the end of the paper, on almost the very last page, was this little article, with a headline that read something like: “Missions Intercessor Passes Away.” It piqued my interest, so I read the article; it was very brief, but interesting: it was about a man who years earlier had adopted a missionary couple to pray for, and the ministry of those missionaries was so blessed, that they asked this man to pray for some of their other missionary friends as well. As word got out, more and more missionaries began asking this man to intercede for them, until so many were asking him to pray that he finally said, “I can’t take any more; (I think it had gotten up to about 200); even spreading them out through the week, that was all he could handle praying for with any quality until someone dies or retires and there is an ‘opening’ in his prayer list! Isn’t that amazing — to have to WAIT for an “opening” to get on this guy’s prayer list?!! But I thought it was ironic: here was just this little article, only an inch or two long, in what to most people is just an obscure Baptist paper — tucked away on the next to last page. But I thought: “I bet his death made HEADLINES in heaven: “KINGDOM PRAY-ER COMES HOME!” Only God knows all that He accomplished for His kingdom through this man’s prayers. And it made me want to BE that kind of pray-er ever since: to keep pastors and missions and missionaries on my daily prayer list.
I believe this is what Jesus is showing us here: Pray for His Kingdom daily. Pray for His rule to increase in the hearts of men and women all over the world. Pray for pastors, for churches, for missions, for missionaries, for the lost to be saved. Every day in your prayer time, always include prayer for His Kingdom work: “Thy Kingdom Come”!
As we bow our heads for this invitation time, let’s put this into practice for just a minute. We’re just going to have the music play for a minute, so you can pray:
— pray for at least one of our staff members
— pray for one of our church’s ministries — whichever is on your heart
— pray for a lost person to be saved
— pray for a missionary/mission field you know of;
— Many of us need to “up our game” on our Kingdom praying. If you don’t already take some time every day praying for God’s Kingdom work, ask God right now to help you add that to your daily prayers. Start putting together a “Kingdom prayer list” of pastors, churches, missions, missionaries, and lost people that you will pray for every day, or every week.
— Or maybe you’d say you really don’t have a daily prayer time at all. Ask God to help you start one THIS WEEK. Take one of the Model Prayer outlines with you and use it this week to pray. You can write different requests in it to help you.
— Or maybe YOU are the one who needs to be saved today. Ask the Lord to forgive your sins and come in to your life, to be your Lord & Savior from this day forward.