April 5, 2009 INTRODUCTION – We have been methodically working our way through the gospel of Matthew in our pursuit to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and to be used by Him to help others become disciples of Jesus Christ – – both objectives being crucial to pursue – if we are serious about truly being “wholly His”, and about bringing about tangible change in our society.
For the last few weeks – we have been exploring the depths of the so called Lord’s prayer or model prayer – – a prayer that resulted from an earnest request from Jesus’s disciples “Lord teach us to pray.” Luke records the request in chapter 11 of his gospel.
Matthew gives us the most detailed answer to the question in Matthew ch. 6. If you haven’t already turned there, now might be a good time – we will be focusing on vs. 10
The only prayer better than “Lord teach us to pray” is praying in accordance with the answer to that prayer, which is laid out before us here in Matthew 6:9-13. This prayer was never meant to be prayed in a rote way, which is the way most believers pray it. Rather it was meant to be prayed with understanding and specificity in the context of tending your garden, or taking ownership of the sphere of responsibility Jesus Christ has given to you. For some of us, Thy kingdom come is becoming a more consistent and passionate prayer as we see how destructive the alternative is.
Sometimes we have to get to the end of ourselves and our own strength before that happens. I wonder if J. Sidlow Baxter had gotten to that place when he penned the words, “ Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.” They are helpless when we pray according to the model and pattern Jesus has given us – by the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Again there is nothing magical about just reciting this prayer. Jesus never prayed that way; nor should we.
That’s why Jesus taught that we are to start our praying off with a relational, not a robotic orientation. “Our Father” reminds us that God wants to relate to us as a Father to His children. He is not a genie. He is our loving, caring, all knowing Father.
But He is not only loving and caring, He is also infinite in power and wisdom – – for He dwells in heaven. Prayer that brings God down to our level is sick and milk toastish. His splendor is set above the heavens – the Psalmist says. Our prayers ought to reflect His greatness and sovereignty over all. “Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.”
While God is a caring loving Father who wants us to carry our needs to Him, there are things more important than our needs. And that which is most important is that which the first request cries out for – – and that is – that God’s glorious and majestic name be worshipped and magnified in every place and among every people. We ended our service two weeks ago after meditating on this first and foremost request by crying out to God with significant passion that His name, which entails all that He is – would be made known and revered in our clans, and in our schools, in our businesses, and in our neighborhoods. Now we come to the second request in order of importance from our Lord – the master prayer warrior. – – “Your Kingdom Come.” Jesus Christ says, when you see the multitudes; when you see the task before you; when you are confronted with your own weaknesses and limitations – pray, “Your kingdom come.” The great need of every individual & family & business & school & neighborhood & city is to see and experience and ultimately enter the kingdom of God.
God has a kingdom you know….. Many (if not all) of the Old Testament prophets spoke of its coming. A number of our ladies just completed a study of the book of Daniel wherein Daniel said of the coming King, whom He saw in a night vision “…to Him (that is the coming Messiah) was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” John the Baptist and Jesus Christ – when they started their respective ministries declared that this long awaited kingdom had come – – and that the proper response was repentance. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” summed up their message to a lost and wayward world.
So one logical question is: If God’s kingdom or the kingdom of heaven has already come – why do we need to pray for it to come? Well if the kingdom of God is defined as the rule, reign or government of God – – a government that is characterized by righteousness, peace, joy and supernatural power – – while He ultimately rules over all and can do whatever He wants – – He prefers to have people voluntarily embrace or submit to His rule and reign. And we do not just naturally want to submit to another’s authority.
Another aspect of this is – we are all born into the other kingdom – since we are all born in sin. What kingdom do you think I am speaking of? The kingdom of darkness that Satan rules. We know from Ephesians 2 and Colossians 1 that we are all stuck – – we are all slaves in this kingdom unless and until God delivers us out of it. No human power can do that. No amount of positive thinking can deliver me from the super human powers of Satan and his demons. Only the power of God through the blood of Christ can do that.
That’s why Paul reminded the believers that were a part of the church in Colossae that “God delivered them from the domain or kingdom of darkness, and transferred them to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” Colossians 1:14
We believers have a tendency to lose sight of this, and to almost be oblivious to the amazing resources and privileges that are ours in being sons and daughters of the King; and citizens of this great kingdom. God is anxious to manifest this glorious kingdom – – He is heaven bent on expanding it throughout the earth. His primary instrument in doing so is through His church. And the primary means by which His church cooperates and participates is through prayer. When we aggressively and intentionally pray for Christ’s kingdom to manifest in specific situations, amazing things happen. The whole spiritual atmosphere of a home or a business or a school or a neighborhood can change when the kingdom of God is manifested therein.
So why isn’t this happening on a grand scale in our Coastal region and here on the Central Coast – – if Jesus Christ really is in absolute control and if His kingdom really is this amazing, and if He truly wants to manifest His kingdom on the earth in our day? I submit to you that the primary reason is because
1. The enemy, whom we are often oblivious to, has done a pretty amazing job of distracting we believers from developing a kingdom mindset and lifestyle, which in turn keeps us from praying this prayer with any passion or effectiveness . Countless ways: here are 3
a. First he has deceived many of us into having an inordinate focus on eschatology or the end times. For much of the 20th century in the church in America – you never heard the kingdom of God talked about as a present reality – only as a future event. Do you know that the book of Matthew mentions the kingdom of God or of heaven 55 times; and only 4 of those refers to the future or being in heaven? The clear emphasis of Jesus’s teaching as we will eventually see as we go through the book of Matthew about the end times is: He is coming back; no one knows when; and we must be ready by being about His kingdom business and stewarding faithfully the things He has given us to do.
b. An inordinate focus on this earthly kingdom – specifically our two party system of government. While we have consistently said and practiced in the leadership of this church that we believers should vote and fulfill our civic duties; there is ultimately no hope in our two party system of government for solving the root problems of our society and culture. Both parties are more controlled by the kingdom of darkness than the kingdom of our God and Christ. If we took the hours that many believers have spent watching and reading the news multiple times during the day and debating Left vs. Right or Democrat vs. Republican issues, and the hours many believers spent reading the Left Behind series of books – – and instead invested those hours in seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – – we would have a lot more excitement in the United States about the kingdom of God and its glorious King.
c. An inordinate infatuation with this earthly kingdom’s entertainment culture, which includes sports. I’m not saying we should never watch a good movie, or a sporting event. But if you asked the average Christian in America what he or she looks forward to more – the next Lakers game, Oprah, CSI or American Idol Show – – or the next chance to get out and experience and expand Christ’s kingdom – – and the people had to be honest – – many would have to admit they look forward more to the former than the latter.
Well I have good news. Jesus Christ – in an accelerated way – is manifesting and expanding His kingdom – first to his church – and then through it to the surrounding culture. As He opens our eyes to its reality; and as we continue to see the devastation that is coming to our society from its having bought in to the kingdom of darkness – – we are going to find ourselves praying this prayer with more consistency, desperation and expectation.
So let’s see if we can make this more tangible and practical. What would it look like if the average Christian prayed this prayer in his daily life?
Let’s say tonight before Joe Christian goes to bed, he sets his alarm clock for 6:00. Joe does that because He knows he has to be at work at 8:00, and he knows that he is the only true Christian at his work place, and he knows Jesus Christ wants to manifest or make His kingdom known and felt at Joe’s workplace. Joe also knows that while he and his wife and children are all sons and daughters of the King, experiencing His kingdom peace and righteousness and power in their home is not a given. It doesn’t just naturally happen. So since the Bible says we are to seek His kingdom and righteousness first, and since Joe knows he will encounter some very difficult tasks to be accomplished and some very difficult people with whom he has to accomplish those tasks at work- – and since he knows the evil one wants to keep his family distracted with the things of this earth, and since he knows the devil wants to keep all those people at work in his kingdom of darkness, and in the chains of sin – – he has to carve out some time to strengthen himself in the Lord – – so that He can keep the King in view no matter what happens at home before he leaves, or at work once he gets there and things start hitting the fan.
Well after praying with his wife and children and reminding them of the King’s presence and love for and commitment to them, and asking for Christ’s kingdom to come in their home and in his business, Joe drives off to work. While on the way to work – since he already glanced at the headlines of the newspaper – he resists the temptation to listen to the latest political gibberish on the radio – and instead puts on some light worship music and begins to worship and pray. By the time he pulls into his workplace parking lot, he is full of the Holy Spirit. Since he spent some time praying for his co-workers by name, he has God’s heart for them – and is ready to serve them in any way he can.
Joe knows righteousness is huge in the kingdom of God, so he works hard to be at work a few minutes early each morning so he can be ready to make the most of his hours there each day. Unlike many of his fellow employees, he does not need a boss or supervisor breathing down his neck to work hard and efficiently. His heart’s desire increasingly is to work heartily as to the Lord and not unto men. Men may or may not notice our hard work. They may or may not reward our hard and honest efforts. But Jesus Christ always rewards righteousness in His subjects.
Joe in his quiet times recently has been reading through the gospels. He has noted how prevalent healing people’s sicknesses or diseases was in Jesus’s ministry. He knows in heaven there is no sickness. So at break time, when he decided to go for a short walk around the parking lot, and noticed one of his co-workers walking slowly towards his car with his coat and brief case, Joe felt prompted to walk over and see if everything was o.k. As it turned out, his co-worker was sick and had hoped he could make it through the day, but had a fever and was feeling worse by the hour. So Joe asked if he could pray for this guy, which though he wasn’t a Christian, who wants to remain sick? He said “sure I guess that couldn’t hurt”. Joe placed his hand on the man’s shoulder and prayed for God to heal him from his sickness.
Later that afternoon – Joe along with the other managers in his business – were called into somewhat of an emergency business meeting. Because of the economy, the folks at corporate were calling for each of their subsidiaries to tighten their belt. Joe could see the anxiety and fear on the faces of his co-workers, and was reminded and very thankful for the peace that comes to those who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. He all of a sudden had an idea that could save them thousands of dollars per month; somehow none of them had ever thought of it before. He realized it was a word of wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Everyone seized on it ,and as they all congratulated him for such a brilliant idea, he very humbly said, “Well you know I prayed with my family before I left for God’s blessing on our business. I guess He just answered my prayer.”
When Joe finished his work day and got into his car – headed for home – he realized the kingdom of God does not just naturally manifest in his home. So instead of mindlessly turning on talk radio to hear the latest local and/or national gossip, he decided to begin to worship some and pray for the spiritual atmosphere in his home. He began to pray for each of his family members by name. When he walked in the door, his wife and kids felt and sensed the security and peace that had filled his heart because of the way he chose to spend his 20 minutes or so ride home. When he was informed that the washing machine quit working and that their middle schooler came home with less than an acceptable progress report, he did not flip out. Rather he – with his wife decided which issue was the priority to deal with first; and they proceeded from there – in reliance upon the Lord for how to solve the problems.
So what if I have a burden for Morro Bay High School, but I’m 60 years old, have no children there, and rarely ever find myself physically there? If I prayed for God’s kingdom to come to MBHS, how might that prayer be answered?
1. They will be hiring a new principal soon, so God might lead them to hire a believer, or at least a person who is sympathetic to and appreciative of the church and of the importance of righteousness in the culture.
2. The Holy Spirit would seek to unite the believers and give them vision for seeing God move on the campus, whether they be staff, volunteer parents or coaches or students.
3. Believers in this Coastal Region might all of a sudden develop a prayer burden for the high school and start praying regularly for it.
4. Believing parents of students there might through their volunteer responsibilities get opportunities to share Christ with those volunteers who do not know the Lord.
5. Christian leaders in the region might begin to seek out opportunities with a staff person or two, whom they have come to know to some degree.
6. Since the kingdom of God is righteousness, the administration might make a righteous stand on some issue, even though it is not politically correct.
TRANSITION TO COMMUNION – – Matt. 26: 51-54 John 18:36 Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.