21 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF PRAYER
Now this is a huge subject! So many streams of thought, but in this context, let’s look at prayer as it contributes to learning to live with God as our Father and in the love and harmony of God’s family in the environment of a hostile world. Remember, we are living in God’s kingdom in the middle of enemy territory.
First of all, what is prayer?
We have unfortunately made prayer a formal activity confined to specific times and places, when we pray aloud or in our minds, starting with “Dear Lord Jesus…” or “Dear Heavenly Father…” and ending with “…in Jesus’ name, amen.” You must end with “Amen” so God knows you’ve finished praying! It’s almost like signing off a radio communication, “Over and out.”
That’s not prayer. That’s our idea of prayer. It actually contradicts Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” or, better, “never stop praying.” How can we pray all day and all night if we pray our “dear Heavenly Father” prayers?
- Prayer is a family activity
More than anything else, children need a father. He gives them the security of an identity, and protects and provides for them in their weakness and vulnerability.
A good father is always available for his children. He listens and understands, gives good counsel and does not judge or criticise. We talk to our dads about everything. We tell him stuff, we ask advice, we make requests, we share our ideas, we go to him for comfort, reassurance, help, even affirmation and praise.
God is our Father and He is always with us. He wants us to treat Him and trust Him as our perfect Father. He wants to be part of the most personal and intimate details of our lives. He’s always available.
- Our Father knows what we need
Much of our “praying” is taken up with needs. We have to inform, explain and advise God about our needs in case He forgets. After all, He does have a world full of people to take care of, who also have needs.
This kind of praying comes from a low view of God as our Father. We see God through our earthly father which is a bad perspective, not a Biblical one.
Our Father is more to us than the checkout at a grocery store. He is our Father, the one who has our best interests at heart and has the wisdom and power to care for us in every way.
- Prayer is our access to all the resources of the kingdom
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22 NLT
Everything we need to live as God’s children in a hostile environment, a depressed economy, and a disease-riddled planet is at our disposal.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
Living in this world is a dangerous business
A father’s role is to protect his children from danger. Earthly fathers can’t always do this, but our Heavenly Father can. He has legions of angels at His beck and call.
“Therefore, angels are only servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.” Hebrews 1:14 NLT
He dispatches them in a flash to stand between us and danger.
“For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” Psalms 91:11-12 NLT
He never permits anything that does not work for our good.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT
As much as we need protection from the natural and physical dangers around us, how much more do we need to guard our minds from the deception that can destroy us and our destiny in this life.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter 5:8-9 NLT
How can we be safe from Satan’s devices?
God has provided armour that protects our thoughts… God’s armour is found in God’s Word.
“Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11 NLT
There is protection in humility.
“And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:6-7 NLT
- Our Father understands our hearts
Sometimes it’s difficult to understand with our finite minds the meaning of what the Bible is saying. Take this Scripture, for example.
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” Romans 8:26-27 NLT
The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in us. We know that but what does it mean? There is such an intimacy between the Holy Spirit, the Father and us that the Holy Spirit who understands our frail humanity, takes the jumble in our minds and hearts and presents it to the Father with perfect clarity.
I don’t understand all the details of this interaction but it comforts me to know that my muddled mind and emotions never hinder God’s responses to me. This produces a peace inside me that is unaffected by the chaos around me.
- Prayer allows us to participate in God’s business
What is God’s business?
4.1. The kingdom is God’s business.
“… Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10 NIV
We make prayer so much about ourselves, our needs and wants that we forget that we are here to fit into God’s bigger story. We know that Jesus spent time finding out what the Father wanted Him to say and do.
“Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” John 5:19 NIV
When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are not dispassionate spectators but enthusiastic participants, involving ourselves in the Father’s business as partners with Him.
Jesus gave us this instruction,
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT
The greatest blow to Satan and his thirst for control is to do whatever we can, by word or deed, to represent the kingdom of God where we are. In partnership with the Holy Spirit, like Jesus, we should be on the alert for opportunities to put God’s kingdom on display.
4.2. God’s family is His business
The New Testament is dotted with “one another” instructions. Why is this? Caring for one another is one of the only two commandments in the New Covenant.
“And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.” 1 John 3:23 NLT
I don’t think we can be more loving than by praying for one another. Paul’s letters are full of examples of the prayers he prayed for his fellow believers. His concern for them was reflected in what he prayed for them. We can learn much from him about what to focus on when we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT
There are no examples in the New Testament of prayers for the salvation of unbelievers. I wonder why? Was Paul not concerned about their salvation? Of course he was, but Paul viewed them from God’s perspective. A study of Romans 10 reveals that it is believing the gospel, not prayer, that saves people.
So, prayer for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth and for our fellow believers is a powerful weapon in our arsenal of weaponry against our common enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are in this together. We have one goal, to fulfill God’s purpose for us.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV
“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” Hebrews 2:10-11 NIV
We are one family in Christ, living together in love and harmony, preparing for our eternal home with the Father by living under His authority in this evil world.
All Scripture quotations in this series
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.