Praying with a Kingdom Purpose

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I am occasionally asked whether or not we should always add the words "if it is Your will" to our prayers.   This is a good question, since the apostle James' taught us to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that" (Ja. 4:15).  James was concerned that Christians not pray boastfully or presumptuously, but humbly leave our affairs in God's sovereign hands.  For this reason, when we pray for practical needs in our lives - jobs, health, relationships, etc. - we should indeed pray, "If it is Your will."

There are, however, important prayer concerns for which we should not pray, "if it is Your will."

The reason is that we know from Scripture that they are God's will.  In fact, these are the most important prayer matters and, since we know they are God's will, they should occupy the primary place in our prayers.  In my experience, most of us can greatly improve our prayer lives by focusing on these things that we know are God's will and which He has promised to answer if only we will pray.  In these matters, the problem is not that God may not grant what we pray for but simply that we will fail to ask Him.  James, again, states the situation best when it comes to these divinely-willed matters: "You do not have, because you do not ask" (Ja. 4:2).

What are these matters that we know God wills, and which He promises to grant if we ask?  To put it differently, to what was Jesus referring when he taught His disciples: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you" (Lk. 11:9).  Again, Jesus taught, "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (Jn. 14:13).  Praying in Jesus' name is praying in line with His agenda.  So what is this divine agenda that Jesus has promised to bless if only we will pray for it?

The answer is that God wills the purposes of His kingdom.  God has His agenda and has published it in the Holy Scriptures.  God's kingdom purposes are His will, and when we pray for them we need not add, "if it is Your will," since we know it is.  Shouldn't this agenda - God's kingdom purposes - form the basis of our prayers?  If our prayers reflect God's known will, the result can only be a more confident, more expectant, and more fruitful prayer life.

What are God's kingdom purposes?  The answer is found throughout the Bible, but the Lord's Prayer is good place for to start.  How did Jesus begin?  Did He teach, "When you pray, go straight to your worldly needs and concerns, which may or may not be God's will for you?"  Far from it!  Jesus said, "Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name'" (Mt. 6:9).  This means, "Father, may your name be holy!"  May your name be exalted above all other names!  May your name receive the praise it deserves!  May the glory of who and what you are - a glory far above all other glories - be known and exalted everywhere!  Jesus is telling us that the top priority of God's kingdom is God's glory.  For this reason, in normal situations the priority of our prayers should be the praise of God, coupled with petitions for His glory to be advanced in our own lives, in the church, and in the world.  These are prayers that are in God's will and are certain to be answered by our glory-revealing God.

Jesus' second priority is God's rule on earth: "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt. 9:10).  Praying for God's kingdom to come is praying for the ways of God to be known, believed, and practiced.  We pray for God's kingdom when we ask God to send forth His Word in power for the conversion of sinners and the strengthening of believers.  We pray for God's kingdom when we ask God to increase our faith and grant us a passion for holiness.  We pray for God's kingdom when we weep in prayer over the broken, asking for them to seek comfort in Him.  We pray for God's kingdom when we pray against the wicked advance of pagan godlessness in our culture.  We are certainly praying in God's will, therefore, when we ask God to bring our children up to a mature faith, to strengthen mothers and fathers for their duties, to grant wisdom and grace to the elders and deacons in their leadership, and when we ask God to bind out church together in a holy bond of truth and love through Jesus Christ.  Aren't these the truly important things?  Of them, Jesus said, "Ask, and you will receive."

Praying with a kingdom purpose does not mean that we cannot or should not pray for our own practical affairs.  It does mean that our perspective on our affairs ought to be molded by God's perspective as revealed in the Bible.  We tend to be concerned with circumstances, whereas God is concerned with character.  We tend to care about finding answers to our problems, whereas God sees the indwelling effects of sin and unbelief as our real problems.  Therefore, when we pray for ourselves we should prioritize God's spiritual agenda in our lives.  In his important parable on prayer, Jesus concluded "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Lk. 11:13).  This says that God is eagerly willing to give us what we need, and also that the best things God has for us are the result of the Holy Spirit's work!  Therefore, while I must say, "If it is your will," when it comes to outward matters of my circumstances (for which I do not know what God's will is), I can be certain of God's will when I am praying for the work of His Holy Spirit in my life.

Realizing that God is certain to answer prayers about the Spirit's work has revolutionized my prayer life.   I can look at the Beatitudes with which Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount and pray knowing that God desires these things for me, wants me to pray for them, and in His own way is certain to answer these prayers.  I can pray, "Make me poor in spirit so that I may receive your kingdom," knowing that He will send the Spirit to do that.  I can pray, "Father, make me pure in heart, so that I can see your face," confident that the Spirit will come to cleanse and purify.  I can pray the same way about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, which contains numerous graces that I know God wants me to exhibit.  I can pray for my growth in grace, my passion for Christ, my need for strength against sin, my boldness as a witness, God's blessing on my spiritual gifts for service, my faithfulness as a husband and father, my courage as a leader and compassion as a shepherd, along with many other items that I know are God's agenda for me, and I can do so knowing that these are in God's will and that He will send the Spirit in answer to my prayer.  Aren't these the important things?  Jesus says of them, "The heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Lk. 11:13).  Let's therefore pray with a kingdom purpose and with a spiritual purpose in our own lives.  Then James will be able to say of us, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (Ja. 5:16).

Posted August 9, 2011 @ 12:23 PM by Rick Phillips

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