An Introduction To Kingdom Centered Praying

Why is How I Pray Important?

Prayer is in our genes

Have you ever complained? It's the opposite of being grateful, wouldn't you agree? When we gripe, we are really saying to God that we don't think his provision for us is good enough. What we really mean, regardless of whether we admit it or acknowledge it, is that we think things would be better if we were in charge.

What about gossip? It's the antithesis of edification. When we talk about people behind their backs, isn't there a part of us that wants to believe that we are much better than the target of our commentary? That's why we can see the stick in his eye. Of course, we've got to look around that big log in our own eye Jesus told us about.

We already talk to God in some way when we do any of these things. When we enjoy the weather we can thank God for it. When things go well at work, is it totally because of us? When we run into trouble, who do we call for help?

With our mouths we can curse or we can bless. Which are you using yours for?

But I'm too busy

I think the first excuse for why we don't pray, we don't think we know how, is the road that leads to the second. We don't have time. I'm too busy. I can't get up that early.

Sure, we all lead busy lives. We've got classes that demand four hours of study a day. The kids have soccer practice three days a week. Dinner has to be ready by six every night. Work is at least forty hours a week, maybe even sixty. Then you have to make time to watch 24, American Idol, and Grey's Anatomy. If you're a sports nut, forget it. What else is there? And what good parent doesn't play with his kids every night?

I like photography. I got a camera last summer and as I write this it's the middle of February. I'm now on my third camera. I'll bet I've taken some 2000 pictures. You could say I enjoy taking pictures. I do because it allows me to revisit my art background.

Now it takes time to take 2000 pictures. Because I care about photography, I make time for it. It's the same with anything we consider to be important. We not only can make time for it in an impossibly full schedule, we make a willful choice to fit it in.

Is prayer that important to you? Is it worth rising a few minutes earlier to do it if you claim to love Jesus?

God couldn't love me

Guilt is a big problem in our society. If it weren't, would Dr. Phil have a job?

Maybe you've done something you feel is so bad that God couldn't possibly love you. We all have a moral code. When we violate it we feel guilt. But some of our rules are man-made (or woman if you're not a man).

Most of recognize the Ten Commandments as a good set of rules to live by. And we would probably admit that God wrote those rules. Since we have some sense that there is a God. It's why we ask questions like "Why do bad things happen to good people?" or "How could God let this happen?"

That's where the beauty of the gospel comes in. No matter how much you've sinned, or how much you've trusted yourself instead of God, Jesus loves you. He loves you so much in fact that He lived the perfectly righteous life you can't live, no matter how hard you try. He went even further by taking the punishment you deserve for everything you did wrong, ever. Can you think of anyone who loves you like that, even your dear old grandma?

Because of the Gospel, we don't need to be afraid of approaching God. Jesus has already cleared the way. Your guilt is gone, erased by the finished work of Christ.

We are family

You may have the term kingdom-focused prayer. What does that mean to us in the twenty-first century in suburbia?

Christians are called to be part of a community of believers. We aren't meant to live life in isolation. I know; that sort of kills the monastic idea, doesn't it. In order to grow as a Christian, we need to be taught. If we want to learn anything from what we've been taught, we need to test it with other people.

It's the same as learning how to take a picture. Can you reasonably expect to take good pictures if you don't pick up your camera (maybe not as often as I do) and snap a few shots? It's only by doing that lessons really become your own. And unless you're learning to do it better, your mediocre beginning pictures will be the same as the average ones you take ten years later.

In suburbia, however, we have moved here to escape human interaction for the most part. At best, we want controlled contact with other humans living outside our houses. Most of us don't know who our neighbors are and frankly, we don't care. We go to church on Sunday and see people that morning, but the rest of the week we keep to ourselves.

If you're more involved than that, great! But you're in a minority. Most people don't want others knowing their stuff. The sad thing is that when they really need someone, all they have is strangers to render aid, if they even have them.

So how do we as Christians overcome that idea of ourselves as islands dotting the landscape?

First, we must see ourselves as part of a community. Our church family is one. Our neighborhood is one. Our relatives, the people we work with, and the people we have fun with are all part of communities.

As Christians, we are part of a great community that has existed since the dawn of creation. It is the church invisible - consisting of everyone who has trusted in Jesus in all times and places.

Our calling as believers is to promote God's Kingdom. We are to seek its enlargement. It grows in numbers when people who are ungripped with the Gospel have their blind spiritual eyes opened to their need for a Redeemer. Our role is to speak the truth of the Gospel into lives, live it out before them, and trust the Holy Spirit to change their hearts.

Focusing on kingdom in prayer

The vitality of prayer

In order to live out Biblical community, we have to pray. Prayer is vital to any Christian ministry's success. If our pastor prays before delivering the Word to the people, the Holy Spirit will bless it. If God's people pray that He will save the lost, He will change hearts that were once hard and cold to ones made of flesh that have warmth for the Gospel.

When we think of how we usually pray, it probably centers on self-preservation. God, deliver me from this pain. God, help me get that promotion. God, heal Aunt Martha fully. God, make me rich. And the list goes on. Yours may have different filler but I'll bet if you are a haphazard in prayer, you are guided by impulse.

Life is like a game. If you play with someone who doesn't play by the rules, or doesn't wait for his turn to come around, you won't want to play long. If you apply this to prayer, you aren't playing by the rules if you only consider yourself and the needs around you. I'm not saying that it is unimportant to be honest before God. It is. But if you want to prevail in prayer and advance God's kingdom, don't limit yourself to your own small part of the bigger world.

It's really important to play it right

You are part of something much bigger than yourself. You are a member of God's kingdom if you claim Christ. That comes with privileges as well as responsibilities.

You say you want to pray more? Then pray. But don't just pray more selfish prayers. Find out what God wants you to say when you come to Him.

Maybe you've heard the passage in 1 Corinthians 1:27:

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

What that means for God's people is that we are active participants in the execution of God's will. He is pleased to accomplish His will through the prayers of weak, flawed people like you and me.

How do we know what God's will is? If you have a Bible, you can discover what God wants you to know about Him and what He expects of you within its pages. So, really, to know God you must be spending time in His Word. Then you can know what His will is. Then you will know what He wants and pray to that end.

What people miss when they don't pray God's way

There are several things you'll miss when you don't pray with God's Kingdom in mind.

First, you won't have deep intimacy with God. If you are married or dating, how did you become interested in your significant other? That's right, you spent time getting to know that person. When you found out some things that pleased you about him or her, you began to develop a bond. As you learn more about your lover, you grow in love. You feed that hunger by discovering more and more about your special someone. Why then do we think our relationship with God should be any different?

It was God who created marriage and relationships. That's why He made it so that we grow in love for Him in much the same way we do for other people: by spending time with Him, talking and listening, and learning all about Him.

Second, if you don't seek first God's kingdom, you won't be following what Jesus commanded in your prayers. Consider what Jesus says in Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Jesus isn't saying to be unconcerned with your needs. Most of don't have trouble with that. There might be times for you when you don't know how you'll put food on the table this week. You may be in such financial ruin you don't feel you can get your head above water. Life may seem to be delivering a swirling torrent of setbacks. Jesus says don't worry; trust God to provide. He loves His people. He'll never let you be without anything you need to do what He's commanded.

Third, you won't have the peace you desire. That's a big one. And it is related to the next point which is that we are involved in a battle.

There's no peace in fighting alone. Let's see how to get God's help.

Prayer is spiritual warfare

Get your armor on

All around is a spiritual battle. Consider this charge Paul gave to Timothy:

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

(1 Tim 1:18)

We see this in Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (6:18)

This is why we do the things we don't want to do. We have an enemy, Satan. He doesn't want God's kingdom to advance. He doesn't want God's children to draw near to Him, grow closer to Him, and get more intimate with Him. When we give in to the temptation to pray later or not at all, we give the devil an edge.

We can't fight this war by ourselves. We desperately need the power of God. We enlist His power in our prayers. We plead for Him to defend our cause. If our purpose is to do His will, we can be sure that He will answer. God can and will do all He desires to do.

We can find armor for the war in the Bible. We see who God is. He is truth. When we know the truth, lies will become self-evident. When we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit speak through His word, we find strength for our battle.

Getting ready to do battle

You'll find the Gospel is central to all of Scripture. When we consider what God has called "good" we see this in Micah 6:8:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God

This is what the Gospel is about.

1) Justice - God satisfied His divine wrath by punishing His Son for our violations of His Law. The alternative is for you to pay the wages of your crimes yourself.

2) Mercy - giving kindness to those who don't deserve kindness. God did that when He showed love for us by sparing us from the eternal punishment we've earned.

3) Humility - Christ gave up all He had to live like us. He was born in a stable and lived a working-class life growing up. He had no home as an adult.

He submitted to His Father's authority without grumbling, complaining, or rebelling.

We are called to be living out this Gospel before other people. We seek justice by engaging in activities that help redeem the world we live, work, and play in. We show mercy by helping the helpless, showing them that their ultimate help is in Jesus. We are a picture of Jesus to the hurting when we show them love and understanding. Humility is lived out in submission to God-ordained authority, praying for God to lead our leaders, and supporting the staff at our church.

Going head to head

We as God's people are in a war with the devil and his forces.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

This warning from the book of 1 Peter instructs us to always be on our guard. While the devil is not infinite, he has plenty of help carrying out his wishes. This is why it's so critical to be aware that there are no moments when our enemy isn't watching us.

Before you despair and think that this war is impossible, remember that our God is mightier than Satan. It's true you can't win the war in your own strength. You need God's help. That's why it is critical to pray for God's will to be done. When you are aligned with what He wants you will always win in the end. The God who protects us never sleeps or takes a break. He is always at work even when we aren't.

Plan to win

Build yourself up with knowledge

Any soldier who goes into battle with the objective of victory goes in with extensive training. He has to learn how to work together with others in his unit so that they can muster their forces against their opponent. He has to know how to handle the weapons at his disposal. He also has to have a deep resolve that his cause is worth fighting for.

An important preparation step is spending time with God in the Word and in prayer. Martin Luther was said to have spent anywhere from three to four hours every day in prayer using the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, and the Lord's Prayer as resources. First he would get warmed up with a Psalm.

I realize that sounds intimidating. It's definitely the fruit of regular discipline. Luther was as busy if not busier than we are. The difference is that he saw how important prayer was and he made time for it.

I will illustrate briefly how that might work for you here. This morning I read Psalm 8. I'm not at the point right now where I read long passages since I like to chew on the words and pray them back to God. It's how I learn best. You'll find your own style.

Don't bite off more than you can chew at first. The first few Psalms are short and make excellent guides to prayer.

Let's look at the first paragraph of Psalm 8 and see what could be done with it.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

Consider the words in the first verse. If you take the word "majesty" doesn't that tell you something about God you can investigate?

First we can look at what it means. Webster's describes it like this:

Greatness of appearance; dignity; grandeur; dignity of aspect or manner; the quality or state of a person or thing which inspires awe or reverence in the beholder; applied with peculiar propriety to God and his works.

Does God inspire awe and reverence in you? Have you taken time to consider how great He really is?

You'll find as you are faithful to invest a piece of each day getting to know God, the Holy Spirit will bring what you've learned back to mind at the right time.

I read a Bible story to my son tonight. It was the one in which the Israelites were in the desert and were out of water. So God tells Moses to direct the leadership to take their rods and rub them into the sand. It sounds crazy and it must have been an embarrassing time for those men. But they did what God said.

After a short time, God did the miraculous. Water sprung up from that dry, hot sand! Did the men make it happen? Not a chance. God did it. He acted in conjunction with the prayers of at least one man, Moses.

This same God had the power to speak the universe into existence. He is a God who can in an instant give life and take it away. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing. Nothing escapes His view.

He has the power to save us from perishing. It is that truth that redeems us because He has done all that we need to be righteous in Christ. We need not fear. We can know that we have a God who is willing and devoted to accomplishing His purposes.

Verse 2 tells us that God is willing to use us to carry out His will! He didn't just save us to set us aside. He has purchased us to reveal His glory to the masses of blind people around us. That is our calling.

We're here to share the story of redemption. And somehow in spite of our weakness, God acts. To Him is the glory!

Father, you are truly clothed in majesty. You created everything by speaking it into existence. Though we have tarnished that image with our sin, you have redeemed us by your grace. God, I pray that you would use your people to influence the world for the sake of the Gospel. I ask that the people that surround us would see Christ in us. I pray that your image would be made clear in our behavior so that anyone who comes in contact with us would see your Spirit at work and desire to know what is making the difference.

Father, save those whom you have called. Draw lost souls to yourself. Teach us to pray for your will to be done so that your kingdom may be enlarged all over the world. In Jesus name, Amen