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January 8, 2018

Priorities Series: Kingdom-Focused Prayer


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NOTE FROM LUMINEX: Today is the first entry in an 8-week series on Priorities. We are delighted to have Jon Sherrill, Lead Pastor at Fifth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, begin our series by writing about Kingdom-Focused Prayer. Enjoy!

 

In the ancient world, when a disciple said to their rabbi, “Teach us to pray,” the disciple was asking for much more than a simple formula for prayer.  This was a request for the rabbi to share their view of the world through the priorities in the prayer they taught.

When one of Jesus’ disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples,” Jesus answered with a prayer which conveys his priorities.

“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2).

There is more to the prayer, but this is the first and most important line.  It is about relationship, worship and mission.

Father – This is relationship.  We may know God as the best of all possible parents who wants to see us flourish in every way and who can be trusted with all we are.  Our true identity is found only in this relationship.

Hallowed be your name – This is worship.  As John Piper once wrote, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t” (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, p.15).  In teaching us to pray this way, Jesus taught us to pray fervently that God will be known and worshipped as God by everyone everywhere.

Your kingdom come – This is mission.  Jesus builds his kingdom, not us.  But we do have a part.  We are called co-workers with the Lord in the great renewal project.  We pray God’s kingdom come; we proclaim the kingdom; and we do all we can to welcome the full reign of God to earth.

This kingdom gains ground one human heart at a time, and thus our prayer for God’s kingdom to come ought to be focused on human hearts – on people we know who do not know the Lord.

When I walk into my office at church, this is what I see.

A picture of my wedding day… baby pictures of our two boys… the date when faith in Jesus moved from my head to my heart… and an odd looking jar filled with paper.

As much as I love my family and am thankful that Jesus got hold of me on Oct. 3, 1993, the reason I show up for work every day is the jar, or more specifically, what’s in the jar.

It is filled with the names of people who do not yet know that we live in a world where a resurrection has happened.

Vicki, Steve, Tim, Natalie, Rachael, Grace, Britt, Krys, John, Amanda… and many more.

They are all people known by the people of Fifth Reformed Church.

On a Sunday morning we asked the entire congregation to write down the names of people in their orbits who do not know the Lord.  During the service we brought these names forward as a prayer offering and placed them in the jar.

And we continue to pray that God’s kingdom will come in the lives of Vicki and Steve and Britt and John and all the others.  We ask God to bless them and cause them to flourish. We ask the Lord to form faith in their hearts, to surround them with people who will bear gracious witness to the loving-kindness of God expressed in Jesus.  We pray spiritual defense for them, protection in the struggle of life and victory in the battle that wages within their minds.  We ask that God’s kingdom would come and God’s will be done in their lives as it would be if they were in heaven right now.

The experience of writing down names, placing them in a jar, and praying has helped me.  It helped me in the area of kingdom-focused prayer.  I pray it is helping our entire congregation as well.

Here are two questions with which I have wrestled:

  1. To what degree does my private prayer life embody the kingdom priorities Jesus taught us to pray?
  2. To what degree do the corporate prayers in my congregation embody the kingdom priorities Jesus taught us to pray?
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