For most of my life, (since around five years of age), I‘ve had the privilege of being involved in a church. Whether it was attending, speaking, or leading, I’ve observed church life from a distance and close-up; as an outsider and insider. I realize there are some who have harsh criticism of the institution Jesus died for and as a result of personal hurt, division, watching the failures of leaders or other issues, have written off the church in favor of what they perceive as safer, less challenging environments. Of course, the church has issues because we are made of people with issues; that’s what Jesus died for. A church without issues probably isn’t a church but more of a religious social club masquerading as a perfect misrepresentation of what Jesus intended us to be. In spite of this, over the years I’ve met some of the most honest, kind men and women, full of integrity and who understand what a real relationship with Jesus is; in this institution Jesus died for- his church.
Recently, I’ve been looking at the words Jesus gave to his church and how he instructs us to pray. We call it the Lord’s prayer but it really is a guideline of how we can communicate with God.
Matthew 6:9 "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen."
This is really the way Jesus teaches us to selflessly pray and revolves around the will of God and His Kingdom rule here on earth. Over the years, I’ve heard many prayer requests that cover a wide spectrum from headaches to heartache and have seen the Lord respond many times to assist his creation. I’m grateful for a gracious God who hears and answers. However, as I listen to prayer requests, look at prayer lists and see how we communicate with the Lord, I fear we are taking the greatest privilege given to us and minimizing it to smaller things that only matter to us and making “insider” prayer requests that have nothing to do with a world that needs Christ.
“Please pray I get my lawn mowed before it rains”; “Please pray I can find a new car.” “Please pray I can get my roof fixed,” may be valid prayers but fall far short of the intent Jesus had when he asked us to pray Kingdom prayers. Consider the most influential people in history prayed beyond themselves and became some of the most influential people who ever lived. Abraham prayed for a city and family member to be spared from destruction. Jacob asked to know the intimate name of God; Moses prayed for a rebellious nation to be spared and Joshua asked for the sun to stand still. Nehemiah asked to rebuild a city, Paul prayed for His divine mission to be fulfilled and Jesus asked for a world of sinners to be transformed. Throughout history, men and women like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, Charles Finney, Aimee Semple Mcpherson, David Brainerd, George Muller and a host of other people of faith, literally changed millions of lives and altered the course of history through bold praying.
As long as we continue to pray myopic church prayers, we may fall prey to our own limited vision of what God can and wants to do and ultimately, never see the greatness of God beyond ourself. As leaders, we must help people understand when Jesus asked us, to ask and receive, it was in the context of a worldwide mission that His disciples would soon begin to fulfill.
Yes, pray for all your personal needs but remember that a world of answers is waiting on us as we pray for a world that needs the only answer necessary; an encounter with the person of Jesus.
“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!” John 16:23,24 Message