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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Kingdom Prayers
Text:LD 48 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-05-02
Updated:2021-07-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 35:1,4                                                                                            

Hy 1

Reading – Acts 4:1-31; Ephesians 3:14-21

Ps 2:1,2,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 48

Ps 145:1,4

Hy 46:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, if you’re from a commonwealth country, then Queen Elizabeth II is considered your head of state. And she certainly has a presence in the commonwealth countries. For example, her profile is on all our coins, and lots of things are named after her. So we’re used to the idea of queens—and kings too. Unless we become a republic, one day we’ll have a King Charles, then a King William.

Matters of royalty and kingdoms aren’t strange to us. Yet our view of such things is probably lacking. These days the Royal Family is often treated like just another group of celebrities, their lives under the microscope and in the tabloids. What are they wearing? What are they saying about each other? And we see the Queen as having mostly a ceremonial role, opening hospitals and unveiling commemorative plaques.

The Bible speaks of royalty in a different way. For our God is King, Lord over all! And his kingship is about fighting the joint forces of the evil one, resisting his advance, until the final victory is seen to belong to our God. Psalm 2, for instance, tells us that God is enthroned in the heavens and laughs at his enemies. And the LORD, Psalm 103 says, has a universal kingdom, with power over all. In heaven our King sits with his mighty sceptre in hand, says Psalm 110.

These are powerful truths. They’re far removed from our image of a gentle and grandmotherly queen and her fashionable offspring. That God is King means the cause of his Kingdom is the great driving force of world history, and that his Kingdom must be the priority of our lives. So Jesus taught us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come. I preach from Lord’s Day 48,

We pray for God’s Kingdom to come:

  1. a prayer offered to the sovereign Lord
  2. a prayer to receive his almighty power
  3. a prayer for building his holy church

 

1) this is a prayer offered to the sovereign Lord: When you’re in the military, you learn about something called ‘the chain of command.’ Among the different ranks, there are duties and responsibilities according to your rank. For example, a private doesn’t have a whole lot of authority for ordering anything to happen. A lance corporal is just a little better. So if you want something done, you have to move up the chain of command, until you reach someone with the right authority, like a lieutenant or captain. Go high enough, and things start happening.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we go right to the top. At the very pinnacle of the chain of command—indeed, as the only sovereign—is the King, the Lord our God. If we want help, we can go to him. And we can go to him, exactly because God rules over all.

This is an important truth for our prayers, that we pray to the God who is qualified to hear and answer our requests. From his exalted throne He’s willing to notice and respond to us. We pray, trusting that this great King is ready to help.

For example, when we pray for our daily bread, we’re asking the Ruler of creation to provide for our daily needs. Can He do it? Can God deliver us from all shortage and want? Can God take away our worries about money, our job, or the overdue bills? Can God tell our hearts that everything will be fine? He can, for He is the sovereign Lord.

Or when we pray for the forgiveness of our sins, we’re asking the Righteous Judge to have mercy. Can He do it? Can God overlook the very worst of our sins? Can He see the filthy hearts of those who bow before him, decide to take away our guilt, and announce that we’ve been found innocent before him? He can, for He is the sovereign Lord.

When we’re dealing with the trouble of a migraine, or we’re wrestling with the worry of a dayplanner that’s far too full for the third week in a row, God might grant us this confidence. We say to ourselves when we’re done praying: “It’ll work out. I don’t see how, but I know it will. God my Father and King will provide and carry me through.” That is the beginning of faith. We’re actually starting to trust.

But what about healing a serious illness, just taking it away completely? What about bringing a rebellious child back to the church? What about restoring a family relationship that has been broken to pieces? And what about stopping the Chinese government from persecuting Christians in China, or ending the pandemic and all its misery? Can our King do these things, too? And if He doesn’t do them, can we still trust his wisdom and love?

We sometimes pray that He’ll soften a hardened heart, but not think it’s going to happen. We pray that our neighbours will come to church with us, but we kind of doubt that we’ll ever see the day. We doubt it, because the full extent of God’s Kingdom is invisible to us. We don’t see his glorious throne, high and exalted, and we don’t see the great armies that He commands. Our King’s power seems out of reach.

Yet we can be sure when we pray, says Jesus, for God’s is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever! We can’t see it, but we can believe it. Remember what happens in 2 Kings 6. The Arameans were besieging a small city in Israel because that’s the place where the prophet Elisha was staying. They’d sent a powerful military force in order to capture this prophet of the Lord. And when Elisha’s servant sees the army all around the city, he cries out in despair. This is hopeless: 10,000 against 1. It’s the kind of situation where you hardly dare to pray, things look so impossible.

Yet Elisha encourages his servant, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v 16). And then Elisha prayed, “LORD, open his eyes that he may see” (v 17). And the servant’s eyes were opened. This time when he looks around the city, the hills are alive with horses and chariots of fire. This was no earthly army, it was the army of the great King! These were the mighty warriors of the LORD, sent to protect his people.

We’ve never had such a vision, yet God’s Kingdom is present. His glory and majesty surround us, as it did in the days of Elisha. God remains the sovereign Lord, the all-powerful commander, the King over all. Whenever you pray to him, whatever your condition, however you’ve been struggling, be assured that you’re going to the right place! Even when we feel hopeless, remember that we call on the mighty King who can do all things.

There’s an example of this kind of prayer in Acts 4. Peter and John have just been arrested by the Jewish leaders for preaching of the gospel. This time, they have to let the apostles go. Yet everyone knows the attacks won’t stop. Before long, some will be scatted, more imprisoned, and even James and Stephen will be killed.

So what does the church do? Flee for the hills? Scale back their plans for mission? They pray to their King! Listen to their petition: “‘Lord, you are God’ they say, ‘who made heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them (v 24). Underline that powerful opening of adoration: “You are ruler over all,” they say to God, “You govern everything in the universe. As Creator, you have all power and dominion. You are King.”

Of course, earthly rulers can have immense power and still be caught off guard by the events of tomorrow. But God our King is sovereign even over the dimension of time; He sees behind and before all things. So the church was greatly comforted that God knew all this hostility would arise. He predicted it in Psalm 2, quoted by Peter: ‘The nations will rage. The peoples will plot. The kings of the earth will take their stand against the Lord.’ God’s kingdom is at war every day, yet the King is on his throne, seeing his enemies, knowing their schemes, controlling their plans.

Even when Jesus was crucified, this was by the King’s decree. It looked like everything was collapsing, but this was at the King’s command. The believers confess, “[They did] whatever your hand and your purpose determined before to be done” (v 28). ‘Your hand moved it. Your purpose was behind it all along.’ His hand was moving when Christ was killed, when the apostles were imprisoned, when the church was scattered.

Has that changed today? When disappointment comes, God is King. When bones are broken, God is King. When marriages falter, God is King. So too, when disease cripples the nations, and churches are burned, and wickedness thrives, God is still King. All these things are what God’s “hand and purpose determined before to be done.”

Praying “Your Kingdom come,” we pray to a sovereign Lord, who knows us and sees us. That’s very different from how we sometimes feel about those who are in charge. We feel isolated from our governments. They’re far-removed from the daily concerns of our lives and don’t understand our situation. But remember how we begin this prayer: “Our Father who is in heaven…” This majestic King and almighty Governor is also our Father. This God who rules over all things, is ruling them for us.

You can wait outside the gates of Buckingham Palace all day, and the Queen won’t talk to you. As far as she’s concerned, you’re not even there. But God your King wants us to call on him at all hours of the day. He wants us to come into his presence boldly and there to pour out our hearts. He lets us come in Christ’s name, and He promises to answer us in perfect wisdom.

 

2) this is a prayer to receive his almighty power: Every king and earthly ruler is surrounded by important people. These are the people with the privilege of carrying out orders. The queen has her “ladies-in-waiting” and private secretaries. The prime minister or president has his staff. As King, our God has servants, too: the angels. Psalm 103 says, “Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word” (v 20). These angels are messengers for the Lord, protectors of his people, even warriors against the evil one.

But God has other servants, too. The King entrusts his will to a privileged community of subjects, and He calls them to carry it out. Who are the royal servants of the King? Look around you. Look in the pew in front of you. Glance beside you. Go home, look in the mirror. These are the servants of the almighty Lord, those called as prophets, priests—yes, even kings and queens!

It means the coming of God’s Kingdom isn’t a spectator sport like premier league soccer. Neither is royalty something merely to observe through reading the tabloids or watching dramas on Netflix. No, we are called to participate in the Kingdom. We’re meant to join personally in the service of the King!

Think of the many parables of the Kingdom. Jesus said the Kingdom requires you to put your talents to work. The Kingdom is about getting out into the vineyard and sweating through the heat of the day. The Kingdom means you have to labour in the fields for the harvest.

In short, the Kingdom takes work. We pray that God’s glorious Kingdom will come through us. We pray, “Rule us by your Word and Spirit, that more and more we submit to you” (Q&A 123). The great King has given us noble work to do, given a high calling, so we pray that we’d be ready to do it. And so we need to pray for the King’s power.

This is what the believers do in Acts 4. They’ve just caught a glimpse of the battle lines and witnessed the damage that the church’s enemies can inflict. Seeing what is at stake, they feel inadequate—which is something very good for a Christian to feel! It’s good to come to the end of yourself. It’s good to feel weak, even to feel hopeless. For then, finally, we are ready to seek the Lord and to depend on his mighty strength.

In their hour of need, the church prays: “Lord…grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, by stretching out your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (vv 29-30). Listen to what they pray for: for God’s equipping Spirit, for the right words to say, for courage to stand. They pray to be faithful instruments in the King’s hand. It’s bold, but as servants of God, they have every reason to expect his help.

We can offer the same kind of prayer today, a prayer for God’s almighty power. And it begins with asking, “What orders does the King have for me? What does God want me to do for his Kingdom?” And if you ask, God will direct you by his Word, and direct you by his Spirit.

And then, with God’s orders on our heart, we pray: “Lord, grant to your servant strength and boldness. Equip me, enable me, encourage me!” And God will. If it is your earnest desire to serve in God’s Kingdom, then He’ll put you to work and give you strength.

So we pray things like this: “Grant that with all boldness I may speak your word, when I’m with the children at home, when I’m with my colleagues at work, or in my class at university. LORD, please stretch out your hand in my life and show your glory through me—show your glory through how I love others, and how I am willing to give, and through my hope and my self-control. Let others see in me the glory of the King.”

On that note, listen to the prayer in Ephesians 3. There Paul prays, “[I pray] that [God] would grant you, according the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man” (v 16). This is a servant’s prayer to his King, for we need fortitude to resist Satan’s temptations. We need endurance to fulfill our daily obligations. We need the inner conviction to keep the Kingdom first. We need to be strengthened with might in the inner man!

As servants of the King, we can’t serve if we’re running on empty—empty because we’ve spent everything on our own pursuits. We can’t serve God, if we’ve forgotten why we’re here, and we’ve been busy building our own little kingdom. Instead, we need Kingdom strength from God, and a Kingdom vision.

So pray to be strengthened with might in the inner man. “My Father, my King in heaven, please supply me with what I need to submit to you. It’s a new day, with new responsibilities and callings, so please fill me as I work in your Kingdom. Lead me by your Word and Spirit, and make me ready to do your will.”

 

3) this is a prayer for building his holy church: There are some churches in Europe that took more than a hundred years to build, even hundreds of years. Imagine being part of a project that you won’t live to see completed. Yet people gladly took part, did their assigned task, and finally got it done. That’s what being part of God’s kingdom is like. We’re part of something eternal, something much bigger than ourselves. We might not see the end of it in our lifetime. But we know it will move forward through the willing work of God’s people.

And prayer is actually a central way to share in this project. For prayers have power, more power than any feeble thing we might do. Our prayers go right to the throne room of the sovereign Lord. So how do we pray for the kingdom?

In this petition, Christ teaches us to pray: “Preserve and increase your church. Destroy the works of the devil, and every power that raises itself against your holy Word” (Q&A 123). Notice the importance of praying for the church. This means praying for God’s people in all their many needs and situations.

For example, we should remember to pray for believers that are persecuted, in places like Egypt and China and Indonesia. To pray for the work of faithful missionaries and Bible translators. Pray that God would send more workers out into the harvest to gather the elect. Pray for the many believers who suffer physical need. Pray for those Christians in government who speak up for the cause of God’s truth. Pray that false teachers would be silenced, and wrong ideologies exposed for what they are. The Lord wants that we place his Kingdom and his church near the heart of our prayers. How is that for you? Do you pray often for God’s Kingdom?

When you read through Acts, you’ll notice how the church is always praying. They pray for growth, for wisdom, for strength, for guidance. They know that if they’re going to increase, they need to pray. If they’re going to be preserved in true doctrine, they need to pray. If this diverse church was going to unify under her Lord, they needed to pray. So today: a church that truly lives in dependence on her Lord will be a praying church. And when his people pray, God will powerfully build his church.

Just see what happened after the prayer in Acts 4. “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (v 31). They received power from on high! God came near and equipped them for service, so the gospel could continue to advance.

That kind of result should make us consider our own Kingdom prayers. When we support mission projects with our money, are we also offering up many prayers for the work being done? Or do we still pray for our unbelieving neighbours, that God would soften their hearts and give us opportunities to speak to them? Or do we pray for Christ’s church around this world, for our sister churches, and for the many other faithful churches? The King commands that we do. He told us that his Kingdom will come through prayer, that his church will be surely built through our petitions.

Consider how Paul prays in Ephesians 3. “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory!” (vv 20-21). We pray, knowing that our King can do more than we ask, more than we imagine. Even so, He desires our prayers. He desires our labours and gifts. He wants that his power “at work within us” be used for his cause “until the fullness of his kingdom comes” (Q&A 123).

God’s Kingdom will come. It’s a sure thing. It doesn’t always look like it, and sometimes we forget it. But Satan’s dark dominion will soon suffer its final defeat, when God’s Kingdom comes in glory. Only let’s make sure we’re a part of it. Let’s make sure we’re praying for it, and that we’re actively working for it. Because our great King has promised to give to each one of us the crown of life!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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