Tuesday, September 25, 2012

God's Kingdom and Will

Part 2 of the Bible Study Series Teach Us to Pray



"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). 


Introduction 

The purpose of our prayers should be to pray for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done. Jesus himself told the Father, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Prayer is not about coming to God with our personal agendas; rather, it is seeking his agenda for our lives. His ways are greater than our ways, and his plan is always better than our plans.


Discussion

Paul Miller writes, “Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks at the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers” (A Praying Life). How should the grace of God encourage us in our prayers? 

Some people use The Lord’s Prayer as an outline for their prayers. Another prayer system many people have found helpful is ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). What do you think are the benefits and drawbacks of using these kinds of prayer systems? 


Explanation 

The kingdom of God is an important theme in Matthew’s Gospel. Read Matt. 3:2; 4:17. “‘Your kingdom come’ has a twofold emphasis: (1) it is first a prayer that God’s rule and reign would continually advance in people’s hearts and lives until the day Jesus returns and brings the kingdom in perfect fullness; (2) thus it also refers to the future consummation of the kingdom already realized in part by Jesus coming” (ESV Study Bible, 1977). Read Rev. 11:17; 22:20.

We shy away from prayers that invite God to rule our lives. They make us vulnerable. “These three petitions, though they focus on God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will, are nevertheless prayers that he may act in such a way that his people will hallow his name, submit to his reign, and do his will. It is therefore impossible to pray this prayer in sincerity without humbly committing oneself to such a course” (D. A. Carson, “Matthew” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 170-71).

“Many people wonder how God’s sovereignty can be related to praying for His will to be done. If he is sovereign, is not His will inevitably done? Does our will override His will when we pray earnestly and sincerely? That is one of the great paradoxes of Scripture, a paradox about which Calvinists and Arminians have debated for centuries.… It is absolutely clear from Scripture that God is sovereign and yet not only allows but commands that man exercise his own volition in certain areas. If man were not able to make his own choices, God’s commands would be futile and meaningless and His punishment cruel and unjust. If God did not act in response to prayer, Jesus’ teaching about prayer would also be futile and meaningless. Our responsibility is not to solve the dilemma but to believe and act on God’s truths, whether some of them seem to conflict or not. To compromise one of God’s truths in an effort to defend another is the stuff of which heresy is made. We are to accept every part of every truth in God’s Word, leaving the resolution of any seeming conflicts to Him” (John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7, 381-82).


Application

“Our ‘prayer doesn’t work’ often means ‘you didn’t do my will, in my way, in my time’” (Paul Miller, A Praying Life). When we experience suffering, our usual prayer is for God to remove the suffering as soon as possible. During times of suffering, how else can we pray that God’s kingdom would come and his will be done in our lives?

Usually, when people tell us of some hardship in their lives, we respond by saying, “I’ll keep in you in my prayers.” “‘I’ll keep you in my prayers’ is the easiest way to back away politely. Roughly translated it means, ‘I have every intention of praying for you, but because I’ve not written it down, it is likely I will never pray for it. But I say it because at this moment I do care, and it feels awkward to say nothing.’ It is the twenty-first-century version of ‘Be warmed and filled’ (James 2:16)” (Paul Miller, A Praying Life). How might something like a prayer card help our prayers?