Tony Evans - The Program of Prayer
We have defined prayer as relational communication with God. You're not merely talking to God, you're talking to your Father. That's a relationship as a child would approach his father. Honor, respect, with clarity and honesty. God invites us to approach him. So, when we have a long-distance relationship with God because we're not pursuing intimacy, we're just coming to him for stuff, then that means that our prayer is not getting through because we don't want him, we just want to use him. So, our Father, who's operating in a whole different realm, who art in heaven, I'm going to make a big deal about your name. And after he's been given the worth due his great name, in a relational conversation with him, the next part of the prayer says, "Your kingdom come". That's as far as we will get today, those three words, "Your kingdom come".
God has a house. God has a kingdom. Psalm 103 verse 19 says that God's kingdom rules over all. Psalm 145 verse 13 says God's kingdom has dominion forever. First Chronicles 29 verse 11 and 12 says that God's kingdom rules, rules over all. God has a house, the word is kingdom, and it involves all of creation. God calls all of his creation his house, and you and I are visitors in his house. And he has house rules. These are the guidelines by which his house is designed to operate. There is an opposing house out there called the world. That system, headed by Satan, that leaves God out. And what Satan seeks to do is to get us to bring his rules into God's house. That is to have a conflict of kingdoms, because whenever there are opposing rules in the same house, there's gonna be conflict.
God is having a big problem with many of his kids, because they wanna bring the rules of the world and make them house rules of the kingdom. And God says those are not the rules of my house. The Greek word for kingdom is the word "basileia," and it means rule or authority. It has to do with God's rule over his creation. There is only one theme in the Bible. There are 66 books that only talk about one theme. Now, it talks about it in a multiplicity of ways, but it's only talking about one thing, that is the glory of God through the expansion of his kingdom. From Genesis to Revelation, you will see the word kingdom, kingdom, kingdom, kingdom, kingdom, kingdom. I can take you from the beginning of the Bible all the way to the end of the Bible, and that one word will be threaded through the whole Bible. He begins the prayer relationally, "Our Father, who art in heaven". He now comes to the rules of the house.
So, the whole point is to pursue a relationship, and as you pursue the relationship, to come under the rule. So, it is a relationship that leads you underneath the rule. Some want relationship but don't understand they gotta come under the rule. Some wanna talk about the rule who don't wanna pursue a relationship. You start with, "Our Father," this is a relational situation, but you come to the rule, to the house rules. And just as parents must orient their children to the rules of the house, God must orient his children to the rules of his house, and his house is all of creation. So, when you or me as individuals insist on our rules in God's house, that is living our lives, we will then be in conflict with the Father.
When we want to have our families based on our rules and not his rules, we're going to be in conflict with the head of the house. If we have a church and we want to have our rules for who we are and how we're to operate and not operate by his rules, since it's his house, we're gonna be in conflict with the head of the house. When a nation wants to run its government on its own rules, when God established government, because all creation runs underneath the head of the house, then creation, governments, communities, races, classes, and cultures will be in conflict with the head of the house.
So, what we are experiencing today in all of those categories are people who want to say the words but not want to come under the rules of the house. And so, we find ourselves living in conflict with the head of the house. What God is after is for us to understand the prayer. Let me say the prayer again. "Your kingdom come". Let me tell you what it doesn't say. My kingdom come. See, we want to say the word, "Your kingdom come," when we really mean I want you to do what I want you to do, and I want you to adjust the rules of your house to the rule of my house. I want you to adjust to me while I ask you to bless me. So, we wanna go to the Father for him to do something on earth from heaven while we try to get him to accept our rules.
The prayer is, "Your kingdom come". That is I am now operating under your rule, your authority, in relationship. I'm pursuing a relationship and at the same time coming underneath the rule of the house, because kingdom, God's rule, is comprehensive over all of his creation. So, when you pray, "Your kingdom come," you are inviting, you are inviting God's standards to govern your life. Now, Jesus was asked in John chapter 18, say, "John chapter 18," verses 36 and 37, Pilate said, "Are you a king"? And Jesus said, "You have said correctly I am a king," but then he went on to say, "But my kingdom is not of this world".
In other words, I'm a king, but I'm not from down here. I'm a king, I'm from up there, and my job is to bring up there down here. Jesus became a man, God became a man in the second person of the Trinity to bring heaven down here. Jesus says, "My kingdom is not of this world". So, you wanna find out what's happening in that world, what the rules are in that world, so you can pray it down in this world. Because if you're trying to bring this world into that world, you're operating in the wrong direction. My kingdom does not start in this world, my kingdom starts in that world. "Your kingdom come". We now have to understand what will qualify you to pray that prayer.
"Your kingdom come". You get into the kingdom by accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Say, "John 3:3". Jesus told Nicodemus, "Except you be born again, you will not see the kingdom of God," okay? You will not see the kingdom of God, so you enter the kingdom through conversion, being born again, becoming a Christian, but you only experience the kingdom when you become a disciple within the kingdom. Let me say this again. Accepting Christ gets you to heaven, but only by becoming a kingdom person do you get heaven into history. If you are a Christian, you're going to heaven, but if you are not a full-time follower of Christ, you won't see heaven here. The whole point of the prayer is to get heaven here. Let me go a little deeper with this, and somewhat theological, somewhat technical, but I think you can follow me here. In theology, we call God's kingdom prayer a theological dialectic, a theological dialectic. A dialectic is a tension in theology.
Now, what do I mean? The Bible talks about the kingdom that is to come, and then it talks about the kingdom that is. The kingdom that's not yet and the kingdom that's now. Let me explain. We are looking forward to the day when Jesus Christ will physically leave heaven, come down to earth, go to Jerusalem, set up his throne in Jerusalem, and from Israel he will run the entire earth. That's when you read the promises in the Bible that the lion will lay down with the lamb. That a child will live to be a hundred and still be a child. That's called the millennial rule of Christ. That's the not-yet part. We're not there yet. He hasn't come back yet. We're waiting for him.
Now, we are living today. We're living in the now. What we need is today. So, that is the now kingdom, not the not-yet kingdom. Watch this, now. In the not-yet kingdom, we're waiting for his physical return, for his worldwide dictatorship, but in the now kingdom, he is ruling in heaven on the righthand side of the Father in a spiritual rule, okay? When he comes in the kingdom to come, he will rule physically. In the now kingdom, he rules spiritually. He still rules, but he doesn't rule on earth, he rules from heaven. Now, the way he rules from heaven is through our communication system called prayer. He says since I'm not there, but I'm up here, I want you to communicate with the Father, and I will be in touch with the Father, and to the degree that I see you are committed to me and my Father's kingdom, which is my kingdom, then I will maneuver spiritually from up there, and I will give you support down here.
So, what I'm gonna do physically in the not yet, I'm willing to do spiritually now. God is still moving, but he does it through a communication device, and when you say, "Your kingdom come," you're saying I am now willing to be under the authority of the King, because guess what? It's your house. The Bible calls this discipleship. Another phrase that the Bible uses to describe being this kingdom person is coming under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I challenge you sometime this week to read over and over again Romans chapter 14 verse 8 and 9. Those two verses make a very simple point. All of life is to be lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He says whether we live, whether we die, all of life must be lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? That Jesus Christ gets to tell you what to do. That's what it means. That you are now under his authority. You can get saved for free.
In fact, the Bible says you are saved apart from works. You can't buy salvation, you can't earn salvation, you can get in for free, but once you in, God says I wanna own your life. You are not your own, the Bible says, you've been bought with a price. So, what God now wants to do is own you. If he can't own you, even though you've been let in for free, then you're gonna be in opposition to the owner of the kingdom. He says if you're gonna seriously follow me, I must become your first priority. Matthew 6:33, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you". God can be a lot of things, but there are some things God can't do, and one of the big things God can't do is be second. He doesn't know how to be second. "Seek ye first".
The first question every serious Christian should ask is what does God say about this? What does God think about this? How does God feel about this? That's why the Apostle Paul says my longing is to please him. He always wanted to know what does God say, what does God think, and how does God feel. He always wanted to know that first, and until that is first, that means you're not yet serious about being a kingdom disciple, about being underneath the rule of God. The Bible is clear, God is clear that we must come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He says you are to come underneath my authority, and if you will trust my rules, and operate by my standard, then you will see me at work.
In other words, if you're gonna be able to pray, "Your kingdom come," and you really be under the kingdom, you're gonna have to do something that's hard for me, it's hard for you, you're gonna have to surrender. And until that surrender decision is made, then when you pray, "Thy kingdom come," you're taking smack, you're talking noise. "Thy kingdom come," but only the parts I agree with, only the parts I want, and only the parts I like. Those are the parts you can come with, but all this other stuff God, I got it. Well, why you praying to me then if you have it? So now there's a decision to be made. The decision, if you really wanna pray that prayer and have a relationship and come under his authority, that is the recognition that you are now in covenantal alignment underneath God.
Ephesians chapter 1 verse 10, verse 22, and 23 says God's philosophy of history is that all things come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and that he is in charge of your life. He has become the dictator of your existence. God is trying to make kingdom disciples, not just accumulate church members. He's trying to get people who will live all of their lives consistently, progressively, growingly under the Lordship kingdomized under the rule of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and that is what he is after. He calls for surrender, and he calls for surrender for everybody. See, nobody is autonomous, independent, because that is an insult to your heavenly Father.
So, God has a kingdom, he has a rule, and we're supposed to be churning out not church members, but people who are progressively, yes, it happens over time, but he ought to own more of you this year than he had of you last year, and more of you next year than he had of you this year. "Thy kingdom come," and we'll understand that next week when we talk about, "Thy will be done". But for right now, that decision has to be made. I'm surrendered to the king who happens to be my dad, because I have a relationship, but I'm also surrendered, okay? So, what happens? Now that you understand the house, because the house has house rules, and now that you understand it, you have to come under that king, because it's a kingdom, what can you expect, okay?
Listen to the pray, "Thy kingdom come," oh, come. What he says is now you're praying to see something, a coming. That is an implementation. You're seeing up there show up down here. You're seeing heaven visit earth. Eternity showing up in time. He's talking to people who are already saved. They're on their way to heaven, but we're talking about the kingdom coming now. We're talking about what I'm dealing with now. My pain now, my sickness now, my finances now, my relationship now. He's saying now you're praying for it to come. The not yet is going to come, but right now I'm living now, and now I'm praying thy kingdom show up. Remember the word kingdom? It means rule or authority. So, you're asking the invisible King and kingdom to show up visibly. You wanna see God's authority at work in your life.
So, here's what you can expect. As you progressively, as I progressively, as we collectively progressively come underneath the King and pray this prayer in relationship, we're getting closer to him, but we're coming under him, both at the same time, then the kingdom, because the word means rule or authority, begins to rule. That is, you begin to see heaven show up in history. God's no longer a thought, a concept, or a philosophy, he's a living being who shows up. Jesus told his disciples in Luke chapter 9 verse 1 and 2 I'm giving you a kingdom, and with it I'm giving you authority. First Corinthians chapter 4 verse 20 says, "And with God's kingdom comes power".
Acts chapter 8 verses 12 and 13, it says, "And Phillip was preaching the kingdom of God, and miracles showed up". It's not just becoming a Christian, it's becoming a kingdom disciple as a Christian, and then you see prayers answered, power given, authority exercised, overruling situations. You begin to see the king at work, because you're operating under the rules of the house. You begin to see authority. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done". In fact, he told his disciples in Luke 22 verse 29, "I share with you my authority". I give you earthly permission to act from my heavenly throne.
And so, here's the principle. You cannot exercise legitimate authority over what you should be over unless you're willing to be under what God has put over you. Let me say that again. You cannot exercise legitimate authority of what you should be over unless you are willing to properly be under what God has put over you. God has told wives if you're not in legitimate submission to the legitimate authority of your husband, he tell 'em don't pray, because God's not gonna hear. God tells the husbands in 1 Peter chapter 3 verse 7, if you won't legitimately come under my authority, and you won't treat your mate right, then don't pray to me, because I'm not gonna listen. Because I can't help you to be over if you're not willing to be under.
So, the whole point is, "Thy kingdom come," has rules, and your first question should be what are the rules of the house? And God, I will adjust my life to your rules, because this is your house. Now you can pray, "Our Father," because I want a relationship, "Who art in heaven," and I know you're located a long distance, but I'm gonna make a big deal about your name, because I love you, Daddy, oh, by the way, I need you to come down here and help a brother out. I need you to come down here because I'm in need of something on earth that only heaven can fix.
Now you've gotten heaven's attention, because he now knows that you're willing to place yourself under his authority which leads to where we're gonna go next week, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". So, this kingdom concept, the comprehensive rule of God out of relationship over all of creation, you develop this mindset, you grow in this mindset, and will get to get forgiven for when you don't have this mindset. "Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors". When you put this package of the Lord's Prayer together, you're not just praying a prayer or saying repeat after me, you're now talking to authority. You're now operating kingdomized. You're now taking the challenge of being able to operate under the rule of God and seeing heaven in history.
So, I just wanna know if anybody in here needs to see heaven in history? If anybody needs to see the Father at work on earth? Well, that privilege is there, but it's gotta be his kingdom, because it's his house. In the Olympics, when an American wins a gold medal, they stand on the middle platform, but they don't come and ask 'em, "What song do you want us to play"? They don't say, "What's your favorite song"? Un-uh, they play the National Anthem. They play America's song, you know why? Because that winner is part of a kingdom. They're part of it. They represent the United States of America, and even though they used their prowess, they belong to something bigger.
You're unique, God has given you certain gifts, times, talents, treasures, but he wants you to play his song. He wants you to recognize this ain't all about you, you belong to another kingdom, and I want you to recognize that you represent me at home, at work, at play, and with every area of your life, represent the King and the kingdom. Your prayer is not my kingdom come, it's, "Thy kingdom come". And when God sees that you want his kingdom, then the King, who happens to be your daddy, would love to show you divine authority in history.
Just as the lighthouse behind me here in one of the harbors in Ireland provides guidance for ships trying to navigate the safety of their journey, God has a plan and a will for navigating our lives according to his kingdom program. And when we look to the lighthouse of his will, we can handle the turbulences of life as we move from where we are to what God wants us to be. So, look to God and his will, and then you will fulfill his kingdom plan for your life.