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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. Tony Evans » Tony Evans - The Priority of Prayer

Tony Evans - The Priority of Prayer

Tony Evans - The Priority of Prayer
Tony Evans - The Priority of Prayer
TOPICS: The Lord's Prayer, Prayer, Priorities, Kingdom of God

"Thy kingdom come". Everything is about God's kingdom. From Genesis to Revelation, the word "kingdom" is the driving narrative of the story, the rule of God from eternity into history, but in relationship with his people. And what God is asking you to do is to merge into his program, to merge into where he's going, to merge in the direction he's taking. And the way that you merge into his kingdom program is prioritizing his will over yours. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven".

Let me say it another way. The way you get to see his kingdom is by surrendering to his will. If you're praying for his kingdom but you're not willing to be surrendered to his will, then you don't get the kingdom part, because he didn't get the will part. "Thy kingdom come," and the way that will happen is thy will is being done. How is it being done? On earth like it is in heaven, which means if I want heaven on earth, then I must be willing to submit to his will on earth, so that heaven is free to make its presence on earth, and therefore the visual manifestation of his kingdom. So, his kingdom rule from up there to be manifested down here involves your praying, "Your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven".

Now, having said that we must go into an understanding of God's will. Now, the first thing you have to understand is the comprehensive nature of God's will. God's will is comprehensive, and what I mean by that is nothing sits outside of it. In other words, God's will is what he wants, where he wants it, and when he wants it. It is absolute control over all of his creation. For example, let me read to you Isaiah chapter 14 verse 24 and verse 27. "The Lord of Hosts has sworn, saying, 'Surely, just as I have intended, so it happened, and just as I planned it, it will stand.'" Verse 27 says, "For the Lord of Hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? As for his stretched-out hand, who can turn it back"?

Chapter 43 of Isaiah verse 13 reads as follows, "Even from eternity I am he, and there is none who can deliver out of my hand. I act and who can reverse it"? So, God's will is comprehensive. It is deterministic. When God determines that something is going to happen, and it is unconditional, I'll explain that in a moment, oh, it's gonna happen if he has to go by you, through you, around you, or get rid of you, because his will is comprehensive, because he is comprehensive. I am now speaking about the unconditional will of God, that is his will when he doesn't have any conditions tied to it, when he's gonna do it because he decided to do it because it's in his right to do it.

So, whether you work with me or don't work with me is irrelevant, because in my unconditional will, I have decided this is going to happen, so I'm gonna make it happen. So, that is this comprehensive will of God. I love the way Psalm 115 verse 3 says, "God is in heaven and he does whatever he pleases". Romans chapter 11 verse 36 says, "From him, through him, and to him are all things". So, when we're talking about the God of the Bible, we're talking about a person who has absolute control over anything he decides to do, because he has both the right and the power to do what he determines. Having explained his unconditional will, that's not the only will he has. God has another will, and that is the will of what he desires that may or may not occur.

In other words, he has a desirable will, things he wishes and things he wants. The things he wishes and wants are in partnership with mankind, and it may or may not happen. For example, 1 Timothy 2:4 says, "God desires that all men are saved," yet the Bible is clear all men are not saved. Even though he wants it to happen, he does not impose it to happen, because it's conditional on what man does or does not do, in this case, receiving Christ. Jesus said in Luke chapter 13 verse 34, "How often Israel I would have gathered you like a hen gathers a little one, but you wouldn't let me". So, I want to do it, but you're blocking me from doing it, and because it's my conditional will and not my unconditional will, I'm not gonna make you do it even though it's what I want to happen.

Or the Bible says God desires, in Colossians 4:12, for all Christians to become mature, but we know all Christians don't keep growing, all Christians don't mature into Christlikeness. He wants it, he wishes it, and he wills for it to happen on condition, and the condition is that you grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ and be conformed to his image. That you want to do it and pursue doing it. To put it another way, in the conditional will of God he allows choices. Deuteronomy chapter 30 verses 15 to the end of the chapter says that you have a choice. He says, "Choose life or you can choose death". I want you to choose life, I'm not gonna make you choose life.

So, there is an unconditional will, he's gonna do it because he decides to do it, but then there is this partnership will where he will partner with you in the doing of it, but he won't make you do it. The reason why we have to pray, "Thy will be done," is because obviously his will is not always done. That's why we have to pray for it. So, he's calling for a partnership in prayer so that what he has determined conditionally from heaven to come to earth can come because we have cooperated with it for it to be released from heaven into earth. Now, the question becomes, well, how can he have an unconditional will and a conditional will operating at the same time? God has an unconditional goal, the establishment of his kingdom for his glory, but he has a conditional will, so if you block him by your disobedience, rebellion, lack of prayer, it's not gonna stop him getting to his goal, he's gonna get to his unconditional goal, he's just gonna have to skip you to get there.

So, may of us get bypassed from God because we refuse to partner with God for his will to be done, so you have to understand you can cooperate with his will, you can resist his will, he gonna get to his destination. He's not gonna let you or me stop him, but he'd love to join with us in getting there by the prayer, "Thy will be done". So, it is the recognition that you and I get to partner on the conditional side, it will not change his unconditional side, because God's will will achieve his desired end. And so, God wants his will because he wants his program, and his program is that his kingdom would come, that is his being, his purposes will be manifested in history in cooperation with us, which is why he invites us to pray, "Thy will be done".

Now, what this means is that a decision has to be made if you're gonna pray this prayer and mean it. That is there must be the decision to be committed to God's will. Satan's goal is to get you and me and us to rebel against the will of God. In Isaiah 14 verses 12 to 14, Satan said five times, "I will, I will, I will, I will, I will, I will". We call that negative volition. In other words, he had a will that was opposite to God's will, and so he said five times I will to do something that you don't want. I'm gonna do my own plan, my own program, I'm gonna have my own posse, I'm gonna do my own thing. It's not your thing, God, but it's my thing. And he rebelled against God, that's why the greatest sin in the Bible is pride, because that's thinking more of yourself than you ought to think. So, he decided that I'm gonna build my own kingdom, I'm gonna be my own man, I'm gonna be my own boss, I don't care what God says.

So, what did Satan do? He got Adam and Eve to rebel against the will of God. God said no, that tree in the middle, don't mess with that. All these other trees you can have, but he duped them into thinking they could operate independently of God. He does the same thing with you and me. He tries to draw us and drift us from the will of God by making our will seem better than his will. And when he can get us to do that, then we break fellowship with God and we don't get heaven to visit history. So, he says that we must be willing to submit to the will of God. Now, I'm gonna give you four words that some of you may not like. Four words that sometimes I don't prefer. I'm going to give you four words that can ruin your perspective of who you are and why you are here.

Those four words come from 1 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 6, and those four words reads as follows, "We exist for him". First Corinthians 8:6 says, "We exist for him". Translation, he does not exist for you. He does not exist for me. He created us so that we could be for him, his program, his will, his plan, his goals, his desires, his drive. He wants you to wake up every morning, he wants me to wake up every morning and say, "Not my will today, God, your will today," and if anybody has to adjust, I'm adjustable. I am adjustable. We exist for him. That is the surrender decision that every Christian has to face. Jesus put it this way, even when he was physically hungry in John 4:34, he says I exist, my food is to do the Father's will.

I'm hungry right now, but what really satisfies me is when I've done the Father's will. You can only experience the power and presence of the kingdom if you're willing to submit to the purposes of the king. Jesus says that his will, that God's will must trump our will. And he says don't let the culture distract you. Don't let the people distract you. Don't let the programs distract you. Don't let you distract you. You belong to this kingdom, and if you want this kingdom to come, if you want heaven to visit history, my will must be done. The only way you're gonna prefer to do God's will is if you believe he knows what he's doing. Because if you don't believe he knows what he's doing, you're gonna drift to your will, to your preference. But if you believe he knows what he's doing, even when you don't like what he's doing, you have to trust him that he knows better than you do, and I submit to the will of God.

So, there must be a surrender charge. There must be a decision to be committed to the will of God. So, that brings up this issue of confidence in God. First John 5 verses 14 and 15 says we have this confidence that anything we ask in his will, we know he's going to do it. We have this confidence. The problem with many of us submitting to the will of God is we don't have confidence in him. So, that's why we pray, because I don't want anything left in heaven that was meant to come to earth. I don't wanna miss anything he wanted to do, but he was waiting for me to follow him, to pray to him, to depend on him, and so I did not get it.

Now, let me make something clear. You will not learn what his secret will is if you ignore his revealed will. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 29:29 God has a secret will. That is thing he hadn't disclosed, things he hadn't talked about. Parents have secret wills. We have things we don't tell our children. We've already made the decision, but we haven't informed them, maybe because it's not time, maybe they're not old enough, maybe they're not mature enough, but we have secret wills, that is things we know that nobody else knows about in the family. God has a secret will. When you go to God for stuff that's not written in the Bible specifically, but it's your personal need, and you wanna know God, what you gonna do about this thing that I can't find a particular verse on? You go to God crying, you are weeping because you don't like what he allowed to happen. You don't like what he's doing. You don't prefer it.

In fact, if the truth be told, you hate it. You hate it. And like Martha, you say where were you? If you would have been here, she said, this thing wouldn't have happened. What that tells me is it's okay to be respectfully honest with God. It's okay to raise the question marks respectfully when they come up, because life sometimes hurts. Life sometimes is painful. And like Martha and Mary, you come with tears. You stutter, you don't know what to say, and even it may be the wrong thing, but I also like what she added, because after she said where were you, she said even now, even now your Father will give him whatever you ask him. But wait a minute, it's too late. But she said even now. Yeah, but it's already been said what the deal is. But she said even now. It can't get any worse than her situation. Lazarus was totally gone, but her confidence was so deep, with tear rolling down her eyes, she said but even now.

When I see no help, no hope, no deliverance, no victory, no way out, even now, and I'm so glad I know an even-now God. Even now, when there are no solutions, when there are no deliverances, if you ask your Father, if you talk, that's why you don't ever wanna give up on God, because he can do things even now. Now, he may not, but you at least wanna know somebody who can if they choose to. The Hebrew boys said now I know God can deliver. He can deliver us from your fiery furnace, but if he does not, we still gonna praise him, we still gonna worship him, we still gonna give him glory, we still gonna exalt him, even if he doesn't do it.

So, as we wrestle through our crisis, our prayer is God, even now, but if you don't, we gonna worship you, praise you, pray to you, glorify you, exalt you, magnify you, bless you, because we exist for you, you don't exist for us. And so, what that means is that we must do a number of things. First of all, we must be willing to discover his will. Psalm 119 verse 18 says, "Open our eyes so that we see". Open our eyes. We must be willing to say God, what do you say about this situation? What principles are in the Bible about what I'm dealing with and what I'm going through. We must be willing to discover it. Then secondly, you must be willing to understand it. The Bible calls that wisdom.

James 1:5, "If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God". Lord, how do you want me to handle this thing? How do you want me to deal with this? Then Romans 12:1-2, you must be willing to submit to it. You must say yes, Lord. Yes, Lord, yes to your will. And then you must be willing to accomplish it. I love Colossians 1:9 and 10, here's what it says. "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceases to pray for you and ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and understanding, so that you might walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God".

He says I'm praying for you. I'm praying for you, he says to that church. To this church, thank you for praying for me and for us, but we're praying for you. We're praying that you will know the knowledge of God in whatever situation you're facing. That you will have the wisdom of God how to address it, and that you will walk in that and you will make that the basis of your decision until your change comes or whether or not your change comes. That in either way, "Thy will be done".

And if you and I will make that our mantra, if we will, and I'm talking to me, too, get up every day and say God, this is what I want, this is what I desire, this is what I prefer, because I have to be honest with you, this is my dream, this is my goal, however after having said what I said, told you what I told you, not my will, but thy will be done, because I exist for you. We exist for you, for your glory and for your namesake. And here's what Jesus promises in Mark chapter 3 verse 35, that he who does my will will be my mother, father, brother, and sister. You know what he's saying? If you will do my will, I'm gonna bring you into the family. You're already a Christian, but I'm gonna now tell you family secrets. I'm gonna do things in your situation, whether or not I change your scenario, to let you know I'm family.

So, may this church and every individual in this church, pray Lord, your program is your kingdom, and I wanna be a highway you can ride on. I don't want you to skip me, bypass me, or discipline me, you can ride this highway, because I'm saying thy will be done, and I'm willing to adjust my way to your way, my will to your will, my desire to your desire, to please you. And if I please you, you're gonna show up in whatever situation you choose to for your glory and my good. In closing, drunk drivers are told to give their keys to somebody who's not intoxicated. Because if you're drunk and you get behind the wheel, you're jeopardizing yourself and other folk.

So, they say give your keys up. Hand 'em over to somebody who's not intoxicated who can get you home safely. You and I live in an intoxicating world, causing us to stammer and stutter all over the place. We're happy today, we're sad tomorrow, we're joyful today, we're miserable tomorrow. This day is up, tomorrow is down. We live in an intoxicating world, but God is saying hand me the keys. Give me the keys. Submit me the keys, because I know where I'm going. And even though you're confused, I know how to get you to the will of God, to the plan of God, in the kingdom of God, for the glory of God, and for your best interest. Hand me the keys so that I can run your life the way that it should be run according to the program of God.

God's goal in history is to see his will done, to see what he has prescribed from eternity to be manifested in time. God's priority is to see his kingdom advanced in time and space on earth. Now, God's priority involves his will, which is unconditional and conditional. His unconditional will is what he's going to do regardless of what anybody else says or does. Ah, but his conditional will, which is why prayer is so critical, is what he determines to do based on what we do or do not do. That's why he says you have not because you asked not, because we didn't meet the condition of prayer. So, let's make sure we don't miss out on his will because we didn't meet the condition for him to respond to our deepest needs.
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