Passage: Matthew 6:5-15
“Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9–10, CEB)
We’ve been spending the last several weeks talking about disciplines or practices of faithful presence. The reason we’ve been doing this is because faithful presence makes a difference. It’s how God is changing the world and it’s how God is changing us. It’s the biblical model for mission.
Underneath all the practices of faithful presence we’ve covered so far,—the Lord’s Table, Reconciliation, Proclaiming the Gospel, Being with the Least, the Fivefold Gifting, and Being with children—underneath each one lies the belief that God is the one at work, and as we join him by being where he has promised to be, he will use us to build his Kingdom.
The idea is that none of us can ever truly take initiative to build the Kingdom—God does that in the power of his Spirit. But if we are present with him, he graciously incorporates us (or includes us) into his Kingdom work.
The very first place we can be present with him is in prayer, and in particular, prayer recognizing God’s kingdom. This kind of “Kingdom prayer” sets the stage for mission.
But what is the Kingdom? There’s so much confusion about this idea, but there doesn’t have to be! We all know what a kingdom is—it anywhere under the rule of a king or sovereign. And we know a Kingdom has subjects. So,
the Kingdom of God is any space, time, and person that is under the gracious rule of God in Jesus.
Of course, we know in the ultimate sense God the Father has set all things under the rule of his Son, Jesus Christ. Yet, God will not coerce—will not force—anyone to recognize his kingdom. He stands at the door and knocks, he calls, he searches, he finds, he invites. So we preach, proclaim, we point to the great reality of the Kingdom, as ambassadors with open arms to all will freely come.
Unlike any sinful earthly King, or elected representative, or President, Jesus isn’t a mixed bag of motivations. His pure desire is to freely and lovingly give abundant and eternal life to anyone who will receive it, and in fact that’s exactly what he is doing right now, all over the world!
See, Jesus did say, “my kingdom is not of this world” (as in, from this world) but he never said his kingdom wasn’t in this world. To the contrary, Jesus said the Kingdom of God is “at hand!” The Kingdom is here, not in its fullness—not yet—because the Lordship of Jesus isn’t fully recognized, but we see it taking shape and solidifying wherever we submit to the Lordship of Jesus. So we see the Kingdom being manifest, among the subjects of the King (that’s you and me, the church) as we gather around him, recognize his rule, and submit to what he is doing in us, and in the world.
The Kingdom will manifest among us to the extent that we freely submit to the will of God.
It’s easy to forget to place ourselves in this posture, even as people that confess Jesus as Lord every single Sunday, because we have a human tendency to accomplish what we want to accomplish in our strengths and in our time. Yet we will bump up against our limits pretty quickly.
This happened to the disciples in Mark chapter 9, when they attempted to cast a demon out of a young boy. This is a crucial moment for the disciples, because they can’t do it. It’s not like they’ve never cast out a demon before, but this one poses a special challenge. They are completely unable to do it, and when they come to Jesus, he calls them “faithless!” Why? Because they never took the crucial step of asking God for help, of turning it over completely to him, submitting it to him.
his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we throw this spirit out?” Jesus answered, “Throwing this kind of spirit out requires prayer.”” (Mark 9:28–29, CEB)
What I want to suggest this morning is that the discipline of prayer—of Kingdom prayer—undergirds and initiates all the other practices we have been talking about the past several weeks.
What do I mean by Kingdom prayer?
Kingdom Prayer is the kind of prayer that explicitly and sincerely invites God to make his Kingdom manifest in his people and in the world.
It is the kind of prayer that reorders our life around Jesus as Lord and reminds us that we are citizens of his Kingdom above and beyond any other loyalty.
I simply mean the kind of prayer that our Lord taught us.
Quite literally, I mean we need to pray and internalize the Lord’s Prayer so that its words, and what they mean soak into our souls.
When we pray the “Our Father” as it’s often called, we find our lives being taken apart, and put back together the way they’re supposed to be.
It begins with those simple words, “Our Father.” Right at the beginning, you can see this about being a people—“our”—in specific kind of relationship with God, as subjects, yes, but also as beloved children. It reminds us that prayer is social, that is, it has to do with a us being God’s people in community.
Then we acknowledge that God is in heaven—the highest place. We proclaim that his name is holy—he is set apart from everyone else. He is King. This reminds us that prayer is also political. In Kingdom prayer, we are literally reminding ourselves who we ultimately trust to rule the world, the Church, and our hearts. “The government shall be on his shoulders” the prophet wrote about the Messiah Jesus. We proclaim this in Kingdom prayer.
After recognizing God’s loving, trustworthy rule over his people we pray,
“Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9–10, CEB)
Together, we proclaim as subjects of the King that we receive his rule, we receive what he is doing, and we want to see it done right here, right now, in this place.
May we never just recite the Lord’s prayer without thinking about this. Everything that follows in the prayer about provision and forgiveness and safety flows from this posture of submission, of trust, of commitment to the Lord as a covenant community.
Without making the space in our lives for this kind of prayer, we will be just like the disciples trying to cast out a demon—trying to do good things, but in our own power, forgetting who is really doing the work.
Without making space in our lives for this kind of prayer, we will become exhausted and burn out.
When we do make the space, we find we are in a place together as God’s children, where we are shaped and transformed for mission—to do God’s work by being who we are meant to be both individually and as a community.
This discipline of Kingdom prayer is a constant reminder everything we do is in the context of the Gospel—that our King Jesus took our sin on himself, that our King Jesus served his subjects to the point of death, and yet our King Jesus defeated death so he could live with us forever.
We can and should practice the discipline of Kingdom Prayer often, and as part of every other discipline in each of the three circles.
In the close circle of the family of believers, we literally pray the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday. Let’s not take this for granted! Not every tradition does this, and yet it’s so crucial that we meditate on those words together, “bring in your Kingdom”. When that is our focus, instead of our own agendas and insecurities, our community is at its best, and we know we are right in the center of God’s will for our church.
As we pray in this way and are shaped by a posture of submission to Christ’s Kingdom, the dotted circle of our homes will change too. Our neighbors will notice that our priorities are Kingdom priorities, that we aren’t as concerned with the things of this world, but we are concerned about people. When our neighbors are over for dinner they’ll notice that we take a posture of service, not showing off. And they will hear a gentle, kind invitation to recognize the rule of Christ over all creation.
And there will be ample opportunity in the half circles of lives as well, when we are out and about at barber, or bar, or restaurant. We can always offer Kingdom Prayer as a gift. We must be careful here, and never force prayer on anyone, or use it as a vehicle to communicate our opinions. Rather, we should offer prayer for people after we have a real, relational connection with them, and in that prayer, we simply acknowledge the loving relationship God desires to have with us, and the Lordship of Jesus over the situation, and we make space for God to do his work by the Holy Spirit.
Michelle Kennedy actually told me a story about this, so I want to invite her to stand and share her testimony of this now.
Faithful presence makes a difference!
Kingdom prayer sets the stage for mission.
In recent times the whole idea of “thoughts and prayers” has been pretty heavily criticized, and I get it. Sometimes it seems like prayer is really just an excuse for passivity, a way to seem like you care and are doing something, when really you’re not. To be honest, sometimes people do use prayer this way. But true Kingdom prayer is never doing nothing. See, when we sincerely submit every situation to the Lordship of Christ, the Holy Spirit will change our mind, heart and soul, and when our mind, heart and soul changes, our actions necessarily change. Kingdom Prayer is not for the faint of heart.
As we wrap up this series and sermon, I want to read you a story from David Fitch’s book that shows us how this discipline might shape us for mission and be a means of mission all at once.
I once heard Charles Galbreath, a pastor of Clarendon Road Church in Brooklyn, tell the story of a black man gunned down by police in his neighborhood. Anger seethed in the neighborhood. Frustration from years of racial oppression was about to erupt in violence. Many people lined up to march down the main street while police gathered, expecting violence. Charles and a group of pastors rushed to the gathering place and found themselves caught in the middle between the police and the people. Tensions were rising. Insults were being hurled across the divide. One side picked up rocks, the other side clutched their guns.
The pastors feared for their lives, fearing bullets would fly at any moment. He says that some of the pastors bowed in the middle of the street and began to pray. They implored God to visit this place. As Charles tells it, slowly the tension died down, the people put down the rocks, and the police took their hands off their holsters. Those who cared stayed. And without a shot fired or rock thrown, conversations began and God’s presence appeared that night in that community. It was the beginning of something new God was doing to bring justice and reconciliation to a street corner.
Kingdom prayer does not remove us from the world, but places us firmly in the middle of it.
Even in the most violent, awkward, and hopeless circumstances, kingdom prayer opens space for God’s presence and strengthens those praying to walk faithfully in that presence.
As we submit all things to God in prayer, the stage is set for mission.
If we want to have a healthy church, if we want to have a Christ-centered home, if we want to reach the world with the Good News, if we want to witness to the faithful presence of Christ in all areas of our lives, we must be faithful in Kingdom Prayer…because submitting all things to Jesus in prayer—Kingdom Prayer—is what sets the stage for mission.
 cf Ephesians 1:22
 Emphasis added
 John 18:36
 cf Mark 1:15
 cf Mark 9:19
 cf Isaiah 9:6
 This entire exegetical section draws heavily from David Fitch’s overview of the Lord’s Prayer in Faithful Presence, p. 170.
 Fitch, David. Faithful Presence. p. 175-176. Emphasis added.