Throughout the Scriptures we find a strong connection between prayer, the kingdom of God, and the mission of God.
This is not just in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament. For instance, one time God spoke to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah, telling them that because their sin had become so great, he would no longer hear their prayers and continue his mission through them.
In Isaiah 1:15 we read: When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Prior to this, God’s people were “A kingdom of priests,” who would pray and worship God in his house. And God would answer their prayers causing his kingdom purposes to come throughout the earth. But, now, because of their horrible sin, God’s people were no longer a kingdom of priests in his house. So God was no longer answering their prayers to advance his kingdom purposes through them. But the good news is that God did not give up his purpose to have a kingdom of priests in his house of prayer.
He later promised that, in the future, he was going to bring foreigners, non-Jews, to his holy mountain and into his house. And they would become a new kingdom of priests! In Isaiah 56:6-7: “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants,… these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer;…for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
The prophet Isaiah casts an amazing vision here of God’s future, joyful, house of prayer that will be filled with a new kingdom of priests from all peoples and nations.
The next time this passage is mentioned is in the New Testament: “Jesus entered the temple, and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers (Mat 21:12-13).”
In Ephesians 2, Paul uses this same imagery of God’s house to describe the church of Jesus Christ, now made up of Jew and Gentile: “For through him (Christ) we both (Jew and Gentile) have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
In the Old Testament, the people of God lost their identity as a kingdom of priests. But the good news of the gospel of the kingdom is that Jesus is now our ultimate High Priest, and through our union with him by faith, we have now become God’s promised new Kingdom of Priests.
The Apostle Peter writes, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).” We learn here that, the Church, as God’s new Kingdom of Priests, is to be marked by being a people who find our joy in him through gathering as the new temple of God and house of God–marked by prayer.
This is why prayer must not be seen as merely one of many important priorities in ministry. It must become a very top priority.
When the first-century church was being established, the apostles found themselves distracted by the many pressing demands of the ministry—including waiting on tables. They responded, “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:3-4).
When Paul warned the Ephesian Christians of the spiritual battle in which they were to engage, he told them to put on the whole armor of God and to stand against the devil’s schemes. Standing against the devil’s schemes involved understanding God’s truth about salvation, using the Word of God as a sword, and continuous prayer.
Paul urged the Ephesian believers to “…pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).
In regard to the advance of the gospel, Paul specifically asked believers, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel… Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
Never forget that the success of the gospel in church planting and renewal depends not only on God’s sovereignty and the faithful preaching of the gospel—but also on the faithful prayers of God’s people.
Prayer is the mysterious means that God has chosen through which he releases the transforming power of the gospel in your life and ministry to make his Kingdom come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
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