Maybe I’m the only one who has thought this way, but I sometimes wondered why we pray. Why I needed to tell an all-knowing God, what he already knows? Especially, when combined with the idea that God is in control and that He is all-powerful. So why do I have to tell Him what He already knows, is already in control of and has the power to do something about? Why do I have to plead with Him to be merciful? Is He not by His very nature merciful?
So then I asked myself, what does the Bible tell us about prayer? First, it says that we should do it. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing.” But we’re also told there is no need for us to continually babble on like pagans who think they’ll be heard by virtue of their many words (Matthew 6:7). Second, it tells us to check our motives when we pray (James 4:3) and not to do it just to be seen by others and look spiritual (Matthew 6:5). Third, we are told to have confidence when we pray, because God will give us what we ask, when we ask according to his will (1 John 5:14). Fourth, we are told to pray for provision (Luke 11:2), healing (James 5:15), wisdom (James 1:5) and even for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). And lastly, whenever we pray we are to do it with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). But have you ever wondered why we are instructed to pray?
So, what is prayer exactly? Is it talking to God like we were told when we were children? Yes, in some ways. God is relational and prayer is part of how we interact in relationship with Him, but prayer must be more than about informing Him about situations that He obviously already knows about. Will God not move until we ask Him to? He tells us that He is a good Father who gives good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11). Also, we are told that we do not have because we do not ask (James 4:2). So, we can see that there is an expectation that we ask for what we need in prayer. But we are also told that God knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). And, Ephesians 3:20 says that He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, so there must be an element beyond just our asking. Sometimes we don’t even know what to ask for, but we are assured that He even understands our groaning (Romans 8:26).
Is prayer a collaboration or a partnership with God? Is prayer a way of inviting God into situations? I would agree with that idea. But we have to conclude then, that even if God has the ability to control our world that He chooses not to and waits for an invitation to move.
But is prayer only a conversation, a relationship, or a partnership?
I believe prayer has to be so much more than that. For example, in Ephesians 6:12 we’re told, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” How do we engage in this struggle? Through prayer.
There has to be a spiritual principle in prayer that entails more than pleading with God to act on behalf of a situation. I believe that principle can be found in the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” God appointed man to “rule over” the earth. Some translations say “to have dominion over” the earth. God’s original design was that we would be in charge of our world. Now, we know that Adam and Eve messed up and sinned, but did they give up their dominion? Some would say the authority they had was in some measure given up to the deceiver, Satan, through their sin. Let’s follow that thought for a moment.
That brings me to another question. If Adam and Eve gave up some measure of their authority to Satan, does he still have it or was it taken away from him through Jesus’s death and resurrection? 2 Timothy 1:10 tells us that Jesus broke the power of sin and death. Revelation 1:18 says that He is the one who holds the keys to death and hell. It seems apparent that He took back the authority, but what did He do with it?
Daniel 7:27 tells of the coming of the Messiah and that his kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, but look who the dominion of the earth is given back to. It says, “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.” Through His death and resurrection, Jesus took back the authority over this world and He gave it to us.
Matthew 16:19 says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Wow. It sure sounds like we’ve been given authority. Luke 9:1-2 says, “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Proverbs 18:21 tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death. When we pray we activate that power.
Authority, dominion, ruling over the earth. Prayer is not cajoling a reluctant God to pay attention to our world. It is not merely a conversation or part of our relationship with God. Prayer is not just a partnership. No, prayer is exercising spiritual authority. Prayer is releasing life and hope. So, let us be encouraged to exercise that authority and pray.
Written by: Sharon Letson
It’s impossible to scroll through Facebook today without seeing some passionately written, sometimes angry posts. These posts can take on a variety of different flavors. It could be the classic political rant, a religious rant, or any other number of rants that are always anti-something or someone. With the current political climate and division that we’re seeing throughout the US, it got me thinking about a teaching I heard years ago that is more relevant now than ever before.
In his book “The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind,” Bill Johnson has a chapter where he talks about the leavens of the mind. Leaven is defined as a substance, typically yeast, that is added to make dough rise. It can also refer to a pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it. In the natural realm, when activated by heat, leaven causes dough to rise. In the spiritual realm, when activated by “the fire of difficulty” or trials, whatever leaven is influencing your mind will rise to the surface and be exposed. It is in this context that Jesus used the word leaven when speaking to his disciples.
Right after Jesus miraculously fed the four thousand, the Pharisees came to him and questioned him, testing him and demanding a sign from heaven (as if feeding 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread wasn’t a sign from heaven!). Jesus sighed and refused to give them the sign they so desperately wanted, knowing that they would still reject him no matter what. After his interaction with the Pharisees, Jesus addressed his disciples: “Be careful. Watch out for the yeast (or leaven) of the Pharisees and that of Herod” (Mark 8:15).
We see from the life and teachings of Jesus that there are three types of leaven:
- The leaven of Herod
- The leaven of the Pharisees
- The leaven of the Kingdom
These leavens, or mindsets, are alive and active today and they greatly affect how we think and live. They are a picture of influence on our minds and will influence our thoughts, decisions, and frame of reference.
The Leaven of Herod
The leaven of Herod is an atheistic influence based on the strength of man and man-based systems, like politics, popular will, and persuasion. Herod’s leaven excludes God entirely. This belief represents a big problem in the Church: practical atheism, or a disbelief in an active God. As believers, how often do we face situations on a daily basis where we don’t bring God into the picture? We are professing Christians, but are we living any differently that our atheist neighbors when we face a problem? Is our first response to seek God’s counsel and invite Him to intervene?
America is permeated by the leaven of Herod. We applaud those who are “self-made” and relied on their own strengths and abilities to rise to success. Sometimes the Church falls into this deception as well. We falsely think that whatever we can accomplish on our own strength has been directed or honored by God. We may accomplish our goals and reach what the world calls “success,” but that doesn’t always mean that God is involved in our efforts.
The Leaven of the Pharisees
The leaven of the Pharisees represents the religious system. This mindset embraces God in theory, but not in practice or experience. For those under this influence, the concept of God is essential, but the experience of God is completely removed. Bill Johnson said it beautifully when he wrote, “Pharisees provide explanations, but not solutions.”
Under this influence, we can “know” Jesus the wrong way, just as the people of Nazareth did – they knew him in form, but not in relationship or demonstration. We see in the American church today many people who are totally satisfied with the Pharisee leaven. They are content with being a churchgoer, but yet entirely unplugged from an active, invasive, ever-present God. Many Christians with this mindset find “explanations” for problems such as physical illness, broken relationships, or financial lack. They are confident in their ability to explain away any problem, but they are powerless to provide any solution.
I love how Jesus refused to give the Pharisees the sign they demanded from him. He was so focused on solutions that He didn’t even entertain their debate. The Church would do well to follow this example today.
The Leaven of the Kingdom
When we’re influenced by the leaven of the Kingdom, we’re able to live out the Lord’s cry that “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and know that anything is possible at any time. This leaven is activated in our minds when we surrender to the Lord and the ways of his kingdom. Every time we read about a miracle that Jesus performed, or experience a miracle in our own lives today, its purpose is to teach us a new revelation of God that we can build our thought lives upon. God wants every testimony in our life and the lives of others to have its full effect on the way we think – renewing our minds to be kingdom-focused.
It’s easy to be kingdom-minded when things are going well in our lives, but the real test comes when we face trials – your car breaks down, a relationship ends, you lose a job, face a physical sickness, etc. It is in these moments that we must refuse to bow to the reality of our circumstances and instead proclaim the greater reality of King Jesus and his kingdom reign. When we keep our minds fixed upon him, we know that there is always a solution to any problem we will ever face. We know that he will heal our hearts and restore broken relationships. We know that he will provide above and beyond what we need and desires for us to be prosperous. We know that it’s his will to heal every sickness and disease, just as he healed all those who came to him.
Does your thought life begin with what you lack, or does it start with the revelation of Jesus and his kingdom provision? Are you worrying over something that Jesus has provided for you time and time again in the past? Don’t get stuck in tradition or be deceived by the leaven of Herod and the leaven of the Pharisees. Remember, kingdom thinking knows that anything is possible at any time. Every testimony we have in our lives should become the new standard from which we think in the future.
I encourage you to reflect upon your thought life and take an inventory of what leavens you’re being influenced by. When the impossible begins to seem possible, then you’ll know your mind is being renewed.
Written by: Nate Ebel
I grew up in the Pentecostal/Charismatic church world and we were taught a lot about going to Heaven and what we had to “do” to get there. Many of our songs were about going to Heaven and it seemed like all of the joy and fun was “over yonder” or somewhere in the “sweet bye and bye.” I do not remember hearing about the Kingdom of God being within us or that the apostles in the book of Acts preached around 18 or so sermons and not one of them was about the afterlife or going to Heaven or hell. Now, that does not mean there is not an afterlife or a place called Heaven and one called hell, but just that it was NOT their message.
As a matter of fact, Paul tells us in Acts 20:26-27,” I testify to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men, for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” The interesting thing about this statement is that in all of Paul’s writings we have no mention of hell and only one or two of Heaven, because that was NOT their message. Paul’s message is seen in Acts 28:31, “Paul boldly proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught things pertaining to Jesus Christ, with all openness, no man hindering him.” Paul’s main message was the gospel of the Kingdom and how it pertains to Jesus Christ and this is what he was sharing at the end of his life, and what someone tells you at the end tells you what they have deemed as the most important.
What is the Gospel of The Kingdom? Well, first of all it was the Gospel that Jesus preached. Nearly all of His parables and analogies were about the Kingdom of God, “the Kingdom of God is like a man, like a seed, like leaven,” etc. His main message, focus, and prayers were about the Kingdom being “at hand” or a very present reality right in front of them for the King was now here. What has confused the Church for many years is that in Matthew’s gospel it is called the Kingdom of Heaven and in the rest of the New Testament it is called the Kingdom of God, even though these terms are interchangeable and have the same meaning. The reason for that is because Matthew’s message was aimed at reaching the Jewish people and they could not say the name God, which is why you will see them even write g*d for it was forbidden to say. This has caused people to think that Jesus was talking about how to go to Heaven when that was not His point. He was talking about a new King and a new government that was manifested through love and service and not like the Kingdoms of this world whose genesis was fear, violence, domination, and control.
For Jesus taught us all about the Kingdom of God, but never actually told us what it was. Jesus did tell His disciples,” I have a lot more for you that you are not yet ready for, but when the Spirit of Truth comes He will lead you into all truth. So Jesus let them know that more understanding of what He taught was coming once the Holy Spirit was indwelling them. There is no verse in the Bible that says go to Heaven, but there are many that talk of receiving eternal life and entering and inheriting the Kingdom. It is the Apostle Paul that tells us “what” the Kingdom of God actually is in Romans 14:17, “The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” So, the day I realized that, I started putting righteousness, peace, and joy everywhere I saw the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven and it finally became clear. We are to seek first, righteousness, peace, and joy in every area of our lives, and righteousness, peace, and joy by the Holy Spirit is within us.
The Kingdom of God (Greek=basileia) is God’s rule, authority, Kingship, and foundation of power within us by the Holy Spirit. This is a present reality and not something off in some millennium, for it is within and all around us, and Jesus prayed that Heaven would be on Earth and not that Earth would be in Heaven. This does not mean that when we physically die we do not go there, but that the gospel of the Kingdom is about bringing “there” here right now. I believe that what has confused us are the verses that say things like, “they that do these things will not inherit the Kingdom of God, such as liars, fornicators, thieves, perverse, wrong doers, fearful, heretics,” etc. The problem is that our behavior is not what got us in Heaven as citizens, but Jesus’s behavior. We cannot save ourselves by good works and we cannot disqualify ourselves by bad works. It is by grace through faith we are saved and NOT by works, period. So we do not get ourselves “THERE,” that is Jesus’s work alone – all we do is agree with it by faith.
If we interpret the Kingdom as just going to Heaven by doing or not doing certain things then it disqualifies most people from ever going, but when we understand that you do NOT get an inheritance after you die, but while you are still living because someone else died, then that changes everything. Inheriting the Kingdom is a present reality right now and not an afterlife perk. Now our behavior is still important but not to get us “THERE,” since Jesus took care of that in His finished work for those who are reconciled, but our behavior does determine how much of “THERE” flows through us here, which is what “inheriting” the Kingdom looks like. An example would be that God wants to flow through me to my neighbor to bring the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy to his life, but I have stolen from him and lied to him and fornicated with his sister. This behavior would disqualify me from inheriting righteousness, peace, and joy in those areas of my own life and that would affect what I can release to him because it would disqualify me in his eyes also.
The Gospel, or good news, of the Kingdom encompasses all of the other things called the Gospel. There are several things referred to as the gospel in the new testament, such as the gospel of God, of the Son, of grace, of Paul, and of Jesus Christ. These are all a part of the Kingdom of God and all of them are good news, but the main message of Jesus and the apostles was the good news of the Kingdom of God. Many teach that the Kingdom of God is something that is only manifested after a World wide war and preceded by a mass exodus of the righteous from the planet. Yet Jesus taught that their generation would see the coming of the Kingdom age clearly in Matthew 16:28, “Truly I tell you that there are some of you standing here that will not taste death till you see the Son of man coming in His Kingdom.” This could NOT be speaking of anyone 2,000 years in the future unless you believe that there are some 2,000 year old people walking around on the planet, which sounds more like the “Highlander” or “Underworld” movies and you believe in vampires, werewolves, and immortals. This already happened for Jesus rose from the dead and went to Heaven and poured His blood on the mercy seat and then “came back” and breathed the Kingdom into His disciples in the person of the Holy Spirit. They saw Him come to them and establish His Kingdom in their hearts for His Kingdom is not from this world but it is for this world.
The Kingdom is like candy, it is now and later, for the Kingdom has to be now for it is within us, and yet it is also later for when the King returns at the resurrection, there will be the full manifestation of Heaven on Earth. This has always been God’s desire from the garden of Eden and now we get to be a co-laborer in the universe’s greatest renovation project, for Jesus is the Savior of the world and not from the world. The Jews believe that when their Messiah comes to the Earth, which He did by the way, that He would transform the Earth in what they call the “tikkun olam.” This is what we are here for, to be agents of change and to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is here and has come among you. So I want to encourage all who read this blog to spend time studying the Kingdom of God and to make up your mind to be an active participant in our Father’s World and realize that you are here to make a difference and release the life and essence of the Kingdom everywhere you go.
Written by: Jamie Englehart