As a kid, I dreaded going to Church.
Don't get me wrong, I had friends I looked forward to goofing around with during services, our worship team was actually pretty slammin', the sermons were bearable, even understandable, and the adults were only averagely-judgmental. But what really sucked the energy out of my Sunday morning experiences was (what I thought at the time) the unforgivable amount of time we spent in prayer.
I'm talking hours here, not minutes. I'm talking about the kind of prayers where you would probably need to pack a lunch box and a light snack just to get through it. To make matters worse, we mostly had to kneel during those prayers! As a preteen, I was petrified of going to heaven because I didn't want to spend eternity in a prayer meeting!
In an ironic twist of fate, all those years of praying (and being prayed for) not only resulted in me ending up in full time ministry, but it also resulted in a passion for prayer in my life! Some of the most godly men and women I look up to today are people whose lives are marked by powerful and persistent prayer.
As I dug a little deeper to try and understand why their prayer lives seem so much more impactful than mine, I eventually landed, or rather, was providentially guided by God to this profound truth:
The Most Effective and Powerful Prayers, the ones that truly Move Mountains, are Kingdom-Minded Prayers!
It's a lesson God has gradually been teaching me over these last 12 months, but it really hit home when I was reading through an Old Testament narrative about a newly crowned king named, Solomon. The account is in the book of 1 Kings. There, we discover that David, the greatest king in Israel, has passed on the mantle of leadership to his son, Solomon. In the first two chapters of the book, we read about Solomon’s older stepbrother, Adonijah making a power play for the throne, but God is clearly on Solomon’s side, so much so that by the time we get to the third chapter, Solomon is legitimately king over all Israel and Judah. In his first few months of office, he and God are on such good terms that God shows up in a vision one night and says to Him, “You may ask for whatever you want and I’ll give it to you.”
Can we just pause here for a moment and appreciate this offer? Talk about being handed a blank check from heaven!
Come to think of it, what would you have asked for were you in Solomon's shoes? Had you recently been appointed as the new king (or queen), untested, and with a legendary father’s reputation preceding you, what would you have asked for?
I’ll tell you what I would have asked for were I in his shoes. Based on the present state of political affairs in our country, I would have asked God to bless my time in office with an ever-increasing employment rate in the economy, a healthy bipartisan atmosphere in congress, a significantly reduced national debt, a strong national security and a strong military, and quite honestly, a personal high approval rating of my leadership. That’s what I would have asked for!
There's nothing intrinsically wrong with those things, but what Solomon asks God for (in response to God's offer) is truly a Masters-level course in how to pray kingdom-minded prayers, or quite simply, how to ask God for stuff in a way that gets your prayers answered. There are three things he asks for, three things that will serve you well and ultimately shape your prayer life so that you too can begin praying kingdom-minded prayers like the spiritual giants of old!
1. RECALL WITH GRATITUDE, GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO YOU.
Watch how Solomon does this in the sixth and seventh verse of 1 Kings 3, “Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.” (To be clear, Solomon hasn’t even asked for stuff yet!)
You know what he’s doing here? Solomon is launching into his prayer, first, by recounting to God, with gratitude and gratefulness, what God has ALREADY DONE.
If you know the story of David, you know that his ascension to the throne wasn’t a cakewalk. David was anointed in his early teens to be king, but it took a few decades before he actually ascended the throne. In that period, he was constantly hunted by an insane jealous king and faced constant betrayal in his own army. Even after he became king, one of his own sons carried out a successful coup to dethrone him before God eventually placed him back on the throne. Solomon himself almost didn’t become king because his older brother tried to stage a takeover on the morning of his coronation.
So, it's for good reason that Solomon is taking his time in recounting to God, with gratitude and thankfulness, all God had done to ensure that he was not sitting on the throne! It were almost as if Solomon was saying, "God, I KNOW you've been good to me. YOU KNOW you've been good to me. EVERYONE KNOWS you've been good to me. But I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I KNOW that you've been good to me!
So, here's the obvious question: Are you in the habit of recounting to God, with gratitude and thankfulness, God’s past faithfulness to you? I don’t simply mean giving God a quick shoutout by thanking Him for waking you up this morning or for your daily bread. Rather, I mean actually walking Him through events in your life where He showed up in unexpected ways in your life! So, think back through the struggles you had way back in January of 2015. What were you praying for? What unexpected (or expected) wins did God deliver to you this year? How did God go about it?
When you recount to God His past faithfulness, it not only strengthens your faith as you begin to realize that God has indeed been faithful to you, but the very act of recounting God's faithfulness becomes an act of worship that blesses God's heart and stirs Him to move in your life! It’s for good reason that the scriptures say, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
2. HUMBLY PRESENT (YOUR REQUESTS), AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, YOURSELF BEFORE GOD.
Listen to how Solomon prays in verse 7-8, “ “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.”
You know what I believe Solomon is doing here? He’s not just recounting to God what God has done in His father, David’s life, but He’s also recalling to mind what God has done in the history of the nation of Israel itself. When Solomon says he is just a child among a chosen people, a great people too numerous to count, he’s more than likely thinking through the long line of great men and women God has used to lead the very nation He has just been called to lead.
So, Solomon could very well be thinking back to Abraham whom God called from a foreign land to be the father of a nation. Solomon could be thinking of Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons who went into Egypt. Solomon might be thinking about Moses whom God raised to free about 2 million Hebrews from captivity. Solomon's probably thinking of Joshua who led the Israelite armies into battles where they were outnumbered, yet by God’s hand experienced victory. Solomon is also more than likely also thinking of the judges of Israel, Ehud, Deborah and Barak, Gideon and his 300 men, Samson, Boaz and Ruth, and even Saul.
So, when he says, “I am only a child and do not know how to carry out my duties”, he is acknowledging that he knows he is no one special (especially in light of all the great people who have come before him). There's plenty of humility in his prayer because he recognized that only through the power of God in his life will he be able to make even a dent in this great people God has called him to lead.
Speaking of humility, what kind of self-talk goes through your mind when you’re in prayer or when you’re completely isolated from people?
If I’m being honest, there was a period in my life where I would present my prayers to God as if I had something special to offer or something unique to bring to the table (and by, "a period of my life", I mean last week!). As a result, there are times when my prayer has sounded something like this, “Lord, use my gifts for your glory. I have so much to offer, so please put me in a place where I can make the most noise for your name and your kingdom!”
It sounds so spiritual, right? The only problem is that it was feigned humility!
The good news is that when I eventually realign my heart with God's word, I come to the earth-shattering conclusion that God does not run the world by hiring a consulting firm called, “Shegz” to get things done. God is so God that Jesus Himself says if I cross my hands and declare that I won’t worship him, the individuals pebbles of sand I’m standing on will cry out and praise His name, the trees that provide shade for my head will sway and dance to His name, and the sea providing the breeze that’s keeping me cool will roar and rejoice in His name. (Luke 19:40; Psalm 96:11). The reality of the matter is that there is NOTHING AND NO THING I have to offer God that will ever make Him go, “Hey, Jesus and Holy Spirit, I've been thinking. You know who we should really get on our team? Shegz!” That has never happened and will never happen!
Having said that, here's the encouraging news: In His eternal love and graciousness, God allows, and even invites you and I (through faith in Jesus Christ) to share in the running of His affairs in this world through the act of prayer to the degree that we align our hearts and ambition with His will and purposes! So then, in prayer, I call things as they are like Solomon did. I come to God humbly acknowledging that I am a child lacking the wisdom and strength to do His will in my own strength. I confess my sin and ensure my account with Him is current. But I also recognize that I have been invited by HIM to be a small part of a greater God-sized initiative on a global scale. This humble mindset, I believe, is what stirs God’s heart to move when we pray. The fact is, God is deeply drawn to humility.
Praying kingdom-minded prayers that are powerful and effective require a recounting of God's past faithfulness, humility in how we present ourselves to Him, and lastly:
3. CONCERN YOURSELF WITH THE THINGS THAT CONCERN GOD.
In verse 8-9, Solomon finally gets to what he wants to ask God and says, “Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
You know what makes this request pretty profound? Aside of that fact that it actually impresses God, the prayer is incredibly selfless in its nature. Think about what Solomon just asked for. This dude literally just put aside all his natural instincts and desires and made them secondary and subordinate to kingdom-minded desires. Solomon understood that the Israelites were a people near and dear to God's heart, the apple of His eye. So, Solomon just made THEIR needs his priority because THEY were God's priority! This is what it means to concern yourself with the things that concern God!
Let me ask a hard question, when you pray, are your prayers mostly about you? If we were to lay out everything you've prayed this year, what are the chances that YOU would end up being the MVP (or most mentioned person) in your own prayer life? To be clear, there is nothing wrong with praying for your needs, but if YOU are mainly what your prayer life is ALL about, then it’s possible that the scripture is speaking to you when it says in James 4:3, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
God certainly desires to give good things to His children as well as your daily bread, but that is not solely the purpose of prayer. Prayer was given to us as a gift, a fruit-bearing tool to be specific. It was given as a way to partner with God in accomplishing His will here on earth. Charles Spurgeon describes it this way, "Prayer is the nerve of power that connects our hands to God's heart." So ultimately, prayer is a partnership (some may even call it a Dance) with God where we cry out to Him and invite Him to accomplish HIS will here on earth! This is what it means to be kingdom-minded. So, let's actually dig into what it looks like practically to pray kingdom minded prayer.
What Does Kingdom-Minded Prayer Look Like?
Practically speaking, kingdom-minded prayers requires you and I to take off the blinders that cause us to focus solely on our needs. Following the commissioning model of Jesus who instructed us to be witnesses of the Gospel in "Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth", our prayers will begin to move mountains when we first of all start adding to our prayers the needs of our immediate neighbors. So, think about the families who live next door to you and the ones on your street, how have you been interceding in prayer for them? If not, start.
Then go a little further, think of your city, possibly even your region, what is the local news saying about the needs in your community? What people group are most in need in your town, city, and region? Add them to your prayer list.
But don't stop there, go further out and pray for your state, New Jersey (or wherever you are at the time of this reading). What are some of the human needs in your state? If you're a Jerseyan, you may or may not be aware of this, but did you know a Heroin Epidemic Is Plaguing our state? So much so that one report reveals that New Jersey's heroin overdose death rate is triple the soaring U.S. rate! That is no doubt disheartening news, but it also presents a great opportunity for you and I to partner with God and call on Him to intercede on behalf of our state! Remember, kingdom-minded prayer is all about concerning yourself with the things that concern God, and you can be rest assured that those addicted men and women in our state are near and dear to God's heart!
But don't just stop in New Jersey, pray for our country. Pray for our president (and seriously, just stop hating on him already!), pray for our leaders in congress and in the senate. Then go bigger, pray for the world. Think it's too big? Fine. Pick a country and make that nation the continual focus of your prayers!
You see what happened there? You started in your immediate area and literally expanded out into the world. Before you know it, not only would you have been in prayer for hours interceding on behalf of others, but in praying like this, you would have been tapping into a power source that truly begins moving mountain-like problems in your life.
This is exactly what we find Solomon doing when He prays to God in the book of 1 Kings. Even better still, God is so impressed and so pleased with Solomon's kingdom-minded prayer that God says this in response in verse 11-14, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
That was a pretty good day for Solomon, wouldn't you say?
The New Year, 2016 is right around the corner. I don't know about you, but I am ready to start seeing God move some serious mountains in my life. Solomon's kingdom-minded prayer presents for us a Biblical framework for which to begin experiencing answered prayers in our lives in this New Year!
I'm ready for something new. I'm ready for kingdom come!
Hope you are too!