Neil is our National Mission Director

As I write this, a street in my neighbourhood is closed. The bomb squad is investigating. A university in the area also has all five campuses shut because of a bomb scare. You probably think I should move.

Bombs are destructive. They do incredible damage. What if that was not always the case? Imagine a bomb that could reorder matter for good; that could deconstruct what ought not to be, leaving what should be.

What if God were to take our prayers, which ascend to his throne, and hurl them back with divine power? A prayer bomb of God’s will, done on earth as it is in heaven.

The book of Revelation gives us so many great images. The problem is we don’t spend much time looking at them, because we don’t quite know what to do with this particular piece of literature. One of those images in found in Revelation 5:8, where we see golden bowls of incense in the throne room of God. In Revelation, John usually just relates what he is seeing. Yet here John gives us a brief word of explanation about these bowls. He explains that they are the prayers of God’s people. Is he making sure we don’t miss the point about prayer? That all of those fervent, and sometimes despairing, words offered to God are stored up before the throne. They are known! They are heard! They are precious! That is an awesome truth. Yet if that’s all there was to the story, it would end in disappointment.

It is not the end of this image, however. We see it again in Revelation 8:3-5.

Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all God’s people, on the golden altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.

God puts prayer into action in a powerful way. Prayer Bombs! The prayers of God’s people ignited by the divine power of God destroying what ought not to be, and bringing about what God desires. Did you notice where those prayer bombs landed? Right back on earth. This is the image that always comes to my mind when I read the words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”.

Do we really pray with this picture in mind? I suspect not. Instead, I often find myself in Annie Dillard’s famous quote:

“Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.”

I would say it’s us who need to wake up. God is at work, powerfully. He desires us to join him. We have the privilege of doing that in a variety of ways. One of them is life-altering, earth-shaking, prayer. Strategic prayer strikes from the throne room of heaven. Bomb blasts that will significantly further God’s plan of lovingly caring for, and redeeming all things. Do you want to join the bomb squad?


Post by:
Neil B.
National Mission Director

 

Scar menacingly growls out “Long Live the King!” as he hurls Mufasa to his death. This scene from the old movie, Lion King, uses half of a historic phrase.

The full line is “The King is Dead, Long Live the King.” This contradictory sounding statement marked the death of one monarch and the ascension of the next. The claim was that it helped sooth uncertainty by assuring the public of continuity.

We could spin the phrase into a metaphor for the work of Christ. Jesus also taught His disciples to pray: May your Kingdom come. May King Jesus truly be given His rightful place in our prayer this month.

So, let’s break this down.

The King is Dead

It’s always good to go back and remind ourselves of the basics. I don’t ever want us to be lax theologically. However, sometimes in our desire to get our theology right and explain it well, we lose our wonder. From time to time, it’s important to simply let the weight of what Jesus did drive us to marvel.

Use your imagination to be there, at the foot of the cross. Look up into the face of the Creator of the universe, the Lord of everything, as He hangs dying for you. Imagine the love that is evident on His face as He looks at you, His child. This cross is a manifestation of that love. He stepped out of heaven for you. He went to this cross for you. Although He rightfully is king, because of this love the kingship becomes personal. He has won our hearts. He has the scars to prove it. As the songwriter Brian Doerksen says, “My King has got scars on His hands.”

Spend some time absorbing that. Then let it shape how you respond to Him in word and deed.

Long Live the King

Thankfully, the cross is not the end of the story. Last month we celebrated Easter. For me, that is always one of the greatest days of the year. We celebrate life! Long Live the King is exactly the right phrase to express the fact that we have hope because Jesus is alive. Our good and great king is furthering His work, growing all that acknowledges His rule and reign. I was reminded of this the other day as I read the words of Psalm 93:

The Lord is King! He is robed in majesty. Indeed, the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength. The world stands firm and cannot be shaken. Your throne, O Lord, has stood from time immemorial. You Yourself are from the everlasting past…Your reign, O Lord, is holy forever and ever.

The king who is mightier than all, sits on the throne forever. If that doesn’t influence our prayer, I don’t know what else will.

May Your Kingdom Come

That brings us to praying for the kingdom to come. We could spend a lot of time talking about what the kingdom is. But again, I wonder if that might actually lead us away from the focal point of the prayer. Isn’t the main point to be servants and followers of the King? Do we pray for the reign and rule of Christ to grow in our lives and in our world? Are we grateful for the opportunity to be ambassadors for the King? Do we represent the kingdom well? Do our lives and our prayers align?

These are all great questions. I’m hoping that as we ask them, it drives us deeper into listening and communicating with our ever present King.

 

Recently in Alabama, President Trump scrawled giant autographs across the covers of Bibles.

Shocking? Hardly! Sad? Yes!

However, whatever sadness I feel does not come from the actions of the President, as much as it comes from the possibility of God’s people putting their adoration and maybe even their trust in a name other than the hallowed name of God.

We might be tempted to stand on our soapboxes and point fingers at the people in Alabama who clamoured for Trump’s name to adorn their Bibles; but we shouldn’t! We might be guilty of the very same attitude, even if our actions are different.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he said, “Our Father, who is in heaven, Hallowed be your name…”: One translation says – may your name be kept holy. My concern as I read this phrase is twofold: we don’t keep God’s name holy, set apart, and secondly we raise up other names to take his place.

We live in a world that thrives on name recognition. Making a name for one’s self is a big deal (we looked at this last month). Companies understand how important it is for consumer confidence that you maintain a good name. As we play the name game, it is relatively easy to replace the one name that is above all others.

Psalm 9:7-10 says, “But the Lord reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.”

What an awesome description of God’s greatness. Did you catch that last part? “Those who know your name trust in you.” When we truly recognize God for who he is, our trust in him grows. Inversely, our need to find other names to laud diminishes. There is more. Out of knowing the name of God (putting him back in his rightful place), and building our trust in him, grows the bedrock truth that he will not abandon all who continue to seek after him.

This has huge implications for our prayers. It reminds us that God is always with us in the midst of our everyday turmoil. No one else walks with us in the same way. No one loves and cares for us as deeply as he does. No one else can do what he can. No one else has the answers that we long for. No one! I’m truly grateful for an abundance of wonderful loving people that surround me and care for me, but they are still human. They are not God and I need God. As our need for God – the one and only “set apart” ruler of the universe – grows; our prayer deepens.

As I write this, I’m looking down on fluffy white clouds from an airplane window. On occasional flights, the landscape is visible and breathtaking. I especially like seeing the way a city lays, where the landmarks are, and how they relate to where I will be. It brings a lot of clarity.

When Jesus taught us to pray, He asked us to address God as the one who is “in heaven.” God has a bird’s eye view, and so much more. I think we can all agree this certainly speaks to God having the power, wisdom, clarity, and resources to listen to and answer any prayer.

If we truly acted on those beliefs, would it change the way we pray?

Here’s the thing: I’m not convinced that we truly believe God is “in heaven.” Well, maybe you do. But I have to confess there are times I don’t. If I did, I wouldn’t wait so long to pray about a situation. I certainly wouldn’t try to fix whatever the issue is before I prayed about it. Yet there are so many times when I find myself thinking “I got this.” God “in heaven” is an afterthought.

Genesis 11 opens with the Tower of Babel story. The human population at the time wanted to build a city and a tower that would reach heaven. The purpose for this was two-fold. It would keep them from being scattered, which was a direct violation of their God-given command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Gen.1:28; 9:1). It would also, according to the residents, “make us famous.” Another translation says, “Make a name for ourselves.”

What is remarkable about this whole story is that they subverted the typical reason for the tower. In ancient cultures, building a tower was a common thing. Its purpose was to provide a gateway for God—or the gods if you were pagan—to step out of heaven and come to earth. Here, however, notice what is up. They have no desire for God to come from heaven. They want to ascend to heaven and make a name for themselves.

In our lives, we don’t build actual Babel towers, but maybe we live in such a way that we are doing the same thing. When we rely on ourselves and our sufficiency in an effort to build our reputation more than we build God’s reputation, did we just build a tower? Did we try to make a name for ourselves or reach heaven, instead of inviting the God of heaven to come into our lives?

Praying “Our Father in Heaven” prayers is a practice that enables us to tip over idol towers. It puts both God and ourselves back in the respective right places. It opens up a world of surprising possibilities that we could never have when we place ourselves “in heaven.” It also allows us to appreciate the things and people in our lives as good gifts from God as opposed to turning them into tools we use for our purposes.

As we pray together this month, may this reminder of who we pray to encourage you to keep looking to our great God “in heaven” and find your hope and sufficiency in Him.