The simple answer to all of life’s complicated problems is to first seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). In other words, we must first seek God’s will in all things. It is a matter of correct priorities. As Jesus warned,
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Most every Christian will agree with the foregoing two verses in principle, but few will put these verses into consistent practice. As explained in the Parable of the Sower of Seed, most do not persevere in their spiritual life. Some fall away because of affliction or persecution (Matt. 13:21). Others fall away because of the anxiety of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth, or the pleasures of life (Matt. 13:22; Luke 8:14). The Zeitgeist (the spirit of the age) is always contrary to our spiritual advance.
There are many reasons for us to be anxious and weighed down with worries. There are near endless family, health, financial, work, social, and even psychological challenges. Not long after one problem is solved another problem will soon surface. Jesus told His followers to trust in God. Jesus taught, “And which of you by worrying can add a single day to his life’s span?” (Matt. 6:27). Again and again, we are going to be challenged to trust in God. The challenge to trust in God will never go away. Added to all of this is the buried reality that our lives are relatively short, and we will all eventually die. Inevitably, our lives, as currently experienced, will soon come to an end. We will pass from this life to the next. This reality places a near constant, often subconscious, pressure on each one of us. It is easy for us to engage in repression or distraction.
The Apostle Paul explained that since the Fall of Mankind, creation has been subjected to a certain futility (Rom. 8:20). God purposely subjected His creation and our lives to this reality of futility in the hope that His faithful followers would help set creation free from its current futility (Rom. 8:20-21). It is important to understand that the prayers of faithful believers have a special potency and efficacy (Prov. 15:29; Jas. 5:16; 1 Pet. 3:12). As James taught, the prayers of a righteous man “can accomplish much” (Jas. 5:16). The very futility of our existence provides the pressure and incentive for us to grow spiritually and pray. For this reason, in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His disciples to pray to the Father, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, [o]n earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). God has given us the power and means to end the futility of creation. But are we too busy being engaged in distraction or repression?
Our prayers increase in potency and efficacy when we consistently participate in Kingdom Living. Jesus taught that “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matt. 7:21). As I have explained in my previous blogposts, Jesus (in this verse) was not addressing the standard for whether or not a human will go to Heaven after they die. Instead, He was addressing the issue of whether or not a believer consistently practices Kingdom Living and thereby enters into the Kingdom of God while here on Planet Earth. We must understand that the Kingdom of God includes both a future political reality on Planet Earth and the present spiritual reality of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). The Kingdom of God is both already and not yet. When faithful and righteous believers consistently practice Kingdom Living, their prayers have great efficacy and the power to change world history.
In the Book of Revelation, the prayers of believers are apocalyptically pictured as being presented to God in a golden bowl by the four living angelic creatures and the twenty-four Elders (Rev. 4:8, 8:3,4). These powerful Biblical images teach us that our prayers are an important factor in the advance of human history on Planet Earth. The judgments pictured in the Book of Revelation were God’s response to the prayers of the persecuted (Rev. 8:1-13). However, it is also true that our failure to consistently practice our spiritual life will negatively impact the efficacy of our prayer life. For example, the Apostle Peter warned us that when there is a lack of domestic harmony between a husband and wife, their prayers are hindered (1 Pet. 3:7). The quality of our spiritual life impacts our prayer life and the trends of history.
The featured image on this page is titled “Sermon on the Mount” by Carl Henrich Bloch. Available on public domain. Courtesy of www.carlbloch.org.