The Prayer of Submission

Steve Viars January 20, 2007 Matthew 6:1-15

 

- last Friday there was a large 2-page feature story done in the Sports section of the Gary Post Tribune...

- Danny Lewallen, the young man who was featured, is my nephew...

- I know some who are new to our church have a bit of trouble keeping my family straight...

- I have two sisters, my sister Sharon who is 10 months younger than me, who along with her husband Lane leave up in Wheatfield near DeMotte...

- and my sister Ruthanne who is 10 years younger than me who just relocated her to Lafayette along with my mom...

- there’s probably a lesson from the fact that after having me, my mom and dad were quick to want to have another child, but after having my first sister...it took ten years before they wanted to have another one...but I don’t think its my place to point that out...

- so my sister Sharon and her husband Lane have a son Danny who is in his senior year in Kankakee Valley High school...

- this article is entitled “Thanks for the Memories” and it has a half page picture of him with the subtitle “Kankakee Valley’s Danny Lewallen is in the midst of a great senior season for the Kougars and a memorable season for him”...

- the fact that the Gary Post Tribune would feature an athlete from Wheatfield was a bit surprising...

- but the story explained how Danny has had a great sports career there, advancing to the state finals this year in tennis...how he’s a statistical leader in the area for basketball---

- averaging over 25 points per game, along with solid numbers in assists, rebounding, and 3 pointers...

- it spoke about some other sports accomplishments, but it became apparent that the reason they published the article is because of Danny’s character...

- the writer said, His athletic accomplishments in multiple sports is impressive.  His reputation away from sports is pristine...

- He went on to say -- ...”Lewallen holds an impressive 4.61 grade-point average, is on the student council, is a National Honor society member and also takes part in KV’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes program.  If things stay as they are, he’s on pace to KV’s class valedictorian.

- then the writer said this – Lately, among the headlines of athletes behaving badly, it seems even more rare to hear about a guy like this.  Lewallen keeps his nose clean, and factors character into nearly every decision he makes.  Why?

- then he quoted Danny as saying – “My big thing is to be a good role model.  I know that during a lot of these camps I help out with, these kids with baseball caps on are going to look up to me. Our job as athletes is to try to live up to their expectations.”...

- then the article drove to main answer to the why question posed earlier by quoting by brother in law Lane who just nailed it...

- Lane Lewallen said the one thing about his son that he’s most happy about has nothing to do with stats or grades.  “As a father, what I’m most proud of is the Christian character he portrays.”...”There are a lot of ways to witness as a Christian.  Words are fine, but lifestyle goes a long way.”

- now, am I happy that one of my nephews is doing that well?...absolutely...

- but more so, as a pastor and a believer---I’m just glad to hear the story of somebody in the Gary area, or any area, who has an opportunity to model what it means for your faith, for your Christianity, to impact the way you live every day...

- now, this morning I would like to ask you to think about how that story is related to these words...”thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth...as it is in heaven.”

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Matthew chapter 6?...page 4 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- our church’s theme this year is “Reaching New Heights”...

- we have been focusing our attention on 2007 for quite a while now...

- a significant amount of planning and preparation have gone into getting to this place and we are very thankful for, and excited about the ministry opportunities that are unfolding all around us...

- but we understand that with blessing comes responsibility...we want to get it right...

- so this year is all about looking at where we are...wherever that is individually and as a church, and carefully identifying what the next steps look like...

- in our personal walk with Christ, and in our ministry effectiveness as a church family, we want to reach new heights...

- so where does that start?...we believe one of the clear answers is...Reaching New Heights in the Way that We Pray...

- for many of us, if we would say---what areas need work---you wouldn’t have to look any further than our prayer lives...

- and because communion with God is such an essential foundation to everything else we hope to accomplish this year...we want to spend this first month right here in Matthew 6, studying Jesus’ instructions to His disciples about how to pray...

- last week, we looked at Matthew 6:9 which emphasizes the prayer of adoration...our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name...

- a record number of people were here last week to study that passage together...

- but let me ask you a question before we go any further...

- did it make a difference in the way you prayed this week?...

- could you point to concrete change?...

- not in a super saint kind of way---we said at the outset that we were not going to do that...no stories about people getting up at 3 o clock in the morning and praying for four hours...in fact the context prohibits that kind of thing...

- also not in a, are you doing better than the person sitting next to you fashion...

- we are simply comparing ourselves to where we were...and asking, are we getting to a better place?...

- you’ll be seeing a lot of pictures of mountain climbers this year...how does a mountain climber get to the top of the mountain?...one step at a time...

- so my question for you this week would be...did you take 7 days worth of steps in the way you pray?...

- because let me caution all of us about this...one of the worst habits you can get into as a Christian is to not work at applying God’s Word as we study it together...

- we’re not simply to be hearers of the word---we’re to be doers...

- if coming to church is just an end in itself, it’s a waste of time in that individuals’ case...

- and what encourages me as a pastor is that I am almost sure that there will be people here today who could say...PV, we took some steps this week...we took the challenge...

­ I was one of those persons whop never led my family to pray before meals...but we did it this week...it was a bit awkward, and the kids giggled a bit when I got my words twisted up...but we’re trying....

- or the married couple that would say---we took the challenge – 2 minutes, 3 days a week...which might not be much but its exactly 6 minutes more than before---

- that’s great...and if you multiple that church wide---I’m convinced that will put us in good stead for what’s next...

- now, let’s go back and read our passage again in its entirety and then dig into the next part of what God has for us...

- READ Matthew 6:1-15

- this morning we want to focus the rest of our time on The Prayer of Submission.

- Amy Carmichael wrote – “And shall I pray to change Thy will, my Father, until it accord to mine?  But no, Lord, no; that shall never be. Rather I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.”

- in these verses, we can find Three areas in which biblical prayer helps us submit ourselves to our God.

I. Submission to the Reign of Christ.

- Jesus taught his disciples to say to the Father “thy kingdom come”...

- now I realize you might say...well, that’s pretty straightforward...3 words, not much can be said about that...

- the truth is, we’ve just come upon one of the most significant theological concepts in Scripture...

- the principle of the Kingdom of God is a thread that runs throughout the Bible, and if you are trying to put all of this together in your mind, especially from the perspective of how the 66 books of God’s Word are connected...you could almost view this phrase as a cable that runs throughout the entire Word of God...

- in fact, that’s so true that the longtime president of Grace Seminary, J. Alva McClain who was an accomplished scholar and theologian wrote his seminal volume on the topic – “The Greatness of the Kingdom”...and all of us who went through that seminary curriculum had to become intimately acquainted with that book if we had any hope of graduating...that is how critical all of this is...

- so it is important for all of us to have a working understanding of this theme...

- and I hope we’ll find that there are some very practical applications of all of this to the way that we pray and subsequently live...

- part of the challenge is to...

A. Understand the various elements of the kingdom of God.

- this phrase is used in different ways in the Bible...

1. His sovereign rule over all things.

Psalm 103:19 - The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.

Psalm 29:10 - ...Yes, the Lord sits as King forever.

1 Chronicles 29:11-12 - “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.  “Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.

- so the Scripture teaches in many ways and in many places of concept of God’s sovereignty...it is always right to speak of Him as the great King....

- that is why theologian James Orr said – “There is therefore recognized in Scripture...a natural and universal kingdom or dominion of God embracing all objects, persons, and events, and doings of individuals and nations, all operations and changes of nature and history, absolutely without exception.”

- that would be very consistent with the verses we just read and many others like them...

- however, an equally important emphasis is....

2. His promised kingdom to Israel.

- each one of the biblical covenants that was made in the OT to Abraham, to Isaac, Jacob, to Joseph, to David...promised a specific kingdom on this earth that has not yet occurred...

- hundreds and hundreds of specific descriptions of a coming kingdom that to this point in history have not been fulfilled...

- so you have to decide, what do you do with all of that material?...

- the skeptics would say---see, God got it wrong...the lion never laid down with the lamb, the swords were never beat into plowshares, David’s descendents never sat on his throne and ruled an eternal kingdom...

- so an unbeliever would say the existence of promises about a coming kingdom of God prove that He cannot or did not keep His word...

- others would say...no, it’s just that all of those promises should not be taken literally...they take the position that the NT church is the equivalent of OT Israel...the spiritual fulfillment of those promises...

- that’s what it means to be amillennial if you have ever heard that term---no kingdom...the church is the kingdom of God and this is as far as that concept goes...

- now persons who believe that are our friends in many ways but we would see that issue differently...we would take the position that God meant what He said...if the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense...

- so we believe Jesus presented Himself to Israel in the gospels as their promised king...and they clearly and unequivocally rejected Him...

- that is why it is so significant in Matthew 12 when the Jewish leaders committed the unpardonable sin---they ascribed the works of Christ to the devil---and right after that the entire next chapter of Matthew is given over to a series of parables, all with one common theme...that of delay...

3. His future rule of all things.

- now, we do not believe that God is done with Israel, but that His plan for them is delayed in response to their unbelief...

- that is what Paul meant when he said that the church has been grated into God’s plan and program...which is a beautiful and instructive metaphor...

- that is also what he meant in the crucial text in Romans 9-10 which describes God’s future for Israel...

- we believe that at the end of the church age, the church will be removed [the rapture] from the earth and there will be a period of judgment on the earth described in detail in the book of revelation...and after that time the great King, the Lord Jesus will return to this earth to establish a literal kingdom on this earth with followers from every tribe of Israel along with men and women from the church...you can read about that in Revelation 19 and 20...

- now if you are trying to put all of this together, I understand that you might say...but PV, there seems to be a glaring hole here...

- if God’s kingdom involves his sovereign rule over everything, and his promised kingdom to Israel in the future...then...

B. How does this relate to conditions on earth today?

-  I think this is a very important point in the logic of all of this...

- John MacArthur said it this way – God is sovereign but He is not independently deterministic.

- now please think carefully about that, because this makes the point of this prayer request come into much clearer focus...

- Part of God’s rule today includes the freedom given to people to choose the identity of their king.

- so here’s a question --- are we living in the kingdom of God today?..what’s the answer to that?...yes and no...no and yes...

- yes in at least 2 senses and no in at least 1...

- yes in the sense that God is always sovereign...

- and yes in the sense that if you have chosen to trust Christ, and live for Christ---your life is a picture, a pre-curser of the conditions of the kingdom of God [remember the story about my nephew...]

- but no obviously in the sense that many people are our world have chosen not to submit themselves to God as their king...

- and the fact that God would allow sin to exist in His world, and all of the consequences that come from disobeying His will and His ways...is not an example of His kingly impotence, it is an example of His kingly patience...

- that’s why we’re to pray [though I’m trying not to get ahead of myself]...that these conditions would exist on earth...as they are...in heaven...

- so that leads us to an obvious question...

C. How does Christ’s kingdom come today?

1. By conversion.

- every time a person comes to a place in his/her life where they make a decision to admit their sin and then repent of the way they have been living [the direction they have been going]...and say to the Father – I want/need your Son to be my Savior and Lord...they are establishing a personal relationship with the king

- Romans 10:9-10 - that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

- that’s why Paul describes the salvation process as...Colossians 1:13 - For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,

- that is why if you are here this morning and you do not know for sure that you are on your way to heaven...the sense in which you need to pray “thy kingdom come” is that God’s kingdom would come to your heart, and your life...because you are choosing to acknowledge your need of a Savior and a Lord...

2. By Commitment.

- when a follower of Christ comes before God every day and prays in the category of “Thy kingdom come”...what he or she is saying is Lord...Lord, in my life and in my sphere of influence...I am committing myself today to submission to your reign...

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice, and it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to Thee.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord, by the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope, and my will be lost in Thine.

O the pure delight of a single hour that before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God, I commune as friend with friend!

Draw me nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, to the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessèd Lord, to Thy precious, bleeding side.

- now, that leads us logically to the next phrase...

II. Submission to the Will of Christ

- “Thy will be done.”

- see, one of the fundamental questions that every person has to answer is...is your faith about God doing your will or about you doing His?...

A. The distance between “my will” and “thy will” is enormous.

- and you might say...but the words sound almost alike...

- but the difference couldn’t be any more significant...

- friend, can I ask you this morning about the nature of your prayer life?...

- is it simply a laundry list of all of things you want from Him?

- is it God’s marching orders that you are giving Him before both of you begin your day?...

- Lord, I’m going to be pretty busy today...so you’re on your own...but I’m going to need you to do this and this and this...and take care of that and that and that...and I’ll check in with at the end of the day to be sure you completed your assignments...

- or is it a lot about vocally acknowledging your willingness to learn and to do His will...Lord, I want your will to be done today.

- John Hannah – The end of prayer is not so much tangible answers as a deepening life of dependency...The call to prayer is a call to love, submission, and obedience...the avenue of sweet, intimate, and intense fellowship of the soul with the infinite Creator.

- I wonder if some of us have some new heights to reach in the way that we pray?...

- now, please think about...

B. The impact that has on holiness.

- there was a disturbing article this week in a newsletter from Answers in Genesis...

- it was written by Carl Kerby and entitled The Trouble with TV

- it began with this question...What do the TV shows The Simpsons, Family Guy, and The Sopranos all have in common?

A. They portray dysfunctional people and families.

B. They mock Christians and creationists.

C. They’re among the three most-watched TV shows at Christian colleges.

D. All of the above.

E. A & B.

- do you know what the answer was, according to his research?...

- letter E...

- now you might say...thank the Lord at least students at Christian colleges wouldn’t have the same television habits as secular colleges...

- not exactly...here’s what he went on to report...

I compared my son’s Christian school with Harvard, MIT, Oxford, and even one of the so-called party schools in America, Arizona State.  And you couldn’t tell his Christian school from the secular ones.

When I looked at other Christian schools, the results were the same.  The Simpsons and Family Guy were in the top 5 shows being watched in almost all schools, Christian or not. 

Now the gangster series The Sopranos didn’t make the list (and that’s why the answer “E” above).  But here’s why.  Christian college students would tell me: But that’s on HBO, and we don’t want to pay for it on campus.  So we watch it when we go home.

- there you have it...there is a direct relationship between biblical prayer and personal holiness...

- and I would ask all of us today...not necessarily that we say those exact words by rote meaningless repetition...but does the specific cry of our heart as we pray communicate to the Heavenly Father that we are submitting that day, and committing ourselves to His will being done...

- now, here’s a hard question...

C. Does this include trials?

III. Submission to the Application of Christ.

- on earth as it is in heaven

- this is intended to make all of this very practical and right before our eyes...

A. With attention to personal application.

- Q – do you faithfully and regularly pray in part, submitting yourself to the Father?...

- not simply a laundry list of things you want, need, or demand from God...?

- and are there clear instances throughout the day that you are expecting God to answer that prayer?...

B. With attention to corporate application.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video