RICHMOND, Va. – “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” Jesus taught His disciples to pray.
Where is the Kingdom of God? You will find it on no map, but it is coming – one soul, one household, one village, one nation at a time.
“We arrived at house number 37 and were met by a sweet, short, red-headed woman with a smile that flashed the most beautiful gold teeth,” an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary wrote earlier this year. “We introduced ourselves and told her that we came to her village to tell her that God loves her and to give her a copy of His Word. She took the gift and invited us into her home. Once inside, we met a man with a sad, sunken face. He had no legs. The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Yesterday, I wanted to die.’ We talked about faith matters and asked if he wanted to invite Jesus into his life. He asked if he could right now, and then he prayed with great emotion. Then I looked up and saw his wife with tears streaming down her face, and I asked if she had repented, too. She said, ‘Yes, right along with my husband.’
“When we arrived, that house had been full of despair, but the Savior gave hope. I am so grateful that I still have legs and can walk into places and touch lives for eternity. Though I don’t get to experience it every day, I was born for this.”
You were born for it, too, if you belong to Christ. Before you can spread the Kingdom of God, however, you must seek it with all your heart. “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” Jesus urged in the same sermon that contained His guide to prayer (Matthew 6:33, KJV). Only one thing is necessary, He told anxious Martha: Sit quietly at the feet of the Master, like Mary (Luke 10:38-42).
Worldly kingdoms are visible. They traffic in power, wealth, military might, prestige. Victory is to be sought at all costs. Defeat is the ultimate humiliation.
The unseen Kingdom of God, by contrast, glories in humiliation. Its symbol is a cross. In this life, it offers rejection, suffering and death. It demands surrender. The reward: union with the Lord.
“To really be His heart, His hands and His voice, to completely love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, we must totally surrender to God’s leadership,” says IMB President Tom Elliff. “This means being unconditionally, wholeheartedly committed to God – first to love Him, then to love others.”
It begins in prayer, a deeper form of prayer than many of us have experienced.
“Most people don’t know how to pray for the fulfillment of the Great Commission because they don’t even know how to pray for themselves,” said Marty Sampson,* an associate pastor from Alabama who attended the first School of Prayer for All Nations, held earlier this year at IMB’s International Learning Center. Sampson, who asked that his real name not be used because he travels to overseas regions hostile to Christianity, said he was drawn to the school out of deep conviction that Southern Baptists have forgotten the importance of prayer.
“I’m convinced the church lags behind in spreading the gospel because we are depending on ourselves, our strategies and our plans as opposed to the power of God in response to intercessory prayer,” he told IMB writer Don Graham. “I’ve been on a personal journey in my spiritual life of learning to be dependent on Him. And the key to that is absolute surrender. Everything about my life, everything that I value, I’m going to put on the altar so that nothing takes precedence over God.”
Drawing away from the world in order to change the world seems counterintuitive, but it was the spiritual practice Jesus Himself followed. He sought out solitary places to be alone with His Father and to listen to His voice. He returned to the world filled with God’s Spirit and power.
Let’s follow Christ’s example. No strategy, no amount of resources will bring light to the darkness without Him.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is International Mission Board global correspondent with a blog at worldviewconversation.blogspot.com. Learn more about the School of Prayer for All Nations or register for an upcoming session at imb.org/span. Send questions to [email protected].)