My father was a Christian who believed in prayer but I knew and understood little of his praying until after my own conversion at the age of seventeen. From that time as I listened to my father’s petitions I concurred with them all – all, that is, except one, and this one had to do with a subject which was so much a part of his praying that I could not miss the divergence in our thought. Our difference concerned the extent to which the success of the kingdom of Christ is to be expected in the earth. My father would pray for its universal spread and global triumph, for the day when ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more’, and when great multitudes in all lands will be found numbered among the travail of Christ’s soul…
-Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope, p. xv
I was deeply convicted by this paragraph. My prayer life, public and private, has already changed as a result of it.
The fact of the matter is that we too often pray by sight, basing all petitions on what we see, rather than laying ahold of the promises of God. Our pessimism leads us to forget the promises of Christ that his kingdom will not only endure, but flourish. Can you imagine that Americans, to whom the gospel traveled so far to reach, are pessimistic about God’s ability to lengthen its arm?
In the context of the latest headlines, I remember Abraham, who pleaded with God for Sodom, for the sake of ten righteous men who might be there. There weren’t ten righteous to be found. But today we surely know that there is one righteous Man for whose sake we can plead. We can plead the name of Jesus, and plead the cause of Jesus, and plead the love of Jesus, and plead the death and resurrection of Jesus. Should we not be more optimistic than Abraham, who had only seen the shadow of Christ’s righteousness?
Plead with God that his kingdom would increase – not that he would crush his enemies, but that he would win his enemies; that he would spare them for the sake of his righteous Son, and for the sake of his kingdom. That he would see the travail of his soul and be satisfied to increase the number of his kingdom and family.
Matthew Henry once wrote, based on Zechariah 12:10, that when God wants to move in this world, he sets his people to praying. Surely this is the sort of prayer he inspires – the type of prayer Calvin had in mind when he wrote in the Institutes, that “we dig up by prayer the treasures that were pointed out by the Lord’s Gospel, and which our faith has gazed upon.”