Prayer is the Authoritative Function of Christ’s Ekklesia

Way too often there is a violent shooting in this country followed by the expected news reports and other reactions across the country. Often there are many people reacting by saying they will be praying for the people involved. Invariably someone will respond with an angry retort saying “We don’t need your prayers, we need action!” Of course the action they desire usually has to do with gun control or some other political issue. People with a secular outlook don’t believe in prayer and to be honest most people place prayer very low on their list of priorities.

Even Christians and church leaders often place prayer very low on that list. One pastor responded to me when I was stressing the importance of praying for guidance by saying “Well, we don’t have to pray about everything. Sometimes we just need to make up our mind about something and just take action.” People say grace at their meals or send up a short prayer when someone is sick or in trouble but few people understand what prayer really is and why It is important in the life of followers of Christ.

I believe we fail to understand prayer because we fail to understand God’s eternal purpose and the part that His ekklesia, the church, plays in that purpose. In an earlier chapter I stated that Christ said “Upon this rock I will build my ekklesia and the gates of Hade will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). Jesus used the word ekklesia, the word we translate “church,” because everyone at the time knew what the word meant. It did not mean a religious building or program or even a loosely-knit assembly of people. An ekklesia was known to be the official authoritative ruling body of a city-state. Jesus was saying to His disciples, “Upon this rock of revelation I will build my ekklesia as my authoritative, decision-making body on earth.”

Jesus goes on to say in that passage, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (v. 19). The “you” of this passage is not just Peter or the other disciples. This promise was given to the future ekklesia that Jesus was promising to build revealing the authority that God’s people have been given. They would be actively loosing on earth what has been loosed in heaven and binding on earth what has been bound in heaven. That is amazing authority but it demands that the ekklesia be a people of prayer who discern the will of heaven and pray it into expression on earth.

This authority was given to God’s people in the Garden of Eden when God told the first humans: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). Christ restored this authority to His ekklesia through His redemption. This is not a blank check enabling us to use His authority as we please for selfish gain but it is His permission to perform His will according to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We see this clearly in the Lord’s prayer. In Luke 11:1 the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Out of that request came the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.] (Matt. 6:10–13).

Every verb used by Jesus in this prayer is imperative in mood. The imperative mood expresses a command, strong request or declaration. Some teachers, in error, have used this to say that we can command things of God which has led to much abuse of our authority as believers. No doubt, Jesus used the imperative to help us realize our authority as His ekklesia but this authority is to be submitted to the will of God. This means that people who are serious about prayer will also be serious about discerning the Lord’s will. Many verses verify that we can know God’s will (Eph. 5:17; Rom. 12:2). Since the ekklesia is the ruling body on earth we have authority to come boldly before God and request those things that we have discerned to be His will. We don’t have to beg or even sheepishly ask but can know that what we request in His will shall come to pass.

Why would Jesus encourage us to pray for the Father’s name to be hallowed if our prayers mean little? Why would He say to pray for His kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth if our prayers are mere words? The answer is clear — our prayers matter. We have real authority from Christ and that authority is expressed in prayer.

The Lord’s prayer, which is our prayer, reveals all we need to know about prayer. It begins with the words “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” The word “hallowed” is a verb form of the word holy. Jesus was telling us that we can declare that the name of the Father be made holy. God is perfectly holy and no amount of prayer can change His nature. Yet, we are told to pray for His name to be Holy. The creatures of heaven know His holiness and cry out continually “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God” (Rev. 4:8). Yet, amazingly, we are to declare that His name be holy on this earth. In prayer we command the holiness of God into the situations we face, the places we go and into the lives of the people we meet.

The same goes for the other declarations of the Lord’s prayer. We declare the coming of His kingdom, the accomplishment of His will on this planet of rebellion, and much more. Even our food and deliverance from evil are declarations we are to make. God is partnering with us to accomplish His will through the authority He grants His ekklesia in prayer.

This is why we “have boldness and access with confidence” as we enter prayer (Eph. 3:12). This is why we can “. . . draw near with confidence to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16). We are chosen, set apart and called out members of Christ’s ekklesia, the ruling body of the Lord which is granted His authority on planet earth.

As we take this attitude in prayer we make way for God to move miraculously in our lives and in the lives of our brethren. We fail to see such breakthroughs because we simply do not know who we are in Christ Jesus. In Him we are people with His authority to accomplish His will as He reveals it to us. Paul prayed continually that those who responded to his ministry would receive “. . . a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Eph. 1:17). Paul believed that this revelation would open the eyes of our hearts to His calling and His riches and His great power flowing into us (Eph. 1:18, 19).

The apostle was basically praying that we would understand our authority in Christ Jesus as His ekklesia on earth. When we begin to see who we are individually and corporately in Him we will begin to be able to step out in His boldness to pray His will into earth’s chaos. I yearn for that day which is coming soon. I hope you have the same yearning.

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