This week, Pastor Matt breaks some MAJOR news for our church family!


ESV Study Bible

Paul Miller, A Praying Church, 139-143

Sermon Transcript







If today is your first day gathering with Citylight Church, you picked a special one. Today is what we call around here Vision Sunday. Let me explain. Every late spring and summer, the Citylight pastors and I, along with some other leaders, ask God to give us his vision for Citylight Church for our coming ministry year, which runs from July to June. Today I have the privilege of sharing that with you and we all get to prayerfully take our dignified place in it. The process for discerning the Lord’s agenda for our church is relatively simple. It has three parts. First, we review and remember what the Bible says a church that is pleasing and glorifying to God looks like. We don’t have to dream up God’s vision for the church because God has already told us in the Bible, His word. That’s where we begin. Secondly, we ask God for wisdom to accurately assess where we are right now as a church. Where do we beautifully reflect what God says that a church should do and be? Where, by his grace, do we need to grow and be more conformed to what the Bible says we are to be? We start with where we are and where we want to go. Finally, we prayerfully choose one area of growth, one particular thing that we’re going to give special attention to so that we can move as a church from where we are, to being more pleasing to God and obedient to his word. Today I have the privilege of sharing that with you and we all get to prayerfully take our dignified place in it. 




Ok, let’s let the Lord Jesus set the agenda for the year ahead and our place in it. Please turn with me to Matthew 26:39, which can be found on page_______. Only one rich, powerful, vision-shaping verse today. Read. Pray.




Legend has it that the great Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, upon being asked by a friend what his plans were for the following day, replied, “Work, work from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” “So much to do, that I shall spend the first three hours asking my Father in Heaven for everything that I need.” Citylight Church, that’s a bit of how I feel about our coming year together. Our Father has given us as individuals and as a church family so many desires for good and plans for His glory that our only hope is to give our greatest energy, our greatest focus not to the things that we want to accomplish, but to learning to ask our Father for everything we need. So much to do that we must spend the first three hours in prayer. 


And the Lord Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 26:39 is the perfect model to teach us how to ask our Father for our desires for good and our plans for His glory. Let’s look at it again. And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In this brief prayer, the Lord Jesus models the two sides to asking our Father for what we need. One the one hand, the Lord Jesus boldly asks the Father for what he wants: let the cup of crucifixion on a Roman cross pass from me! The Lord Jesus boldly asks for what he wants. That is one side of good asking. God is His Father, therefore, like a child he can boldly ask for what he desires. On the other hand, the Lord Jesus Christ surrenders his will completely to the Father’s will: Let this cup pass; nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. That’s the other side of asking our Father for what we want: we surrender to his will. After all, he is our Father in Heaven. He is our Father, so we ask anything. He is in heaven, so he sees further than we do, we submit ourselves to His will. He asks boldly and surrenders completely. That is the heart of a praying life and a praying church. And with everything that God has given us for his glory this year, that is what we are going to give our greatest attention to learning to do together as a church. That brings us to the big idea of our passage and our big focus as a church this ministry year. ask boldly; surrender completely. Ask boldly, surrender completely. Our Father has given us, as a church family, so much to do for His glory that we are going to give our greatest energy, our greatest focus not to the things that we want to accomplish, but to learning to ask boldly and surrender completely because Jesus said that if we abide in Him we will bear much fruit, but apart from Him we can do nothing. That’s our focus and that’s where we are headed. Everyone can get in on that because when it comes to asking boldly and surrendering completely, nearly all of us are starting in the shallow end of the pool. So, this morning we are going to take it in two parts: 1. Ask boldly 2. Surrender completely. Ask boldly; surrender completely. Once we’ve looked in depth at these two sides to the prayer coin, I’ll share with you what is coming for our church this year, including a major announcement about our future, which I believe will help us all see why this year we can’t afford to give ourselves to any other focus but asking boldly and surrendering completely. Ok – the first part of Jesus’ prayer model that we’ll live by this year is…




Let’s look again at Jesus’ model prayer. Matthew 26:39 – And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me… I love the directness of the Lord Jesus’ prayer. Like when my own children want something that they know only I can grant, the Lord Jesus boldly tells the Father, His Father exactly what he wants. He asks God boldly because God is His Father.


Why we can ask boldly


Friends, the reason why we can ask boldly for God to fulfill all of our plans for His glory and our joy this year is because the heart of the gospel is adoption. If you’re somewhat new to Christianity, “gospel” means “good news.” Unlike every other religion or life philosophy, Christianity is not good advice about what you should do. At the heart of Christianity is the gospel, good news about what God has done for you. The gospel is good news about what God has done to forgive your sin and grant you eternal life rather than eternal judgment not by what you do, but through what Christ has done for you – his death and resurrection for your sins. That’s the gospel. But the heart of the gospel isn’t merely being forgiven of our sins, as wonderful as that is. The heart of the gospel isn’t even the gift of eternal life, as comforting and glorious as that is. No, the heart of the gospel is adoption. The heart of the gospel is that God not only forgives our sins through Jesus’ death and resurrection, but He also adopts us as forgiven and beloved sons and daughters of His. Jesus asked boldly because God is His Father. And we can ask boldly because through faith in Jesus, God is our Father who loves to give good gifts to his children. The doctrine of adoption means we can ask our Father boldly to grant us our desires for good and fulfill our plans for His glory.  


Jesus’ invitation to ask boldly


The Fatherhood of God explains why Jesus so consistently urges us to ask boldly. In his wonderful book on prayer, entitled, “A Praying Life,” Paul Miller writes, All of Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the Gospels can be summarized with one word: ask. His greatest concern is that our failure or reluctance to ask keeps us distant from God. But that is not the only reason he tells us to ask anything. God wants to give us good gifts. He loves to give.” Ask boldly. Now, asking boldly isn’t only what the Lord Jesus Christ models, “ask” is also his invitation to us. Listen to to the Lord’s invitation to us in Matthew 7:7-11Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Our Father loves to fill us with joy by granting the desires of our hearts for good and all our plans for his glory. In John 16:23-24 Jesus said, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” 


Examples of asking boldly


What can asking boldly look like? It can start with seemingly simple, yet significant things. There is a family in our church, the McCallisters, who have four adopted children and Brittany is about to give birth to their fifth child any minute. Their three younger children started in a new school this year and Meek and Brittany knew that their children, especially one of their daughters, feeling comfortable at school would make having a fifth child much easier. So, what did they do? They asked their Father boldly that their one daughter in particular would make a friend at school right at the beginning. So, the evening after their first day of school, Meek and Brittany asked their kids how it went and the one daughter they prayed for specifically for friends said, “It was great. I made 1,000 friends.” They asked their Father boldly. He loves to give good gifts to his children. Asking boldly can include material things because this is our Father’s world and he cares about everything. Some of you may remember that when we first found out that we could not stay here at Mishkan long-term and had no prospects for where to go, we began to pray. In fact, we prayed together as a church nearly every Sunday during our services. We were desperate, which is just the way our Father loves it. And our Father, who loves to give good gifts, answered our prayer by giving us the opportunity to purchase the building at 4050 Main Street. Of course, asking boldly includes fighting in prayer for more people to become worshipers of the one true God through Jesus Christ the Lord. A wonderful example of this kind of bold asking was James O. Fraser, who was a missionary to the Lisu people in southwestern China. Fraser began preaching the gospel among the Lisu in 1911, but after five years he only saw a handful of Lisu convert to faith in Christ. In his disappointment, he enlisted friends from home in England to join him in asking boldly for the Lisu to come to Christ. He wanted thousands of Lisu to be converted, but he had enough faith to pray that 200 families would. After another five years, little progress was made. Before resigning from his post, Fraser decided to take one more trip into a village to preach. The Lord began to move powerfully. Within two months 129 families had become believers! Fraser died of malaria at only fifty-two years old, but now, a century later, of the 1.5 million Lisu, 1.3 million are believers in Jesus Christ. Each of these examples displays that our Father loves to answer bold, feisty, specific, prayers when we ask. With all that we have to do this year, asking boldly is what we are going to learn to do and live by this year! Now, there is another side to the “asking” coin…


SURRENDER COMPLETELY – Doesn’t mean hedging your bets.  


Let’s return to the Lord Jesus Christ’s model asking. Matthew 26:39 – And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will. The Lord Jesus Christ asked boldly and surrendered completely because he trusted His Father’s goodness and greatness. This year we are going to learn to ask boldly and through our bold asking be made like Jesus in his complete surrender. As Paul Miller writes, At the center of self-will is me, carving a world in my image. At the center of prayer is God, carving me in his Son’s image.” 


What surrender isn’t


Now, let me be clear. Surrendering completely isn’t hedging your bets in prayer. That isn’t surrender, it’s faithless. Surrendering completely isn’t being timid in prayer, it isn’t tacking on “if it be your will” to every prayer, and isn’t holding back with perfunctory or vague prayers for God’s kingdom to come, whatever that means. Surrendering completely isn’t hedging your bets. 


What surrender is


Surrendering completely is asking with both the boldness and submission that comes from knowing that your Father is in charge and His ways are best. Surrender means trusting Him enough to ask specifically and to keep crying to God day and night, like the Persistent Widow in Luke 18. Surrender means telling God exactly what you want, but loving him more than what you want such that you’ll worship Him if he answers another way. Surrender means asking other believers to join you in praying. Surrender means praying for your desires for good and for the fulfillment of plans for God’s glory. 


Beginning with praise


One wonderful, practical way to surrender completely is to front-load your bold asking with praise. Praise God for his sovereignty, omnipotence, and love. By doing this, we orient our bold asking toward our Father who is in charge and also able to do even more than we could ask or think. The early Christians in Acts front-loaded their bold praying in this way, and thereby surrendered to their Father completely. In Acts 4, two of the apostles, Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus. After being threatened, Peter and John were released and went to the other Christians and told them everything that happened. They were scared. Imagine being in their shoes. We’d be terrified. So, they asked boldly that God would give them boldness to keep speaking about Jesus and not give up. But before they asked boldly, they praised God with a heart of surrender. Surrendering completely wasn’t hedging their bets or an out from asking boldly that God would help them keep speaking. Surrender meant their bold asking was shot through with praise to God for his sovereignty and love, acknowledging that he is in charge no matter what. Ask boldly; surrender completely.




Ok – now you may be thinking, “wonderful, a ministry year in which all of us are going to learn together to ask our Father boldly to grant our desires for good and our plans for his glory, along with surrendering those desires and plans completely. But we could focus on a lot of things. Why ask boldly and surrender completely as the focus this year?” Answer: Citylight Church is at the beginning of an unprecedented ministry year. Specifically, there are at least three huge plans that we have for God’s glory, along with several smaller desires, that simply aren’t going to be accomplished apart from asking boldly and surrendering completely. I want to share those three with you and I think you’ll begin to see why “ask boldly; surrender completely.” 


First, Reach and our new facility. For the last almost two years, Citylight Church has been united together in a generosity initiative called Reach. Reach is all about setting down deep roots in our community so that we can bear lasting fruit for God’s glory in Philadelphia, and beyond, through owning and occupying a long-term facility in this neighborhood. We believe that owning a long-term facility in the city is like having a Time Machine that helps ensure that the gospel will spread in this region and beyond now, and long into the future after we are gone. Very practically, Citylight Church’s Reach goal is to raise $4.3M in two-year pledges and expected gifts so that we can continue our day-to-day mission of making disciples of Jesus to the glory of God and purchase, renovate, and occupy a long-term facility where we can set down deep roots and bear lasting fruit for decades to come. This ministry year, in March 2024, Citylight will conclude the Reach Initiative with, Lord-willing our entire Reach goal exceeded. To accomplish our Reach goal so that we can set down deep roots and bear lasting fruit, we must ask boldly and surrender completely. Apart from Him we can do nothing. During the Reach Initiative, the Lord opened the door for Citylight Church to purchase a building just down the hill from here at 4050 Main Street in Manayunk. Lord willing, this year Citylight Church will buildout and renovate the facility so that next year’s vision Sunday will be held at 4050 Main Street. Friends, the facility build out is one of the most challenging and unpredictable things we have undertaken as a church. So much is at stake. So much opportunity and so many obstacles to actually completing and occupying the building. Our only hope is to ask our Father boldly and surrender completely. That’s one of the three big things that we have going on.


Secondly, this ministry year Citylight Delco, our daughter congregation in Drexel Hill, will transition from being a congregation of Citylight Church Manayunk (one elder team, one membership) to being an accredited church, independent of but working closely with Citylight Church Manayunk. By January our desire is that there will be four Citylight Churches: MNYK, Center City, Amarillo, and Delco. We aren’t a church that only wants to be strengthened in the faith and increase in numbers daily (Acts 16:5). We want to help establish other churches because the local church is God’s plan A for reaching the world and there is no plan B. This year we want to establish Citylight Delco as an independent church. It will take more than wise planning and strategy. We have to ask boldly and surrender completely!


Now, there is one more faith-filled risk that we believe God is leading us to this year and it will have a major effect on our church not only this year, but into the future. What I am about to share will be brand new for most of you. Over the last several months, as the other pastors and I have been praying about Citylight Church’s future, the Lord confirmed in our hearts that this is not to be a year of only setting down deep roots here in Philadelphia by completing Reach and building out and occupying 4050 Main Street. We believe that this is also to be a year for bearing fruit and reaching far. Therefore, the other pastors and I have unanimously concluded that, Lord-willing, by the end of this ministry year (June 2024), Citylight Church will send out our next church planter to establish the fifth Citylight Church. We are taking a faith-filled risk. We are going to move into the building and send out the next church plant at the same time. And the next Citylight Church will not be here in Philadelphia, it will not be “for us.” The Lord has put NYC on our hearts and that’s where we plan to send Citylight’s next church planter to establish the next Citylight Church. And as exciting as it is, planting the next Citylight Church in NYC will require our most difficult “gospel-goodbye” yet because the Lord has put it on Tim and Sarah Shutes’ heart, along with their three girls, to move to NYC to plant the next Citylight Church in July of 2024. I can personally tell you that Andrea and I are both exhilarated and heartbroken. We love the advance of the gospel and the planting of churches, but we hate saying goodbye to our partners in ministry for the last ten years. But it’s worth it. We’re praying that the Lord will raise up 12 people from Citylight Church here in MNYK and the other Citylight Churches who will go with Tim & Sarah, people in whom Christ has put a spirit of adventure and evangelism, people who will be missionaries to New York with Tim & Sarah. If you think you might be interested in being one of those twelve people or receiving regular updates to pray for those twelve people, along with the Shutes’, please sign-up to receive their regular prayer updates at: As you have likely guessed, saying a gospel goodbye to Tim also means that this year Citylight Church will also seek to hire our next executive pastor, either from within or from outside our church. 


Friends, apart from Him we can do nothing, but if we abide in Him and as the Father boldly, with complete surrender, then we can bear much fruit. 




So, here is what we’re going to do. We are going to take communion together and we are going to pray together. Why those two things? The Lord’s Supper unites us. It’s what makes many one. Dr. Bobby Jamieson writes, “The Lord’s Supper is how Christians come together, commit to each other, and cross the line from “many” to “one.” In the Lord’s Supper, our fellowship with Christ creates fellowship with each other.” The Lord’s Supper unites us as one and reminds us that as the adopted sons and daughters through Christ, we can ask boldly and surrender completely. We are also going to pray. We will be doing a lot of praying throughout the next year, but we are going to begin today. I am going to ask the band to come up and any of the pastors and their wives who are in this service to come to the front. You can pray in a couple different ways. The band is going to play quietly for a few minutes. You can pray in your seats, quietly, right where you are. If you’d prefer, you can come up to the front and pray with one of the pastors and their wives. If you would like to pray over Tim and Sarah and for the next Citylight Church in NYC, come and pray with them. If you’d like to pray for Reach, the new facility, and setting down deep roots to bear lasting fruit. Come pray with Andrea and me. If you’d like to pray for Citylight Delco, come pray with one of the other pastors and their wife. If you’d like to pray for the church or be prayed for, come to the front and grab one of the pastors. After a few minutes, the band will lead us in two songs of worship. Feel free to keep sitting or keeping coming up to pray, or stand and sing praise to our Father who invites us to ask boldly and surrender completely. 


Lord’s Supper


Prayer prompts are on the screen:

  1. Reach, 4050 Main Street, Deep Roots & Lasting Fruit
  2. Citylight Church #5, Tim and Sarah, NYC
  3. Citylight Delco