Article of the Month

 

August 2007

Our Lord's Prayer

Part 2 

 
Pray, Thy Kingdom Come...

A BRIEF SUMMARY

 

Up to this point, we might summarize the lessons of Jesus’ sample prayer by this paraphrase:

Dearest Father,

I, along with the others you have called

to be saints, wish to acknowledge that

our spiritual existence is because you,

our Father, have begotten us with a new

hope.  Your heavenly whereabouts have

inspired us all to want to be with you once

your work in our development has concluded. 

As we petition you in prayer, it is our foremost

desire that the holiness of your character fully

overrule and override our petitions so that your

omniscience will work everything for our eternal

good.

* * * * *

THY KINGDOM COME   (6:10)

This three-word request is at the very foundation of all that we are, hope to be, and pray for.  When God promised to Abraham that in Abraham’s seed all the families of the earth would be blessed, and when the Apostle Paul told the Galatians that we Christians ARE that seed, OUR VISION was inaugurated.  The blessing of all the families of the earth is just another name for God’s Kingdom.  It is only natural that we would make it our PRIME request!  It is the answer to all ills, the solution to all problems, the fulfillment of all desires.  It is why we want to be Christians—and (most amazing of all mysteries!), it seems to have been forgotten or neglected by nearly all denominations!  So many churches will teach that we want to be Christians so that we can go to heaven to escape something manifestly worse.  What a loss of truth!  What a loss of vision!  And it is these same denominations which have recited these prayer words for centuries!  The words don’t say, “Let us go to thy heavenly Kingdom.”  They say, “Thy Kingdom COME!”

THY WILL BE DONE IN EARTH
AS IT IS IN HEAVEN   (6:10)

These words make even clearer the intent of the prayer, “Thy Kingdom come.”  The last words, “as it is in heaven,” remind us of our Father’s home.  While our desire is to be where our Father is, and while we KNOW that where HE is, certainly NOTHING is violating His Will, we want (we PRAY) that the same condition also will exist here in earth—once the prayer has been fulfilled and His Kingdom has, indeed, COME.  Thus this eleven-word request shows our harmony with God’s will, not our own.  It shows that, while we wish to join Him in the perfect environs of heaven, we also want not to forget the earth, nor that it will be our charge—the very PURPOSE of our calling—to help to establish God’s Will as the LAW OF EARTH because that is His Will.

There is a particularly beautiful passage in Ephesians 1:8-10 which shows the import of this passage in our Lord’s prayer.  We will quote it from Weymouth’s translation, THE NEW TESTAMENT IN MODERN SPEECH, because we know of no more eloquent expression of God’s will and purpose than is given in this translation:

 

             “…He made known to us the secret of His will

             …God’s merciful purpose for the government

            of the world when the times are ripe for it—the

             purpose which He has cherished in His own mind

             of restoring the whole creation to find its one

             Head in Christ; yes, things in Heaven and things

             on earth, to find their one Head in him.”

Jesus knew his Father well.  When he asked us to pray, “Thy Will be done,” he knew what God’s will is.  He knew God’s will is the government of the earth when the times are ripe for it.  He knew that God has CHERISHED in His own mind the VISION of restoring the whole creation, BOTH IN HEAVEN AND EARTH, under the direction of Jesus and his Church.  (Compare Acts 3:20, 21.)  Now, when we pray, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy Will be done in earth as it is in heaven,” we, along with Jesus, are enthusiastically ENTERING INTO GOD’S WILL.  We are asking for something that WILL HAPPEN!   We are both expressing our faith in God’s purpose, and expressing our desire to be a part in its fulfillment.  What a prayer!  What a Hope!

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD   (6:11)

The simplicity and the placement of these words are important.  This is the first request, the ONLY request, for temporal needs.  Jesus does not discourage us from asking for temporal needs.  But the way he presents this sample of such requests teaches us two things:

             (1)       We need not look to nor concern

                         ourselves about temporal things

                         in the future.  Our request is:

                         THIS DAY please provide what

                         our human bodies require so that

                         we can pursue the interests of our

                         spiritual welfare—the development

                         of our New Creatures.  Our human

                         bodies are all we have to serve Thee,

                         Father; please sustain them THIS

                         DAY as per your wisdom.

 

Temporal prayer is not for selfish ends.

It is not for advantages nor for THINGS.

It is for sustenance—just what is

necessary for our doing HIS WILL to

the best of our ability.  It might include

more than “bread” (food), perhaps also

including enough strength, or protection

from the elements.  But clearly it is for

the needed, not the wanted.

 

(2)        The temporal request appropriately

FOLLOWS the requests for the things

and Will of God.  Interestingly, however,

it PRECEDES the requests for our

behavior modification (verses 12 and

13).  Why is this?  It seems likely that

this is Jesus’ assurance to us that he

and his Father know the weaknesses

of our humanity.  They are fully aware

that we are not well able to deal with

self-correction while our bodies are

not fed.  It is a wonderful assurance

to us that we are not presumptuous

in asking for needed temporal

assistance—even before we ask for

help in our thoughts.

Since Jesus told us in verse 8 that God knows our needs in advance, it might well be asked, “Why should we ask for bread?”  The answer seems to be that, in doing so, we keep ourselves aware of the SOURCE of our sustenance.  We also keep ourselves aware of our thankfulness that we CAN ASK for needs and not concern ourselves with the burden of wondering from whence they will come.

Now the prayer progresses to the category of asking help in our character development.

AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS   (6:12)

A debt is not necessarily monetary.  Thus other translations suggest,  “Forgive us our trespasses.”   Two points again are important:

(1)        We will NEED forgiveness.  We WILL

trespass.  We WILL do things which

hurt others.  This will not be intentional,

but it WILL happen.  (Romans 7:14, 15)

Jesus is kind in letting us know that we

will not be condemned for our human

frailties, but that we will need to ASK

for forgiveness.

(2)       However, Jesus also makes our forgiveness

            DEPENDENT upon our willingness to be as

            generously forgiving of others.  This is

            closely akin to Matthew 7:2 where we are

            informed that we can affect our own

            judgment from God BASED UPON our own

            latitude with others.  This point is SO

IMPORTANT that Jesus suggests that we

include it in our prayers!  As we ask for

forgiveness, we can confidently express

to our Father that we are completely

extending the same mercies to others.

Thus, in the first two personal parts of prayer, we are taught to request (and give thanks for) natural sustenance and forgiveness for naturally human misbehavior.

The final request category is for PROTECTION for the mind—the character.

AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION,
BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL   (6:13)

Many solutions have been suggested for what here seems to be a problem.  It is written (James 1:13) that “God tempteth no man.”  Therefore, we need not pray to God that He would not lead us into temptation!  Some suggest it should read, “Abandon us not in temptation,” but the manuscript evidence does not support such a translation.

Actually, the lesson here is fairly simple if we re-word this passage to make a little more sense to the modern reader.  The PRIMARY request is that God would DELIVER US FROM EVIL.  This is a NECESSITY in the world in which we live.  We are not only threatened by the evils mankind has devised, but we wrestle also with the unseen evil powers of the spirit world.  (Ephesians 6:12)  We NEED God to deliver us.

But, here is the point of the first part of this passage.  Jesus well knew that we could fall under the delusion that we are invincible.  If a son keeps going to jail, and his father keeps bailing him out, he will, before long, be less and less careful, EXPECTING the bail-out to continue.  This will destroy any character he might have left.  If God keeps delivering us, we might just begin to take such deliverance for granted.  We might be TEMPTED to be CARELESS with evil—just CASUALLY ASSUMING that “Oh, well, I don’t have to be careful.  God will deliver me from evil.”  This would be a fatal mistake.  If we take God and His deliverance with anything less than sober seriousness, we are in danger of devaluing Him, of losing appreciation and thankfulness, even of developing a casual pride.  Thus, this final part of the “Lord’s Prayer” is a serious plea of precaution:

             O, Lord, please continue to deliver us

             from all the dangers of evil, BUT, please

             also never let your constant and

             wonderful deliverances tempt us

             into complacency.

So, the sentence seems to be backwards, but it is not:

              “Lead us so that we will not be tempted

             by your deliverances.  But please DO

             keep delivering us from evil.”

In our modern day, we probably would turn the sentence around for clarity.

             “Deliver us from evil, but please don’t

             let that honor tempt us.”

This actually is the end of the prayer.  The remainder of verse 13 is spurious.  It is not in any of the old manuscripts.

In verses 14-18, Jesus gives comment on the ideas of the prayer

found in verses 12 and 13.  Verses 14 and 15 stress the need for our forgiving others in order to obtain forgiveness for ourselves.  Verses 16-18 comment (not quite so obviously) on falling into temptation.

* * * * *

 We have looked at Christianity’s most famous prayer.  Hopefully we can see in it the content, elements, or “manner” of offering our own prayers:

(1)        Feel the brotherhood.

 

(2)        Value our embryo New Creatures

and Him Who begat them.

 

(3)        Long for spirit birth.

 

(4)        Ask that God’s Will supersede our

every request.

 

(5)        Cherish the Kingdom Vision because it also is God’s Vision; work toward its implementation.

 

(6)        Request sustenance needs.

 

(7)        Clear our human failures and don’t

hold such failures against others.

 

(8)        Request protection from evil and

from our own tendencies to

fall into temptations when we

experience such deliverances.

 

Amen.