They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Lord Teach Us to Pray: Part 3

Christ, the King

Part 3 of a Series on the Lord’s Prayer, found in Luke 11:1-4 and Matthew 6:9-13

In our third post we will tackle the second phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come (tamklikh malkhutkha), thy will be done (yei’ase retzonkha), on earth as it is in heaven (ba-shamayim u-va’aretz). The teachings of Jesus on the subject of the “Kingdom of God”, or the “Kingdom of Heaven” are found in many places in the gospels and have been discussed and debated extensively throughout the centuries. In this post, we will not try to cover all the many facets of this important subject, but we will attempt to understand what Jesus would want us to know about praying for His Father’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done.

It is interesting to note that Jews had been praying for God’s Kingdom to come long before Jesus put it in His model prayer. An ancient prayer, called the, “Alenu” (which is still prayed in synagogues today), has the following lines concerning the Kingdom:

“Therefore we do wait for you, O Lord our God, soon to behold your glory….when the world shall be regenerated by the Kingdom of the Almighty…. So will they (the world) accept the yoke of your Kingdom and You will be King over them forever….for yours is the Kingdom and to all eternity shall you reign in glory. The Lord shall reign forever and ever, and the Lord shall be King over all the earth.”

As we shall see, knowing that this was how they prayed and how they viewed God’s Kingdom will really help us to understand the Lord’s Prayer. We have always been taught that, “Thy Kingdom come”, meant God’s second coming, as in “Come soon Lord!” This may well be a part of the meaning, however, the Kingdom is much more complex than just His second coming and contains several paradoxes that are hard to comprehend. Let’s look at the paradoxes as they are presented in the gospels.

First of all, we know from Jesus’ teaching that the Kingdom of God has already come in the person of Christ (Luke 11:20). Yet, in the Lord’s prayer it sounds like we are to ask for it to come, and speaks of a future time when it will show up. In essence, the Kingdom is both “already” and “not yet”.

Secondly, we know that the Kingdom of God is near as Jesus stated in (Mark 1:15). Yet, in (Luke 19:11-27) Jesus told a parable to a crowd of people that were expecting the Kingdom of God to appear immediately, telling them that the Kingdom was not near but was to appear at some time in the future. So, the Kingdom is near, but far away.

Thirdly, it also seems from the gospels that the time of the coming of the Kingdom is unknown and unknowable (Matthew 24:36), but yet in Matthew 24:3-35 and Luke 21:5-36, Jesus gives us the signs that tell us when the Kingdom will be coming! The Kingdom then is unknown, yet known.

Finally, read Luke 17:20 where it says that, “the Kingdom of God is within you”, yet it is also described as an outward event that we can see with our eyes. The Kingdom is both within and without.

In light of these apparent paradoxes, how do we know what we are praying for when we pray for his Kingdom to come? The answer lies in the ancient prayer that we cited at the first of our post. The ancients prayed that all the world would come to know, worship, and serve the Jewish God and that the people would be subject to His rule and reign. By praying for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done here on earth, we are praying for the gospel to go forth and for people to be subject to His Kingship with all that entails. Instead of just standing by waiting for the world to come to know Him, we are to be actively making His Kingdom come by bringing people to a knowledge of Him and to worship Him as their Lord and King. To have a Kingdom, you have to have a King, and subjects who obey the King and live according to His laws. Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, was talking about Gods’ rule and reign over the daily lives of His people and not just a future time when He would show up in power at the end of time.

This makes perfect sense when added to the next line in the Lord’s Prayer, “On earth like it would be in Heaven”. As His disciples, we are to expand His reign over the earth so that His will is done, just like it would have been done in heaven. To say that, “His will be done”, implies that we have a choice whether to obey God’s will or not and we must accept responsibility for what we do here on earth. Even here, there is a paradox as God is sovereign and directs history – His will is always done. Yet somehow, we are free to oppose His will and His plan for us. It is all God and we are unable to add anything to the equation, yet He demands our obedience. We live our daily lives between these two stones. This tension is exemplified in the phrase, “on earth as it is in heaven”. Our lives here on earth and the way we live them is what fits us for heaven, but our purpose is for His Kingdom to come here on earth. We must be about doing His will and letting people know about His Kingdom while we are here on earth.

To sum up these first three sections of the Lord’s Prayer: We pray to, “Our Father“ (not my father – think community), “who is in heaven”, and sovereign over us, and pray that “His name would be made Holy” in our lives and actions and that we would do nothing to make it unholy. We pray for,”His Kingdom to be made known” to all people here on earth, and for us to be obedient subjects to His will “just like it would be done in heaven”. These three petitions, “Hallowed be your name”, “Your Kingdom Come”, and “Your will be done”, have long been called the, “Thou” petitions because they focus on our thoughts and prayers towards our Heavenly Father.

In our next post we will turn our attention to the three ”We” petitions, where we ask God to help us in our daily lives.

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