The kingdom request. Learning how to pray: The Lord’s prayer

We’re in our series on the Lord’s prayer. As we’ve seen, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he gave them the Lord’s prayer (Luke 11:1-2). And so as we learn how to pray the Lord’s prayer we’re learning how to pray.

And I certainly want to challenge you to grow in your prayer life and your discipline in prayer as we go through this series.

Last week we looked at the first request – “hallowed be your name.” We saw that it’s a plea for God to act to make himself known in the world through his people – so that everyone will come to glorify and honor him. Today we look at the second petition – “your kingdom come.”

Now the phrase “the kingdom of God” covers a lot! In fact in Mark 1:15 it’s a summary for all that Jesus taught. But we’ll keep it simple here today and begin with some broad themes.

First –

God’s kingdom equals God’s will being done

In Matthew’s version of the Lord’s prayer the kingdom request has another phrase connected to it which means the same thing (synonymous parallelism).

  • There’s “Your kingdom come”
  • But also “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” [Like the hallowing request this phrase is also a divine passive and means something like “cause your will to be done.”]

I say these requests mean the same thing because, other than heaven, the kingdom of God is not tied to a particular place, like earthly kings usually have specific areas they rule over and if you live there you have to do what they say. God’s kingdom is wherever God’s kingly rule is being put into practice; wherever people are doing God’s will.

So God’s kingdom coming to earth, and God’s will being done on earth mean the same thing.

To pray “your kingdom come” means calling on God to act so that his will is done on earth.

A second theme has to do with conflict –

God’s kingdom is opposed by another kingdom

With the hallowing request, the assumption is that the world doesn’t know God and so God needs to reveal himself so that he will be known and glorified. Notice the assumption here. God is not fully in control of the earth. God’s will is fully done in the realm of heaven, but it’s not on earth. Otherwise we wouldn’t need to pray for this!

Even though God created the earth and so it’s rightfully his, and he created us and we should gratefully obey him, for now God chooses to allow us to defy him. Another way of saying this is that the world is in rebellion against God.

 This other kingdom is often called in Scripture “the world” or as Revelation 11:15 puts it – “the kingdom of the world.” It’s made up of several parts:

  • The nations of the earth: Psalm 2:1-3 says, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’” The nations do not walk in God’s way and they oppose his purposes.
  • Cosmic, spiritual powers: Ephesians 6:12 speaks of  “the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” These are behind the nations and influence and control them. Think of Daniel 10 and the angels who were the princes of Persia and Greece who fought against God’s angel Michael.
  • And then there’s Satan: Jesus calls him the “ruler of this world” – John 12:31. And Paul calls him the “god of this world” – 2 Corinthians 4:4.

So the earth is under the control of powers hostile to God and God’s purposes – both human and spiritual. And life under this kingdom is characterized by sin and rebellion and ends in death.

So to pray “your kingdom come” means calling for the defeat of this kingdom and the establishment of God’s rule. This request is all about spiritual warfare.

A third theme –

The coming of the kingdom is God’s promised salvation

It’s the fix for all that’s wrong with this world. It’s the fulfillment of all God’s promises to overcome evil, to heal our suffering and brokenness, and to bring forth blessing, peace and life.

When it comes:

  • “The Lord will be king over all the earth” – Zechariah 14:9
  • The good news will go forth, “Your God reigns” – Isaiah 52:7
  • God will establish “a kingdom that shall never be destroyed” but will bring to an end all human kingdoms – Daniel 2:44
  • God’s people will be given “a new heart” that obeys the Lord – Ezekiel 36:26
  • The nations will seek the Lord to “teach them his ways” “that they may walk in his paths” – Micah 4:2
  • God “will swallow up death forever . . . and wipe away tears from all faces” – Isaiah 25:8
  • “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” – Habakkuk 2:14

So praying “your kingdom come” means praying for God’s salvation to come and for all to receive.

A final theme  –

The kingdom of God has to do with the exertion of God’s power

It’s about God releasing his power. 1 Corinthians 4:20 says, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but in power.”

To what end is God’s power released? To do all that we’ve just looked at:

  • To make sure that God’s will is done on earth
  • To defeat the kingdom of this world
  • To bring to pass God’s salvation

The kingdom is all about God moving in power to do these things.

This power is exerted through God’s Spirit and God’s Word, who is Jesus and also the gospel (and the written Scriptures). This is how the Father acts to bring about the kingdom.

  • As the crowd said about Jesus, “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him” – Mark 1:27
  • And Jesus said, “It is by the power of the Spirit that I cast out demons” – Matthew 12:28.
  • And Paul said this about the gospel – “It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” – Romans 1:16.

So praying “your kingdom come” means praying for God’s power to go forth through his Spirit and Word to bring the kingdom to earth.

Next we look at –

How the kingdom comes

And there’s a process here.

1. The kingdom has begun with the coming of Jesus. God prepared for it throughout the Old Testament, but it truly came when Jesus came.

And he came, fully empowered by the Spirit to bring forth the kingdom. In Acts 10:38 Peter says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

– Jesus said in Mark 1:15 – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” God’s promises are being fulfilled and the kingdom has begun.

– He said in Matthew 12:28 – “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

In his ministry he illustrated the reality of the kingdom. He taught us what God’s will is and he gave us a glimpse of God’s salvation when he cast out demons, forgave sins and made people whole. And he set up a community, a remnant of Israel, committed to doing God’s will.

In his death and resurrection he established the kingdom – dethroning Satan and taking his rightful place as Lord. And he poured out the Spirit on his community to continue his work. Which leads to the next part of the process.

2. He sends us out to spread God’s kingdom. We go forth in his name and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is what he said when he commissioned us – Matthew 28:19-20 –  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

And as we share the good news of the kingdom people receive God’s salvation and new communities of the kingdom are established that stand apart from the nations and their ways because they do God’s will.

3. When Jesus returns he will bring the kingdom to completion. He will return in great glory. And then it will be said, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he shall reign forever and ever.” – Revelation 11:15.

This will be the time of the resurrection, the final judgment and the new creation. And God’s will, will be done on earth just as in heaven. The two will be one.

Finally, and practically, let’s look at –

Different ways of praying this request

We can pray it in different time frames. In the future tense we pray that God will bring about the final day, when God does just what we talked about when Jesus returns.

In the present tense we pray:

  • for God’ will to be done in our own lives
  • for individuals to be saved or “enter the kingdom” as Jesus often talked about.
  • for new churches to be planted; communities of the kingdom, where God’s will is done.

We can also use different words. Here are some scriptural examples of this request:

  • “Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations! – Psalm 82:8
  • “Rule in the midst of your enemies” – Psalm 110:2
  • On a more personal level, we can pray as Jesus did in Gethsemane – “Father, not what I will, but what you will” – Mark 14:36
  • We can also pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” – Revelation 22:20. How many of us pray for Jesus to return?

Here are some paraphrases I use that try to catch some of the nuances of what this request means:

  • May your glorious reign be established. May your will be done on earth, just as in heaven.
  • Cause this world to be transformed by your power so that righteousness prevails and evil is no more.
  • Send forth your Word and your Spirit. Set people free, transform us, make us whole, so that we can all do your will, just as Jesus has taught us.
  • May many hear your good news and receive your salvation today. And may many churches be established that do your will.
  • Take away evil, suffering and death. Fill the world with righteousness, peace and joy.

 

The name request. Learning how to pray: The Lord’s prayer

We’re beginning today to look at the first section of requests found in the Lord’s prayer, and we start with the first one – “hallowed be your name.” This is probably the least understood request of the whole prayer, so I want us to spend some time looking at what it means.

The meaning of the request

1. First of all, this is not an offering of praise to God. We’re not saying, ‘Father, we hallow your name,’ so that we begin our prayer with praise. Now this is a good thing to do as Psalm 100:4 tells us, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” But that’s not what we’re doing here.

Rather this is a petition to God. This is clear in the grammar that’s used in both Matthew and Luke. (It’s an aorist imperative – an imperative of entreaty; a request.) We’re asking God to do something.

2. The phrase “hallowed be your name”– notice the passive voice here –  is what’s called a divine passive. This is a deferential, respectful way of speaking of God that uses a passive grammatical construction, but has an active meaning. It means, “God, hallow your name.” This is kind of odd to us, but was fairly common in Judaism at this time.

But, what does it mean to ask God to hallow his name?

3. A person’s name stands for the person, their character and identity. It has to do with their reputation or renown; who they are and how they’re seen by others. So we’re asking God to act. Show who you are, so that people will know who you are. Make yourself known.

4. The word “hallow” means to regard as sacred or holy. We don’t use this word anymore, except in the word Halloween (all hallows or saints eve) which isn’t much help here. Sometimes it’s translated “sanctify” as in, “your name be sanctified.” But I don’t think this get us much further in terms of understanding the meaning.

“Hallow” is from the word “holy” which means ‘set apart or different’ with the idea of ‘better or special’ connected to it. So we’re praying that people will see that God is different and better than all else – whether people or any other so-called gods. God’s in a class all God’s own in terms of power and character.

5. When people see who God is they will hallow God and God’s name. To truly know who God is leads us to be in awe of God and to glorify God. In Isaiah 29:23 we see that to “hallow” or “sanctify” God’s name is the same as to “stand in awe” of God (synonymous parallelism).

Putting all this together so far, we can say that this is:

  • a request
  • for God to act (divine passive)
  • to reveal who he is (his name)
  • so that people will see God’s unique greatness (hallow)
  • and will respond with awe and praise (hallow)

 Next we look at a bit more at –

How God hallows his name

There’s a process involved. 1. God acts. This is what we’re asking God to do when we pray “hallowed be your name.” The hallowing process begins with God acting to do great things that show who he is.

2. God displays his glory through his people, by acting for them. Since we bear God’s name as his people, we’re connected to God. So when God acts for us to bless and help, or uses us as his instruments to accomplish his will, or we faithfully live out God’s wisdom in this world – this reflects back on God as others see this. This is how God makes his name or identity known to others.

  • Leviticus 10:3 says, “Through those who are near me I will show myself holy and before all the people I will be glorified.”
  • In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says, “Let your light shine before others, so that the world may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

We are God’s instruments. And it is through us that God makes himself known to the world.

3. Those who see this come to know and acknowledge God’s greatness. They hallow his name.

The background to this petition is that the world doesn’t know God or it has distorted ideas about God. In the context of idolatry the question is, “Who is the true God among the various gods?” Today we ask, “Is there really a God? Is God alive? Does God care?”

So this request is missional – we’re praying that people who don’t know God will have their eyes opened to who God is, so that they will know and glorify God. And sometimes this is a request for God’s people, who should know God, but easily forget how great and awesome God is, and need to be reminded.

An example of the hallowing process: Ezekiel 36

The context here is that Israel has been judged by God for their unfaithfulness. They have gone into exile among the nations; into Babylon. But this has profaned God’s name, which is the opposite of hallowing God’s name, for the nations say, “Yahweh must be weak, for his people, have been defeated!” (Ezekiel 36:20-21)

What does God do to hallow his name? 1. God acts. v. 22 – “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act . . .” (NRSV) God is going to do a great thing. In this case God will act to bring them back from exile (v. 24).

2. God displays his glory through his people, by acting for them. v. 23 – “I will hallow my great name . . . when through you I display my holiness before their eyes.” (NRSV with “hallow” for “sanctify.”) God’s greatness will be seen in that he can bring his people back from exile and re-establish them in the promised land.

The result is that 3. Those who see will come to know and acknowledge God’s greatness. v. 23 – “the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I display my holiness before their eyes.”

 Notice again the missional part of this request – those who currently don’t know God, will know that Yahweh is God.

Now in this example God’s people are unfaithful and he acts despite them, for his name’s sake. But what God wants is to act through our faithfulness to bring glory to his name.

Finally, let’s look at some –

Different ways of praying this request

We can pray it in different time frames. God’s kingdom has begun, but will only be completely here on the final day. So God hallows his name now by working in the world, and will also more fully hallow his name on the final day.

In the future tense we pray that God will bring about the end when every knee will bow before Jesus and glorify the Father, as Paul says in Philippians 2:9-11. This is when God will fully reveal who he is and even those who have spurned God will have to acknowledge how great and good God is. They will hallow his name.

In the present tense we pray that God will act day by day to do great things in the world so that people will come to know and honor him.

Also, in the present tense, we can pray it on two levels, individually or corporately.
As it’s written it’s both at the same time, as we saw, but we can focus on one or the other.

Pray that God will bring glory to his name through your own life

Pray that God will bring glory to his name through our local church, as well as the church world-wide.

Finally, we can also use different words. This request actually shows up lots of times in Scripture, said a little differently, and we can use these to pray this request. Here are a few examples:

  • Psalm 57:5 – “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth.” Let everyone see who you are and glorify you.
  • Psalm 67:2-3“May . . . your way be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God!” This has to do with the nations seeing how God provides for and blesses his people.
  • John 12:28 – “Father glorify your name.” Jesus prays this as he begins to face the cross.

These are some of the ways that I pray this request that try to capture some of the nuances we’ve talked about:

  • Do great things in the world so that everyone will know who you are and honor you.
  • Cause all people to know that you are God through your mighty acts which display your character.
  • Glorify your name through your people. May others come to know you through our witness.
  • Act in the world, O Lord; show everyone that you are alive. Make known your power and your character. May we all come to honor and glorify you.
  • Bring forth the final day when every knee will bow and rightfully glorify your name.