Volumes more insightful than my own have been written on the Lord’s Prayer, by vaunted academics to ancient saints. In this series, “On The Lord’s Prayer”, I do not claim to greatly advance the discussion, merely to share thoughts. Dive into the discussion — what does the Lord’s Prayer say to you?
The exultant hope of “You are in heaven” continues on in the next words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Blessed is your name/Your kingdom come…” We do not yet know what this kingdom is like, but we know the character of the one we call on, this is why we call him blessed. In the words that come later, we imagine that kingdom, but for now what issues from our lips is an urgent request and proclamation.
Prayer speaks both to God and to the powers. We urgently request of God, maker of all things and the one we call ruler of the heavens, to have his title honored and to bring his kingdom. Only the Father can do this. The Apostles asked Jesus if it would be now, soon after his resurrection, that the kingdom would come. The Lord replied that only the Father knew, and he would bring all things to fruition in time.
The Apostles forgot, in their excitement and absent the Spirit, that Jesus said the kingdom wouldn’t come by our seeing or by man’s actions. Rather, it comes without anyone knowing, quietly, just as Jesus came, and just as he came by the will of the Father, so has and so will the kingdom. But man can bend the will of the Father. If it weren’t so, Abraham interceded for Sodom in error and all your prayers are foolishness.
We know prayer isn’t foolish but vicarious. Prayer is vicarious because God wants us to know what he is doing, as our friend and Father, just as he did for Abraham. He makes known his will so that we can partner with him in it, whether by prayer to dissuade, persuade or simply agree with him. As a good parent bends their will and actions to their child’s plaintive cries, so God to our prayers.
Prayer also speaks to the powers: the stoicheions, as Paul called them, those invisible structures over creation, intended to mediate God’s sovereignty over mankind, but corrupted by sin and now serving as our oppressive overseers. The powers are also the object of our prayers and evangelism; to them we make not requests but proclamations in word and deed. In prayer, evangelism and prophecy we command them to honor God’s title and subject themselves to the kingdom of God already at work in the world.
By our prophetic acts and works of mercy and justice, we undo the tangles of sin and set straight lines out of crooked, making reality out of a kingdom unseen but at work in the world, until it works through the dough and the birds nest in its branches.
A DECISIVE BREAK
The words, “Blessed is your name/Your kingdom come…” of the Lord’s Prayer evoke these hopes and actions. But more is required. As the Psalm of Ascents begin, it shows a man sickened now by living among sinful men, as Lot’s righteous heart was sickened by his time in Sodom. But we must not be like Lot and only leave by God’s compulsion.
We are already pilgrims, if we trust ourselves to the name of Jesus. We are already sojourners in this world, seeking a new and better world quite apart from the one we know. Let us make a decisive break from the world and seek and make, in word and deed, a better one. Thus we urgently cry and proclaim, your kingdom come…
This, I believe but too briefly said, is what Jesus meant in this part of the prayer, and what generations of Christians have sought and prayed for all this time. Let us add our voices to theirs.