The Prayer of Jesus: Thy Kingdom Come!
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10
Effective prayer …. who doesn’t like an effective prayer? None of us would ever want to pray a useless prayer or a meaningless prayer.
We all want prayers that reach heaven, are effective and make a difference, right?
So how do you do that? What makes for an effective prayer?
We know that James says: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (Jam. 5:16) and just to proove his point he mentions Elijah the prophet as being effective in prayer:
“Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” Jam. 5:17, 18
You pray for rain to stop and it actually stops; and then for the rain to come, and it begins to rain – that’s effective prayer!
I realize that a whole lot of things had to line up for it to be the right time for the rains to stop and then come again.
Certainly, this was an unusual circumstance that cannot replicated willy-nilly. I mean, how many good people of faith have prayed the rain prayer and it hasn’t happened? And for how many people was rain an answer to prayer while for others that same rain was the exact opposite?
This is not a sermon on natural law and divine intervention so I don’t want to get hung up on the nuances of God sending rain because somebody has prayed.
What I want us to see is that there is such a thing as effective prayer.
While it may have something to do with what and how you pray, you need to know that it has more to do with who is doing the praying.
Elijah prayed and God answered. There was something about Elijah that made God answer.
Lest you think that he was this superhero prophet and this incredible man of God that was holier than most and thus God heard his prayer, James balances that by reminding us that the man “was a human being just as we are.”
Elijah went home to his wife and kids at the end of his day just like we do. He had a mortgage to pay, groceries to buy and had to look after his house and family. This was all just like you and me.
So don’t put him on a pedestal by thinking that it takes a prophet to have an effective prayer.
Do you know what it takes to have an effective prayer life? It starts with being a righteous person.
James says: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
That’s actually a good segue into the Lord’s Prayer because the Lord’s Prayer starts out with this same idea of a righteous person.
At the very start of the prayer it says “Our Father” which points to a righteous person. Only a righteous person can legitimately say “Our Father”!
A righteous person is someone who is in a right relationship with God. A right relationship with God is one where God has become our Father and we his children.
That’s what makes someone righteous.
That is a place in life that you come to. None of us are born as children of God.
We become a child of God with God as our Father when we accept Jesus’ offer to remove the barrier between God and us, namely our sins.
The moment we ask Jesus to do that for us, we are brought into the family of God as sons and daughters with God as our Father.
That’s what it means to be in a right relationship with God, which is the basis of being a righteous person.
Such a person will have an effective prayer life not only because of how they pray but even more so because of who they are, namely children asking their Father.
So the very first thing is that you have to be a child born into the family of God. We call this being born-again.
This is what opens up the communication channel to heaven.
A Prayer Guide!
Once that channel is opened, then the question becomes what is it that you say? How do you actually pray? What do you pray about?
That’s where the Lord’s Prayer becomes such a helpful guide. It gives you the pattern. It’s like your own personal guide to effective prayer. Wow!
So what’s in that prayer guide? Last Sunday we mentioned how the first thing is not about asking either for others or for self but it’s about adoration, worship and giving God the honor that is due.
He may well be our Father, but don’t forget that he is “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
Once you have put yourself into that frame of mind where you see Him as God Almighty, holy, sovereign, majestic and glorious and you give him the honor due his name, then and only then do you come to the first ask.
The first ask is not about you or what you need. Our daily bread isn’t even on the horizon yet at this point.
The first thing up is this prayer for the Kingdom of God to come.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matt. 6:10
It’s not about us and our needs; but then again, in a way, it is about us and our needs because when we pray “your kingdom come on earth” it also includes us.
We are on earth as well, and among those for whom the Kingdom of God has not yet fully come.
So this prayer is about us, just not in the sense of “give me”. This is about God’s kingdom needing to come in us and in this world.
The Inward Look!
I love how William Barclay captures the essence of the kingdom of God. In his “Daily Study Bible”, he talks about the kingdom of God being that place where God’s will is being done perfectly.
“The Kingdom of God is a society upon earth where God’s will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven.”
If there have been moments in your life when God’s will was perfectly being done, then at that moment the fullness of God’s kingdom has come for you. Ever had a moment like that?
Of course, for us as children of God who are mortals it fades in and fades out. There are moments when God’s will is perfectly being done in an attitude, a response, an action or a gesture.
That is the moment when God’s will is being done and the moment when God’s kingdom has come. If we could only freeze that moment and preserve it somehow.
Unfortunately it slips through our fingers. That moment of selfless perfection falls apart far too quickly because of our sinful nature that wages war inside of us, causing the kingdom of God to fade away.
This is the prayer about God’s will in my life. It’s about my knees bending; about my life reflecting the beautiful life of Jesus.
It’s focusing on areas out of alignment. For each one of us that looks different, but I bet each of us knows exactly what is out of alignment with what God would want.
The kingdom of God, far from a social or cultural or territorial matter, is first and foremost a personal matter.
Let your kingdom come in me, Lord. How? It can come by aligning my will with your will in all areas of my life.
So that the beautiful moments of total submission to the will of God, in a way that reflects the beauty of Jesus in all that I say, do and think, would become more and more evident in my life.
That’s what that prayer is, folks. My life is to be aligned with what God would want.
“The Kingdom is in fact the most personal thing in the world. The Kingdom demands the submission of my will, my heart, my life. It is only when each of one of us makes his personal decision and submission that the Kingdom comes.” Barclay
In the same breath as us declaring God’s sovereignty, reign and holiness in “hallowed be your name”, we also say “let God’s reign and holiness come into my life!”
There is no sense saying ‘hallowed be your name’, without also saying ‘let your kingdom come.’
The two go hand in hand. The one declares God’s sovereignty in heaven, while the other seeks to have that sovereign reign come into every sphere of my life.
The Outward Look!
Then and only then does this prayer also mean us asking for that reign to come into the world: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Again, keep in mind that only as you pray for his reign to come into you, do you have the moral authority to pray for it to come everywhere else as well.
It would be the height of hypocrisy if all we ever prayed is for God’s will to be done around us, without wanting his will to be done in us personally.
So as we bow our knees, as we pray this prayer for God’s will to be done in terms of how I live my life, I then look around me and quickly see how little of what I see actually lines up with God’s utopian kingdom. And I pray for alignment.
This misalignment I see drives me to my knees, makes me stand in intercession and pray for every knee to bow.
This prayer imagines a world where every knee is bowed to a loving, benevolent God. A world where there is no pain, no suffering and no injustice. A world free of selfishness and corruption. This prayer imagines such a world.
So how do you even begin this as you look around? Where do you start?
Like concentric circles that move from the bull’s eye outward, this prayer starts with the misalignment to God’s will at our doorstep and moves out from there.
You know, honestly? You can spend your life praying “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” There will be no shortage. Misalignment is everywhere.
Therefore this prayer is also about awareness. Create in me an awareness of misalignment. Let my radar always be on, Lord. Let me recognize misalignment to the will of God wherever I go.
Where I can intervene, let me have the courage to do so. That’s also in that prayer. This makes it a prayer that I try to answer whenever I can.
If I see misalignment to the will of God and I can do something about it, let me have the courage to step in. It is not turning the other way, nor is it walking away.
This prayer walks toward the misalignment and tries to intervene. This prayer makes this my problem.
The scriptures are full of interventionism.
From the Parable of the Good Samaritan where the Samaritan intervened to help the dying man to James’ exhortation to help someone in need (“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” Jam. 2:15, 16) to Isaiah’s declaration of what a true fast is (“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (Is. 58:6, 7), the message has always been one of intervention.
This prayer seeks to self-answer wherever possible.
Without a willingness to self-answer, there is no sense praying at all since James bluntly states, “What good is it if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him?” Jam. 2:14, meaning, “If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” Jam. 2:16.
It is a self-answering prayer.
It is a prayer of alignment to the will of God that begins with my life and my issues, starting with what is right at my doorstep, and then moves from there outward in concentric circles.
It is intercession, it is awareness and, wherever possible, it is intervention.
Lastly, this outward look is not about flesh and blood. As much as intervention is about flesh and blood and helping people in tangible ways in real time, it is more than that.
While we help where we can and thus answer our own prayers for God’s will do be on earth, we realize that this runs far deeper than just an intervention or a handout.
That at the end of the day, behind every misalignment are unseen rulers, authorities, powers of this dark work and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Our struggle is with those evil forces in this world.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6:12
So this prayer also becomes intercession and even spiritual warfare as we recognize that behind every evil act lies an evil spirit. We do as Paul says:
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Cor. 10:3-5
Come Lord Jesus, Come!
Yet for all of our intercession and intervention, we quickly realize we will never win this war while on this planet.
No matter how hard we pray, the kingdom of God will never fully break into this world until Jesus again sets foot on the planet.
This doesn’t deter us from seeing shades of the kingdom here and there, nor does it stop us from doing our utmost with seeing the kingdom come, but at the end of day we realize that it will only come when Jesus comes.
We see it even within ourselves. Try as we may, we still teeter back and forth, between old and new, spiritual and carnal. And that goes on well into our older years.
This is not a defeatist attitude nor surrender to the less than ideal, but the realization that within us is this tug of war.
Paul acknowledges that when he writes to the saints in Rome:
“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Rom. 7:21-25
It doesn’t mean we give in to it, and it certainly doesn’t excuse bad behavior, since in the very next chapter Paul unfolds the ministry of the Holy Spirit meant to help us overcome:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death.” Rom. 8:1-2
So even as the Spirit of God stirs us toward holiness and righteous living we know that the tug of war continues on in us.
This struggle will continue on until the day when we will be freed from our conflicted dual nature as our current imperfections fall away.
“I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 2 Cor. 15:51-52
So this prayer “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” is not only a look inward so that more of his kingdom will come in me, and not only a look outward so that more of his kingdom will come in what I see outside of myself.
It is also the upward look that is captured best in the ancient Aramaic word Paul used, ‘Maranatha’, meaning “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”
In the great Jewish tradition of the Kaddish prayer recited at the close of every synagogue service, which expressed the deep longing for the Messianic Kingdom to come, people prayed:
“Exalted and hallowed by his great name in the world which he created according to his will. May he let his kingdom rule in your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the whole house of Israel, speedily and soon. And to this we say: amen.”
This is known as the consolation of Israel and it is this Spirit inspired waiting, yearning and praying captured in the heart of Simeon:
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.” Luke 2:25
This yearning for the Kingdom to finally come is captured in the word Maranatha (say it with me).
Come Lord Jesus, come!
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