How should we then pray, part three

Our Father, who art in heaven, holy is your name.your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Heaven and kingdom and God's will. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he made some very specific word choices. We already explored the concept of God as our Father and how we are to treat His Name as holy.

Of anyone who has ever dwelled on the earth, only Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about when he said the word "heaven." He came from God, who lives in heaven. His home was heaven, where he had been surrounded with glory from eternity past. Only during his short time on earth did he set heaven aside. And yet at the same time, he brought heaven with him.

The people of his day were looking for a Messiah, a physical king who would take Rome's yoke from their necks and rule the earth rightly. They wanted relief from oppression. They wanted their enemies cut off. And I think in one sense, when we pray, "your kingdom come", we are still praying for that physical kingdom to happen here today. We want Jesus to return, to take back the universe from the hands of the evil one. We want righteousness to reign in place of evil.

But Jesus' mission, when he came the first time was not to rescue Israel from physical Rome. His first mission was to rescue Jews and Gentiles from the oppression of the enemy of their souls. To free us from bondage to our human sinful condition and our fear of death apart from God. To reconcile us to God. To make peace through his cross, which just didn't make sense to most of them at the time.

When we pray to our Father who lives in heaven, when we recognize the complete holiness of the God to which we pray, then we can also begin to pray that his kingdom will come to us here and now, in our hearts, as well as soon on the earth. I think there is a deep hunger and longing in each of us for wrongs to be made right. We want satisfaction with our lives. We want to know that we are here for a purpose, and that our lives matter. So when we pray "your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven," we are really asking God to take control of things.

On a personal level, if we are praying the prayer from the heart, we are submitting to his will. We are asking for his kingdom to live within us, to make us into what he wants us to be. We are allowing him to fulfill the purposes of his kingdom in and through our lives.

On a public, national level, we are asking God to fix our broken world. We are weary of wars and rumors of wars. We have seen more natural disasters than we ever care to see again. We have watched children stripped of their innocence, vulnerable people taken advantage of, and that which was once called wrong, accepted on every level. We weep over too much violence, too much moral decay, too much prejudice, too much pride, too much sorrow.

I don't know about you, but I know I'm broken. Too often I fight feelings of pride, anger, jealousy, hurt, despair - enough to know that without God's grace, I would never be whole. But through Jesus, I am whole. And I want his kingdom to come, his will to be done, each day in my life, and each day in our world.

I believe Jesus was teaching us to pray for both types of kingdoms - the spiritual and the physical. Our world will never change if it's people stay the same. Jesus promised abundant life and true freedom in our lives on earth and eternal life with him in heaven to come - for those who love Him. But he won't force us to pray that prayer, to pray with humility and repentance and submission to his will.

The next time we pray the Lord's prayer, let us stop and think about the words. Jesus chose them carefully because each one has meaning. Are we wiling to surrender our wills to His and pray that His kingdom come to our lives right now? If not, what is stopping us from doing so?