Over the next four weeks we will take a deeper look at the Lord’s Prayer at its various petitions. What do they mean? How do they shape our prayer life? How do they impact our relationship with God? What does it mean for our life as a Christian?
I would like to thank Rev. Dr. Jeff Loach who once invited me to preach a sermon as part of a series on the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer – Part 1
Today and for the next three Sunday’s I want to go on a journey of discovery with all of you. Over the next few weeks I’d like to take a good hard look at The Lord’s Prayer. It’s a prayer that we pray every Sunday, yet it isn’t something that we give a hard look at regarding its meaning. In truth if we truly understood what the Lord’s Prayer meant, we might think twice before praying. In preparing for today I’ve come to realize a level of commitment that is apparent in the Lord’s Prayer. It exemplifies Jesus’ teachings. Yet, its importance can’t be understated. Both Mathew and Luke reference this prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples. Today we’ll consider the following, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be Done, On Earth as in Heaven.” Some rather simple statements, that when put together have incredible meaning.
Let’s consider these points one at a time.
“Our Father”, the word our signifies something very important here. Jesus does not say ‘my father’ or your father, he says our father. This implies a sense of community. We cannot pray in isolation, either from the whole counsel of God in Scripture or from the people of God. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to pray the Lord’s prayer on your own, but it does mean that it’s important to remember that the prayer has a corporate element.
The word ‘Father’ conjures up all sorts of images in people’s minds. No matter how hard we try to remember that God’s ways are not our ways, we still find ourselves projecting human characteristics onto God. I know I used to think of him as an old man, with long white hair and an equally long beard. I’m sure some people think he looks like George Burns or Morgan Freeman. Some of us when we hear the word father conjure up images of our earthly fathers. For some people, they are very fond memories, and for others they are memories that would be better off forgotten. There has been a considerable backlash in the past fifteen or twenty years against calling God “Father”.
However, calling God Father is not something we should do lightly. God is the Creator of all, but he is Father to those who are adopted into his family by faith. Most importantly, it is a name that implies a relationship, and that relationship is personal.
The next part of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that God resides in Heaven and that he waits for us there. We don’t know very much about Heaven, only that it has been promised to us by God.
There is a story of a Christian man who was ill. He visited his doctor who was also a believer. The man was worried about eternity and asked the doctor what heaven was like. The doctor struggle for an answer. The silence was broken by a scratching at the door. The doctor got up and opened the door. In came his dog who had been patiently waiting for him outside. Then the doctor said, “Do you see my dog? He scratched at the door, not knowing anything about what was inside. He was eager to come in though, because he knew his master was here.”
That is what I imagine heaven is like. The destination I will wait for patiently as I serve faithfully in this life, knowing that my master awaits me in Heaven.
What does it mean to hallow something? It means to make it holy, to set it apart and make it absolutely special. It’s about God’s holiness. When we pray these words, we are acknowledging to God, that we know how holy God is. Additionally, we are saying that as followers of God, that we will do our best to live lives in ways that will show forth God’s holiness.
Can you see now why it might be dangerous to pray the Lord’s Prayer. What we’re saying when we pray that prayer is that we desire to do all that we do to the praise of our Holy God.
Thy Kingdom Come
What does this really mean? Growing up I assumed it meant that eventually God’s kingdom would come to Earth. Makes sense right? I dreamt of a golden city in the middle of a desert. It had tall towers, beautiful angels, majestic fountains and laughing people. As I’ve matured in my faith, I’ve come to look at it from a slightly different perspective. It’s that word ‘eventually’ that needs to be changed. When we pray these words from the Lords Prayer, Thy Kingdom Come we are asking God to bring his kingdom. That means active participation. It’s two different types of thinking at work. In one I assumed something would eventually happen. In the second I asked for it to happen and wanted to participate.
The question is when is it going to happen? In Revelation 11:15 we read, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” This passage from Revelation is in the past tense, indicating that the event is certain. It may have already happened.
Furthermore, in verse 16 the 24 elders state, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.” One again, past and present tense. Who is and who was, have taken, have begun to reign. Not who will be or who will begin to reign. It has already happened.
Now all of this bring us to an interesting point. You see there are two modes of though in looking at the Book of Revelation. One is the Preterist view that everything in Revelation has already happened and is evident in our world today. The other is the Futurist view that everything is yet to come. So, which makes more sense here, which is correct? I’d be lying to you if I said I knew the answer to this question.
Perhaps it is a little bit of both. This is the Book of Revelation; it is a vision of what’s going to happen, a prophecy. But when you pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ do you want to wait? Do you want to wait for God’s kingdom to come? Do you think that God’s kingdom will wait for you?
In our other reading today we learn about the Narrow Door. When asked in Luke ch. 13 v. 23 if only a few people would be saved, Jesus responded, ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.’ Matthew also mentions the narrow door in Mathew Ch 7, vs 13-14. Here Jesus says, ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’
If God’ kingdom is coming and the gate is narrow, how do we get in? Where do we fit in? How do we work to enable His Kingdom to come? Well that leads us to point number two, thy will be done.
Thy Will Be Done
There is no doubt about whose will is to be done. It’s God’s will. The question is how do we know His will is being done? How do we find it? The answer to that question is simple, God’s Will is found in scripture. Who does God’s Will? We do. You and me, God’s people. When we pray ‘Thy Will be done’ we are asking God to help us do his will. We aren’t asking that his will be done in some abstract way, nor are we saying, ‘Ok God if you say so.’ The relationship is far more intimate than that. When we enter into a relationship with God we want to do his will and we desire His help.
The tricky part comes in discerning God’s will. God’s will may very will be found in scripture, but if we don’t study scripture then what’s the point? It’s like buy a map for a car trip and then never referring to it. Who has ever done that? I know that men don’t ask for directions, but I can honestly say I’ve never traveled without a map. And so it is with faith, the scriptures are our map. Ok then, how do we gain greater understanding of God’s Will? Well I suppose there are many of answers for this. We’re doing one of them right now by being here attending worship and sharing in God’s message. The power of gathering in a community dedicated to worshiping God is an amazing thing and it is a great way to grow in our understanding of God. When we isolate ourselves off from society we don’t grow as individuals. It is the same with our faith lives, only by attending meaningful worship and engaging with other Christians will we grow.
Of course, you can read scripture on your own. I know, it’s a thick book, with thin pages and small print. But the Bible has inspired more lives that any Chicken Soup for the Soul self help book. So make it a part of your daily life.
On Earth as it is in Heaven
Well, when you think about this part of the Lord’s Prayer you realize that it relates directly back to the previous statement, ‘Thy will be done.’ It’s God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. That’s what we all want. It’s too bad that it isn’t happening. Now, I’m not talking about natural disaster and the like. No, I’m talking about plain old human meanness. Some people call it Sin. You see it’s not so much that God’s wishes should happen; rather it’s us who should be doing his will. God provides plenty of examples as to what is will is. We need only look to see what Jesus taught on murder, adultery, promises, loving our enemies, and an eye for an eye. Consider for a moment this last one, and eye for an eye. In Mathew 5:38 Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Can you imagine doing that? Can you imagine a world where you wouldn’t have to? There is too much violence in our society. A day doesn’t pass when I don’t hear about another stabbing, another high school shooting, another act of random violence. As we’ve already seen it’s God’s will be done on Earth, and these things aren’t God’s will. God gave us the option to make choices, yes or no, good or bad. God really wants us to make the good choices, and so he sent His Son to provide examples of what those choices would be.
So what would On Earth as it is in Heaven look like? Revelations gives a few hints. In verse 15 “God will reign for ever and ever.” In Greek this is literally, ‘God will reign unto the ages of the ages.” It has a nice ring of permanency to it. The elders in verse 16 fall on their faces and being to worship God. When we worship God, that’s one of the ways that we say thank you to him. Isn’t it right then, that we would worship him full time. That is what we should be doing through our words and deeds. They should all serve to provide glory and honour to God. Serving God isn’t just showing up on Sunday morning, it’s a lifestyle.
We are also told in verse 19 ‘The time has come … for rewarding your servants, the prophets, and your saints and those who reverence your name.’ Reward? I always thought worshiping God was a reward in and of itself. Here we are being told that all those who worship God are to be rewarded. That reward is a promise, a promise for a future spent in eternity with God.
In the final verse of the chapter we read that God’s temple in heaven is opened and the ark of His covenant is seen within. This is a significant event and as a result it is surrounded by a display of God’s power, lightning, peals of thunder, an earthquake. In the Old Testament the ark was behind a curtain where only the priest’s could go. Imagine if you will a giant curtain covering the entire chancel, blocking everything from view. Behind that curtain is the most awesome gift of God’s promise. This is how it was in the temple of Solomon. However, all that changed when Christ came. His sacrifice allows us all to have direct access to God. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” For God to pull back the curtain and allow us to view the ark symbolizes the fulfillment of what Jesus said. Furthermore, the unveiling of the ark establishes God’s kingdom on Earth. It is referred to as the ‘ark of his covenant’ and God’s covenant is eternal. This is the reward that is mention in verse 18, the fulfillment of God’s covenant. The knowledge that God has kept his word, that his promise is indeed eternal.
When we pray ‘Thy Kingdom com, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven’ we are inviting God to enter into our lives and assist us in doing his work bringing his kingdom to earth. These three lines in the Lord’s Prayer imply ownership. It’s not just a passive reading of a prayer, it is active participation in prayer. So when you pray these words be aware of what you are asking for. Our reading of Revelation gives a clear indication of what this will be like and it assures us of God’s promise. Remember asking God into your life will change your life, but the rewards for that choice are eternal. Amen.