Thy kingdom come…
(Understanding God’s Will)
With the second line of The Lord’s Prayer, we arrive at the heart of the matter: God’s kingdom. To understand how Jesus views his Father’s kingdom, we first need to do some–thing that will seem strange. We must take all discussion of “Heaven” off the table. There will be no talk about heaven with a capital “H,” the place we think we’ll go to (if lucky) when we die. We’re just not going to go there.
Why? Because as soon as we see heaven and hell as proper names, as specific places where rewards and punishments are meted out, the acceptance of Christ and all associated good works become petty acts of bribery. The afterlife must remain unknown, because the quality and strength of our faith, as well as the morality of our actions, depends on the mystery. For this reason, Jesus calls us to attend not to the dead1 (who are beyond our reach) but to those who are living and can feel our touch.
It is by nurturing the living God in ourselves and others that we make the Father’s kingdom come.2 But what exactly is this kingdom if it is not what we normally take for heaven? The Gospels provide us with plenty of clues. But also many false leads. We need to be careful when applying our winnowing fans.
We should remember that the tribes who handed down the story of Jesus believed that a final day of judgment would occur during their own generation.3 That is why the apostles are so despondent after Jesus’s death. They thought he was going to physically deliver Jerusalem from Roman authority, and then rule over an earthly kingdom.4 But Jesus had something different in mind. He wanted his disciples to view the Lord not as a King on High but as a secret spirit living in us all,5 with the power to reveal a kingdom already here.6
Therefore, we must sidestep any reference to the end–time theologies7 that were prevalent during Jesus’s day, and which today have made best–selling authors of those who exploit fears of being left behind. After all, how is it that we will find ourselves raptured into the sky or see Jesus surfing down from the clouds,8 when God’s kingdom, we are told, cannot be witnessed by the eye because it lives within us?9 The answer is, we can’t, and won’t. The gates of heaven are unlocked when our hearts and minds work in unison to discover God’s Word,10 which is alive all around us.
That is why Jesus insists on talking in parables when describing the kingdom: because parables make us think. They don’t dictate hard and fast answers. Jesus, like the river guide, leads us upstream to where the fish are, but insists that we make our own catch. The problem though is that we often feel stranded upriver without a pole!
But Jesus doesn’t actually leave us…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- “Leave the dead to bury their dead; but go yourself and carry far and wide the gospel of the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:60 [↩]
- By that in the good ground are meant those who, with a good and honest heart, keep the message and patiently bring forth its fruit. – Luke 8:15 [↩]
- I tell you that even the present generation will not pass away, until all these things have taken place. – Mark 13:30 [↩]
- But we were hoping that he was the destined deliverer of Israel. – Luke 24:21 [↩]
- I tell you, as often as you did it to one these my brothers and sisters, however lowly, you did it to me. – Matthew 25:40 [↩]
- If it is by the help of the spirit of God that I drive out devils, then the kingdom of God must already be upon you. – Matthew 12:28 [↩]
- Tell us when this will be, and what will be the sign of your coming, and of the close of the age. – Matthew 24:3 [↩]
- Then will be seen the ‘Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. – Mark 13:26 [↩]
- The kingdom of God does not come in a way that admits of observation, 21 Nor will people say ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you! – Luke 17:20-21 [↩]
- In the Beginning the Word was; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God; 3 Through him all things came into being, and nothing came into being apart from him. – John 1:1-4 [↩]
Give us this day…
(Gathering the Moment at Hand)
Up to this point in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus has been laying a foundation—one that establishes our relationship to God and his creation. When we recite the beginning of the prayer, we are thus engaging in an act of grounding, reminding ourselves that at the core of our existence we remain rooted in Christ.1
With the foundation complete, Jesus moves on to what many of us think is the business of prayer: asking for things. But as we mentioned in Chapter 2, prayer isn’t about asking for special favors. In fact, it isn’t even about “asking” at all—since, as Jesus says, God already knows what we need before we ask him.2 So what is prayer about? The simplest answer is that it is about gathering and release.
When we think about gathering and Christ, the first image that comes to mind is probably the shepherd. Many of us see Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”3 gathering his lost flock back within the fold of his love. This image is popular because Jesus often used sheep and shepherds as metaphors when he taught. He described those who deliver the gospel of Christ as lambs among wolves,4 and those without Christ’s guidance as sheep without a shepherd.5 He also warned us of embracing false teachers who come in the guise of innocent sheep but have sinister hidden agendas.6
What we don’t usually think about when contemplating gathering is the story of the prodigal son. We talked earlier about how this parable reveals the will of God as a matter of choice. But when we turn our attention to the son, and view the story through his eyes, the parable reveals a different lesson—which is the wonderful thing about parables: like crystals, they reflect new light (insight) as we turn them.
When the young man seeks his inheritance from his father, he doesn’t plead for it. Instead, he speaks with authority: “Father, give me my share of the inheritance.” (A man had two sons; 12 And the younger of them said to his father: ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ So the father divided the property between them. – Luke 15:11-12)) We often overlook that fact. But it is an important one. Because it shows that the son is claiming ownership over something that he believes is rightfully his.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus also speaks with “authority”,7 and says that when we speak in such a way, our Father will dutifully respond. In fact, he claims that God will grant us anything:8 that the dead will rise,9 and mountains move at our command, if we but have the faith of a mustard–seed10 and command it in his name.
This teaching has caused a lot of confusion over the years. Some Christians have taken it at face value and, because of that, acted irresponsibly—such as recklessly barring medical treatment to loved ones (believing that they could heal them through faith alone). Others have disregarded the whole moving mountains thing as just Jesus getting a little carried away with his metaphors. But if we reflect on the teaching a little longer, the true Word begins to emerge.
Let’s begin our reflections by recalling that…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- By the seed which was sown on the good ground is meant the receivers who hear the message and understand it, yielding a return, sometimes one hundred, sometimes sixty, sometimes thirty fold. – Matthew 13:23 [↩]
- When praying, do not repeat the same words over and over again, as is done by the Gentiles, who think that by using many words they will obtain a hearing. 8 Do not imitate them; for God, your Father, knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:7-8 [↩]
- I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. – John 10:14 [↩]
- Now, go. Remember, I am sending you out as my messengers like lambs among wolves. – Luke 10:3 [↩]
- On getting out of the boat, Jesus saw a great crowd, and his heart was moved at the sight of them, because they were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. – Mark 6:34 [↩]
- Beware of false teachers: those who come to you in the guise of sheep, but at heart they are ravenous wolves. – Matthew 7:15 [↩]
- On the next Sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught them like one who had authority, and not like the teachers of the law. – Mark 1:21-22 [↩]
- Whatever you ask for in your prayers will, if you have faith, be granted you.” Matthew 21:22 [↩]
- Even now, I know that God will grant you whatever you ask him.” 23 “Your brother shall rise to life,” said Jesus. – John 11:23 [↩]
- “For, I tell you, if your faith were only like a mustard-seed, you could say to this mountain ‘Move from this place to that!’ and it would be moved; and nothing would be impossible to you. – Matthew 17:20 [↩]
The book The Lords Prayer for Daily Life was written in a way that we hope appeals to both teens and adults, each group of readers being able to take certain lessons from it, or simply food for further thought. But what about the child?
The Lord’s Prayer is the kind of prayer that children can learn at a young age, and it far surpasses that old standard: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake; I pray the Lord my soul to take–a prayer which makes children think that the Grim Reaper is going to descend upon them in their sleep.
To assist Progressive Christian parents we’ve taken inspiration from the material of The Living Hour book to write some thoughts on how you can teach the Lord’s Prayer to your kids in a meaningful way, so that the act of childhood prayer goes beyond simple recitation. So, if you are asking how to teach the Lord’s Prayer to children, here are our suggestions:
Our Father who art in heaven. Jesus begins the Lord’s Prayer by letting us know that we are all in this together. God, the Father, is the father of all people. He is the father of people who we like and who we dislike; people who we agree with and who we disagree with; people who look like us and don’t look like us; people who believe in him and who don’t believe in him. By telling us that our one true Father is in heaven, Jesus is reminding as that we are all Sons and Daughters of God, and that our lives go on forever.
Hallowed be thy name. You know how when someone calls you by your name, it is like they think they know you? Well, Jesus doesn’t tell us God’s name in the Lord’s Prayer because God is so big we can never know all of him. Jesus can describe God’s name, though. He calls it hallowed. The word “hallowed” comes from the word “holy,” which comes from the word “whole”. Jesus wants us to see us and God always together as a whole being. We are not separate. We are one.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. Jesus teaches us in the Bible that the kingdom of God is within us and all around us right now. The problem is that we often don’t see it. Because we don’t see his kingdom, we end up making a lot of bad choices. When we make good choices though we are doing the will of God. We are making his kingdom come alive inside of us and in other people. That is why we should always try hard to make good choices and love each other.
On earth as it is in heaven. When people die they go to heaven, but when they live they go to heaven too. It is just that on earth, heaven (like the kingdom) is pretty hard to see sometimes. People hurt each other and do bad things. We get angry when we don’t get what we want or when people are not nice to us. But Jesus wants us to know that if we can just let those bad feelings go and forgive people, the world can be a pretty wonderful place.
Give us this day our daily bread. We all need food to live, right? Well, in this part of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus also is talking about something that we need to live. But he is not talking about food. When Jesus taught he liked to use symbols. You know, like a smile is a symbol that you are happy. Jesus is using bread as a symbol of our experiences. Every day we have new experiences. These experiences can make us happy, sad, angry, or whatever. But we need them all, even if we don’t like them all. Because every experience helps us grow.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. We all makes mistakes. Sometimes we hurt the feelings of other people and don’t even know it. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus calls these things that we do wrong “trespasses”. When we trespass the most important thing is to understand what we’ve done. Then to ask for forgiveness. If you forgive other people, then they are more likely to forgive you. It is no good to stay angry at someone. It doesn’t feel good to be angry. When we get angry we just hurt ourselves. So, just forgive people, and you’ll feel a whole lot better. You will also feel a lot better when they forgive you, too.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. When we talk to God, sometimes we are tempted to ask him for things we don’t need. We pray to him for special favors. But with this line of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is telling us that God is not our private wish factory. God already knows what we need, so we shouldn’t be tempted to pray for stuff. We can though pray for him to protect us all from harm; to protect us from doing things that hurt ourselves and other people–that is what deliver us from evil means.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever, amen. Jesus ends the prayer with some great news. He tells us that God, our Father, has a great kingdom, has great power, and has great glory. It must be great because it lasts forever and ever. Why is this such great news? Because God shares all of this with his children. That means us! We can share in his kingdom, his power, and his glory, if we pray a lot, forgive a lot, love a lot, and treat others like we want to be treated.
If Jesus were a Zen teacher what might he say? Click on Zen to find out.
The Lord’s Prayer is a short prayer but one that is layered with meaning. Read our free online book The Lord’s Prayer for Daily Life to begin discovering the prayer’s hidden meanings. Click the following link to begin reading the Living Hour book now: The Lord’s Prayer.
Gospel of Mark 9
“I tell you,” he added, “that some of those who are standing here will not know death till they have seen the kingdom of God come in power.” 2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain alone by themselves. There his appearance was transformed before their eyes, 3 And his clothes became of a more dazzling white than any bleacher in the world could make them. 4 And Elijah appeared to them, in company with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus.
5 “Rabbi,” said Peter, interposing, “it is good to be here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, because they were much afraid. 7 Then a cloud came down and enveloped them; and from the cloud there came a voice: “This is my beloved Son; him you must hear.” 8 And suddenly, on looking round, they saw that there was now no one with them but Jesus alone.
9 As they were going down the mountain-side, Jesus cautioned them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, till after the Son of Man should have risen again from the dead. 10 They seized upon these words and discussed with one another what this ‘rising from the dead’ meant. 11 “How is it,” they asked Jesus, “that our teachers of the law say that Elijah has to come first?”
12 “Elijah does indeed come first,” answered Jesus, “and re-establish everything; and does not scripture speak, with regard to the Son of Man, of his undergoing much suffering and being utterly despised? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and people have treated him just as they pleased, as scripture says of him.”
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a great crowd round them, and some teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 But, as soon as they saw Jesus, all the people, in great astonishment, ran up and greeted him. 16 “What are you arguing about with them?” Jesus asked. 17 “Teacher,” answered a man in the crowd, “I brought my son to see you, as he has a dumb spirit in him; 18 And, wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth, and he is pining away. I asked your disciples to drive the spirit out, but they failed.”
19 “O faithless generation!” exclaimed Jesus. “How long must I be with you? how long must I have patience with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 They brought him to Jesus; but no sooner did the boy see him than the spirit threw him into convulsions; and he fell on the ground, and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has he been like this?” Jesus asked the boy’s father.
22 “From his childhood,” he answered; “and it has often thrown him into fire and into water to put an end to his life; but, if you can possibly do anything, take pity on us, and help us!” 23 Why say ‘possibly’?” Jesus replied. “Everything is possible for one who has faith.” 24 The boy’s father immediately cried out: “I have faith; help my want of faith!”
Learn how to pray like Jesus prayed.
To continue reading Chapter 9 of the Gospel of Mark and how the first must be last, please click on page 2 below.