Lord’s Prayer in Schools – What are we praying?

Just a couple of days ago, students in Alabama were told they were no longer allowed to pray before their Friday Night Football Game, instead there would be a moment of silence. In an act of bravery, the students stood up and recited the Lord’s Prayer. You can find the story here. The Lord’s Prayer has for a long time been at the center of controversy as it relates to prayer in school. I want to step back from that particular issue and look at the meaning of the Lord’s prayer and what we are praying when we recite those words.

Matthew 6:9-13 says this: The Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

I would like to focus on v. 10, “You kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

What is the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God is a prominent theme in the New Testament.  The Greek word for kingdom (basileia) is used 162 times.  The majority of these are found in the gospels.  If we want to have a hope of understanding what Jesus was talking about in the parables (13:24, 31), the Sermon on the Mount (5:3, 10, 19, 20; 6:10, 33), and the message that he preached (4:17, 23), we have to understand what the Kingdom is. 

Growing up I heard that the Kingdom of God is the church, nothing more, nothing less.  H. Leo Boles, in the Gospel Advocate Commentary on Matt 6:33 says, “The Kingdom of God, which is the church of God, is of greatest importance.”[1]  In this statement, H. Leo Boles is making two claims.  The Kingdom of God is of greatest importance, and it is the church.  I wholeheartedly agree with the first statement, however, I think his second statement we might need to reconsider.  We have other passages in the New Testament that would not seem to be speaking about the church.

Let’s look at just a few –

Matthew 8:11

11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,

        This verse sounds like it is not speaking about a church but it is speaking of heaven.  It is a place where the spiritual giants like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob dwell.  It uses this language of a banquet “recline at the table,” which in other places in Scripture is used to speak of heavenly joy.  If you substitute the word “church” in for kingdom of heaven, the sentence does not even make much sense.

Matthew 12:28

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

            It would be very strange to say the church has come upon a person who has a demon come out of them.  That does not make much sense and would be a very bizarre reading of the text.

2 Peter 1:11

For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

            Seems like the kingdom is something in the future that you inherit.

So then what is the kingdom?  Matthew 25:34 gives us some indication, Matthew 25:34, “34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

            This verse tells us there is a king in charge of a kingdom.  And this is a very helpful way to think about it.  When we think of a King and his kingdom what are we talking about?  The king rules a place and people.  Wherever the king reigns, that is his kingdom.  So the church is part of God’s reign because the church consists of people who are under the Lordship of Christ.  But the church is only a subset of God’s kingdom; it is not the whole thing.  This also helps us make sense of verses like 2 Peter 1:11 that talks about “entrance into the eternal kingdom.”  This can’t be talking about the church but is most certainly talking about a future place of the redeemed.

This has immense and immediate importance for us today.  I’ve been told that we should not pray the part of the Lord’s prayer “Your kingdom come,” (Matt 6:10) because God’s kingdom is already here in the church.  But when we understand the Kingdom as God’s rule and reign then of course we would want to pray that his rule and dominion would come and keep coming to this earth.  When also, then ask the question how can we help bring God’s kingdom here?  This is a much more wholistic question than how can we save people?  It has huge ramifications for the role Christians play on this earth.  Something to think about.

God’s Rule in His Kingdom

We ask why there is so much pain and suffering on this earth and from a Christian perspective the answer seems to be obvious.  John 12:31 and John 14:30 tell us that Satan is the ruler of this world.  When the wrong ruler is on the throne, chaos ensues.  We have many problems in this world, however so many of them, I would venture to say a majority of them, are caused by our own sinfulness.  However, Jesus gave us the example in the Lord’s prayer to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” (Matthew 6:10).  So the question arises, what would this earth look like if God was the ruler of this world and not Satan? 

Let’s look at a few thought experiments:

– Almost 1 billion people in the world do not have enough food to live a healthy active life.[1]  In that, about 25,000 people die every day because of hunger, that is 1 almost every 3 seconds.[2]  However, that does not have to be the case.  There is actually enough food in the world.  1/7 people are hungry but 1/3 of all food is wasted.[3]  If you do the math, there is plenty of food.  So many of the times people go hungry is not because the resources are not there but because the governments are corrupt, or drug war-lords are suppressing the masses to stay in control.  God gave us an earth that produces plenty of food for everyone, it is because of our sinfulness that people starve.

–  So many causes of pain in our society is due to the breakdown of the Home.  Just think if everyone fell under the Lordship of Jesus.  The Foster care system would almost disappear, there would be no need for places like Planned Parenthood, Single parent homes would almost disappear, divorce rates would plummet, our jails would be emptied, drunk driving accidents would be non existent, the filth we see on our TVs and on our computers would be wiped out, our country would look drastically different and a whole lot better

When you start to think about it, so so much of the suffering and pain we feel in this world is because Satan is the ruler of this world.  He is the one who takes our longing for purpose, our quest for meaning, our search for God, and twists it and poisons it into selfish, self seeking desires that end up hurting ourselves and others.  

Matthew 12:28 makes a significant point, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  Notice the connection Jesus makes between God’ Kingdom and his actions.  He is saying, I cast out demons, therefore God’s reign (his kingdom) is upon you.  Think about that for a second, how do those relate?  How does casting out demons and God’s kingdom relate to one another?  God’s kingdom, his reign, comes when Jesus heals.  When Jesus makes the world like it would be if God were reigning, that is when the kingdom comes.  Jesus was bringing little pockets of God’s kingdom to this earth.  Jesus was giving his hearers a taste, a glimpse, of what God’s kingdom would ultimately be like.  Jesus was living out the Lord’s prayer he spoke about when he said, “Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done, on Earth as it is in heaven.” 

In heaven, there is no sickness, disease, death, and so Jesus was bringing some of that to earth.  We can do the same thing, maybe not like Jesus did, but the good we do in the world, is not just things that earn us points to go to heaven, but we are living out this part of the Lord’s prayer.  We are giving people a taste, a glimpse of God’s future rule.  And I would argue, this is not just a peripheral issue of the church, this is the main thrust of what it means to be a Christian!  It is our job, our call, to be a part of redeeming and restoring this world through bringing God’s rule and reign here to this earth.

[1] H. Leo Boles, Gospel Advocate Commentary, pg 170.

[1] https://www.foodaidfoundation.org/world-hunger-statistics.html

[2] https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/fact-check-bloomberg-claims-more-people-die-of-obesity-than-hunger

[3] https://www.foodaidfoundation.org/world-hunger-statistics.html

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