From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the kingdom of heaven was central to his message. But to pray “Your kingdom, Your will” brings up questions; what is the kingdom, and what is God’s will? And what implications does it have for you when you pray this way? God has a plan in motion, and praying, as Jesus describes, is about joining God in what he is doing and engaging in His mission.
This Sunday as we learn to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.”
- I will make this request of Jesus starting today, “Lord, teach me to pray.”
- I will pray for more of heaven to restore more of the earth.
- I will pray for more of God’s will to take over more of my life as a follower of Jesus.
- I will be God’s messenger taking the good news of his kingdom into my corner of the world.
When my kids were young, we would have family prayer at night before bed. Now, I love how spiritual that sounds, but it was anything but that in reality. I learned quickly that serious, hands together, eyes closed prayers were just not going to happen. To keep three kids under the age of 7 or 8 engaged, we got creative. Sometimes we would sing our prayers. How I wish I had recordings of those! Other times we would whisper or take turns saying one sentence forming one long prayer that I don’t think God even understood by the end. In my feeble attempts, I was trying to teach my kids the practice of prayer in their lives. I wanted prayer to be familiar to them as they grew. As Matt said last week, to be human is to pray. But prayer for you might be occasional at best and usually crisis-related. Or you grew up like I did, believing if you didn’t pray before a meal, you would probably choke on something as punishment from God. Maybe you’ve heard some professional pray-ers, and inside, you just know you will never be as good, so why try? Well, Jesus had you and me in mind when he taught a method of prayer that opens us to a deeper life with God. Last week we discovered the who, where, and what, and I encourage you to go back and listen to it if you missed it. Today, Jesus builds on the foundation of “…Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…” with, “…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10) Now, there are two questions we’re going to ask, and I’m going to do my best to guide you through them. First, what does Jesus mean? And second, what implication does it have? We ask those two questions because prayer was never meant to be a mindless, robotic exercise or a ritualistic practice. To understand what Jesus is teaching, we need to dig under the surface. So, we’re going to spend a few minutes doing just that. We start with “kingdom.” This is Jesus’ priority one message. After spending 40 days in the wilderness withstanding intense, direct temptations by the devil, he began his public ministry with the message, “…Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17) He came announcing the kingdom from the start. But the history of the kingdom begins long before this. The Psalmist, speaking to God, said, “Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.” (Psalm 93:2) On page one of the Bible, you find heaven and earth overlapping in the act of creation and culminating in the Garden of Eden. The eternal kingdom of God took on matter and time. God’s space and human space are united and connected. In the creation account, Adam, created as an image-bearer of God, was given the role of ruling over the world as a “subordinate king” under God. God tells him to “…fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28) As part of God’s creative act, he gave his image-bearers, Adam and Eve, the choice and freedom to build this “kingdom” in cooperation with him or independently from Him. If you’re familiar with the story, independence was chosen, and heaven and earth were torn apart as sin entered the human experience. Kingdoms began to be built with our ambitions and aspirations rather than God’s. Rather than a perfect place where everything was good, this ideal garden that God created was corrupted. Instead of communion with God, there is separation. Sickness, pain, anguish, death, and suffering became part of the human experience. But God wasn’t going to let it stay that way. In Genesis 12, God makes a covenant, a binding promise with a man named Abraham. God says he will bless Abraham and make him into “a great nation,” that kings would be in the family line, and they will become a blessing to all the families of the earth. And what began was God re-establishing his kingdom. Jumping a few generations, God later says to King David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’” (2 Samuel 7:16) What is he saying? God is establishing a family tree that will eventually lead to Jesus. The prophet Isaiah would later write, “…He (Jesus) will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever…” (Isaiah 9:7) When the nation of Israel is later taken into captivity because of their disobedience, Isaiah reminds them that it’s God who reigns above all the powers on this earth. He says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He (God) sits enthroned above the circle of the earth…” (Isaiah 40:21-22). He is reminding them that God sits above the sin-broken system we live in. Maybe you need that reminder today. Maybe you need to hear that … *the brokenness you’re living in is not greater than God’s redemption *the sickness in your body is not beyond God’s ability to heal *the relational breakdown that is tearing at the fabric of your marriage is not beyond God’s desire to restore *the oppressive systems of the earth that push you down, whether they be political, societal, religious, or personal, are not above God. He has not forgotten you, abandoned you, or disowned you. He sent his Son to rescue you. Listen to what Daniel says as he interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, known as the Babylonian Empire’s greatest king, the leader of the world at the time, “…the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (Daniel 2:44) That’s God’s kingdom plan, and it’s the context for understanding Jesus’ message that the kingdom of heaven has come near. You see, the story of the Bible is the story of the restoration of something unique and holy and good that has been defiled and mistreated. It’s God’s kingdom invading the kingdoms of this earth and taking it back, reclaiming and redeeming his image-bearers, you and I, AND the world we live in. Tim Mackie of The Bible Project says Jesus has “brought heaven to get the hell out of earth.” This is what the writers of the New Testament call euangelion (yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on), the Good News or the Gospel. Here’s what’s interesting about this word. From Alexander the Great and into the Roman Empire, euangelion (yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on) referred to “good news” reports of political or military victories. In 490 B.C., Greece was invaded by Persia, and despite all odds, Greece managed to defeat them. After the battle, Greece sent messengers to take the euangelion (yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on) to every town and village, telling the people what had happened and declaring that they were free! It’s known as the very first marathon, and the messenger who ran to deliver that message, when he completed his run, DIED! Absolutely my reason for NOT running a marathon as I would meet the same fate. In the first century, Roman soldiers would go from village to village to spread the good news. The village residents would put a garland around the soldier’s spear and a crown on his head and then sacrifice an animal in his honor to celebrate the “good news” of a victory in battle. Most of the good news would be about the emperor. They would inscribe the news on stone and put it on pillars along the mile markers of highways. Here is an example of a stone announcing Caesar Augustus’ birthday. Part of the inscription reads, “The providence which has ordained the whole of our life has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving to it Caesar Augustus, by sending him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us.” The first time this word was used of Jesus was by Mark in the Gospel that bears his name, which he wrote in Rome under the shadow of another Caesar. He says, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…” (Mark 1:1) Messiah is not a name. It’s a title, meaning the “anointed” or “chosen one.” In the Old Testament, people were anointed to be prophets, priests, or kings. Mark uses this term for the Jewish readers to announce the good news that their long-awaited King has come. The Romans on the other hand understood “Son of God.” That was their title for their emperor. He was their savior, as the inscription said. And in the shadow of the world power empire of his day, Mark is announcing that the King of kings has come to establish a new, everlasting kingdom. One more fun fact for you because I think this stuff is so interesting. Romans always used euangelion (yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on) in the plural, good news’, because they knew there would always be another battle, and there would always be another emperor. Victories and leaders were temporary. The writers of the Bible, in reference to Jesus, always used the singular. They knew this was the good news to end all good news’. Now, why spend the time going thru all of that? Great question, and I’m so glad you asked. The kingdom of heaven is a central theme running through the Gospel of Matthew. The phrase “kingdom of heaven” is used 32 times. It’s the good news to end all good news’! Jesus himself declared it. Mark tells us, “…Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15) What’s the good news? God is re-establishing his kingdom through the person and work of his Son, Jesus. He’s beginning the restoration and renewal of his creation and his image-bearers, you and I. That’s been his desire, his “will” since the Garden when sin entered the human experience. Here is where we have to be careful because the western Christian experience has become so individualized that kingdom thought or language is foreign to most, if not all, of us. It goes like this: I’m on earth, and God is in heaven. The earth went horribly wrong, and Jesus came to earth from heaven to rescue me so that I could get out of here (earth) and to there (heaven). The good news was simplified down to, “Jesus died for my sins so I could have eternal life.” The Gospel became a ticket to the afterlife. Pastor and author Rich Villodas describes it this way in his book The Deeply Formed Life; when the essence of the gospel is stripped down to an individual, personal decision of faith or a sort of “get of hell free” card, it’s not what Jesus described as the good news about his kingdom come. The good news of the kingdom is an establishment of the kingdom of heaven’s values and principles in the here and now. Theologian George Eldon Ladd said, “The gospel must not only offer a personal salvation in the future life to those who believe; it must also transform all of the relationships of life here and now and thus cause the Kingdom of (heaven) to prevail in all the world.” The good news of the kingdom has a specific purpose for healing the world and the lives within it. Now, let’s acknowledge a question you may have. If this is true if the kingdom of heaven is here, then why… *are children being sold into sex slavery? *are fundamental human rights violated around the world? *are there cancers, diseases, and pandemics killing people we love? *why is there evil and anger and hate destroying lives? The reality is we live within kingdoms in conflict; God’s kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. And while the kingdom of heaven broke into this world through Jesus, it didn’t end suffering, pain, and evil. And that’s because, while the kingdom of heaven is happening now, it is also yet to come in its fullness. You and I live in the tension of the now and not yet. And that tension is the opportunity to step into “your will be done.” In Greek, the language of the New Testament, it’s more accurately translated, “let your will be.” The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Ephesus, said, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17) So, what is God’s will? *love your neighbor *love your enemies *look after the widows and orphans *feed the hungry, provide water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the needy, take care of the sick, visit the imprisoned *build bridges, not walls *give as you have been given *forgive as you have been forgiven *live for others before yourself *live with integrity, morality, compassion, generosity *this list goes on. Listen, God’s will is not hard to discover. The challenge is often submitting to it. When I was young and growing up in the church, praying for God’s will to be done in my life meant going to Africa as a missionary. I just knew it. I don’t know why, but I knew it was, and I didn’t want to go to Africa. So when I’d pray, I’d pray, “God, whatever you will is for me, just please, not Africa.” Then I had an opportunity to go to Kenya. I say opportunity, but I was told I was going and taking a team of high school students with me. I honestly tried to get out of it with some lame reason that didn’t work. Once I got there, you know what I discovered? The country was beautiful; it was breathtaking! And I discovered God had a purpose for me within his plan, but I had to open myself to it. In many ways, the trip was life-changing for me, but I would never have experienced it if I had not submitted myself to his will. Here’s the reality: God has a plan in motion. Submitting your will to his is a decision to be a part of it or not, just like in the Garden of Eden. Because God accomplishes his will on earth through his followers. Through you as his messenger taking the good news of his kingdom into your corner of the world. When you pray “your kingdom, your will,” you’re saying, “I’ll do it, God.” “Lead me, guide me, give me the opportunity, give me the courage, fill me with the same love for others as you have loved me.” It’s a prayer that God’s perfect purpose will be accomplished here on earth as it already is in heaven. It’s a prayer that His will is lived through you professionally, financially, and relationally here on earth, just as it already is in heaven. It’s about joining God in what he is doing and engaging in His mission. “Your will be done” is aligning your heart with God’s heart, submitting your will to his will, submitting your desires to his desires, submitting your agendas to his agenda. Author Kent Hughes wrote, “It can truly be said that we have not learned to pray at all until every request in our prayers is made subject to this one. “Your will be done” is the petition that determines the authenticity of the other upward petitions.” It boils down to demonstrating your trust, a decision to submit to God’s will above your own. And that’s a daily choice. Every day is a battle of wills. God’s will versus your will. Every morning when you wake up, you must decide if you’re going to live that day for Him or yourself, in cooperation with him or independently from Him. With all of this as a backdrop, Jesus says this is what to pray. “Your kingdom come, your will be done” is placing yourself within his kingdom work. You’re praying for more and more of heaven to reclaim more and more of earth. For more and more of God’s will to take over more and more of your life as a follower of Jesus. And that is a prayer that God will honor and answer. Maybe you’ve never prayed, or prayer is a few quick words before eating, or praying regularly is new to you. Over the few weeks, as we look at how Jesus taught us to pray, here’s my challenge to you. Would you take five minutes each day and simply ask God to teach you how to pray? Maybe each week, add another part of this prayer. I believe God will honor that simple prayer and begin to draw you closer to him through the practice of prayer. Now, let me pray. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA