Not long ago I preached on the Lord’s Prayer, actually just its first line: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6.10). And I explored the question, “What is required of us to pray this?”
You can read a little of the sermon below, and I would be happy for your thoughts and interaction, but let me highlight first a couple resources I found quite rich. Telford Work’s book Ain’t Too Proud to Beg was a happy surprise and the most engaging book on the Lord’s prayer that I have read. Timothy Bradshaw’s Praying as Believing: The Lord’s Prayer and the Doctrine of God has not received the attention it deserves (small British publisher), yet it is a great example of first rate theology written for the church. Brueggemann’s collection of prayers, Awed to Heaven: Rooted to Earth, echo the same impulse I see in the Lord’s prayer, an impulse that jostles me out of complacency toward a living awareness of the drastic incompleteness of the “time between the times”. A time that requires us to pray with grace and impatience.
To speak of God’s “grace” is to put feeble words in the service of describing the infinite goodness and love of God which reaches out to his creatures prior to their own reaching (Ephesians 2:4-5; Romans 5:8). To speak of God’s grace is to speak of God’s capacity to initiate and complete his work of restoring a broken world and reconciling alienated people. As the kingdom of grace, it does not come because we pull it into the world, but because God unceasingly works toward its consummation with Christ’s return.
Yet, we get the wrong picture altogether if we forget the unique shape of God’s ongoing activity. God chose to create a world in which his ordinary, inadequate creatures – you and me – are invited to participate in the drama of God’s kingdom activity. He invites us to discover and play our role, a role that always follows after at a distance, but a genuine role nonetheless.
So we might say this: to pray “Your Kingdom come, your will to be done on earth and it is in heaven” is to confess a tension that requires of us not only grace – that God’s kingdom comes by his power alone – but impatience as well.
To pray with impatience is to recognize and confess that things are not as they should be, and not as they will be when the kingdom of Christ comes in its completeness. To pray with impatience is to be more dissatisfied than I am afraid most of us are – or at least I have been.
In a world broken and marred by sin – full of pain and confusion and our lives brimming with so many unfinished sentences – praying “Your kingdom come, your will be done one earth as it is in heaven” requires of us and fosters in us a growing dissatisfaction with the world as it stands. To hunger and thirst, to long and to ache for the kingdom to come is to pray as the same grace and impatience that the Psalmist did “How long O, Lord?”