Author: Dwight A. Pryor (of blessed memory) - from the fourth lecture in the audio seminar Praying Biblically
It is a long-standing Christian misunderstanding that when we say: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done” that we are praying for the future return of Jesus and for him to come and set up his kingdom. I emphasize that this was not what Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray. They did not have to pray for him to come or to set up his kingdom because he was already with them. They had seen the kingdom in operation in the casting out of demons, in the healing of the sick, and the proclaiming of the word. Remember, the finger of God inscribed God’s Torah—God’s instruction on the tablets. The kingdom is inseparable from redemption and it is also inseparable from revelation. The disciples have seen this with Jesus. They are not praying for Jesus to come and set up a kingdom. Jesus says you are supposed to be praying: “Father, may your rule and reign as King increase, may your kingdom reign, may your kingship rule, may your will be done in heaven, in the supernatural, and the natural on earth.” It is the same language used in 1 Chronicles 28 where the Hebrew word lehamlich is used. It means to make Solomon king, to cause him to rule over Israel. He says: “the Lord has made me king, he has caused me to rule over you.” That is the same language Jesus is using—God has caused Jesus to rule over us, to be our King. And so when you pray this third phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, it should speak of an intense yearning. Both the phrase “Thy kingdom come” and the phrase “Thy will be done” have an intensity of emotion about them. This is not some bland theological declaration, it is not some faded hope or some insubstantial wish. It is an intense yearning of your heart for God to rule and reign, even now and for evermore. It could be rendered this way: “may you” or “let it be that you rule and reign, O God.” This is what this prayer is about: “let it be, God, that you show yourself as king over your people, both now and forever more.” The kingdom of heaven spoken of in the phrase “Thy kingdom come” does not speak so much of a future time as it does of a present activity. The language Jesus uses focuses on the kind of activity, the kind of action, and not the time of the activity. It focuses on the dynamic force of God’s ruling and reigning, not on the future direction of it. Do you see the difference? When Jesus teaches us to pray: “your kingdom come, your will be done,” we are focusing on the kind of dynamic action that God exerts as king in the lives of his people, and we are saying to him: “God, do it, just do it God—rule; reign; your will be done!” That is exactly how Jesus thought of his Father when he prayed. His continual prayer was this: “Father, you rule and reign. Your will be done; not my will, but your will be done.” That is how we are to pray also: “may it be that you rule as king in heaven and earth. Let it be, God; let it be.” One of the most solemn declarations in the Jewish prayer book—which we have been quoting from on different occasions to show you the parallels of Jewish prayer—is a combination of Psalm 10:16, Psalm 93:1 and Exodus 15:18. It is this: the Lord is King, the Lord was King and the Lord will be King for ever and ever. The Lord is king, the Lord does reign; the Lord was king, and he did reign; and the Lord shall be king, and he shall reign for ever and ever. This is the same idea that the early church had in mind with its solemn declaration that Jesus is Lord. You cannot say: “Jesus is Lord” except by the power of the Spirit or the finger of God. When you declare that Jesus is Lord and you do it with kavanah (focus and intention), you, in effect, are saying: “Jesus is king, Jesus was king, Jesus shall be king for ever and ever. He who was, who is, and who is to come. Blessed be his name. May he rule, may he reign, both now and forevermore in the midst of his people. Do it, Jesus! O, Abba Father, may your will be done." These two phrases of the Lord’s Prayer are actually in parallel, they are actually just a reinforcement of one another. It is like saying: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my pathway.” You are saying the same thing just with different language. It is called parallelism, a very typical characteristic of Hebrew literature. And this is how Jesus is teaching us. When you say: “your kingdom come,” you are saying exactly the same thing, just with greater intensity than when you are saying: “your will be done.” The focus is on God as King, ruling and reigning right now in your life with full authority, in both the natural and the supernatural (in heaven and in earth). Jesus is Lord! That is why there is no more powerful prayer that you can utter than to say with great intensity and focus and commitment: “Father your will be done.” That is the highest prayer one can utter. You may find many other words, and it is appropriate to do so, to give honor to God, to give thanks, to praise him and to petition him. But when it is all said and done, the sum of all prayer is simply this: “not my will, but Thine be done." And it is liberating. It is incredibly liberating to give God, through his Son Jesus, authority to rule and reign over your life. Typically the only time we want to do that is when we are in trouble. We rule and reign over our lives as long as the car is on the road at full speed, but when we end up in a ditch all crashed up, all cracked up and beat up, then we cry out, “O God, your will be done, O God, deliver me.” Fortunately God is not a man, for if he were a man he would say: “you got yourself in this mess, you get yourself out.” But he is not a man, he is God, abounding in grace and kindness so he comes to your aid. Do you understand how much more vital, dynamic your Christian life could be, if you did not just say that in times of crises, but you said that on a daily basis, and meant it? “O Lord, things are going so well, your will be done. Whether I abound or am abased, your will be done. That is what matters most to me Lord.” That is the way Jesus taught us to pray. Adonai yimloch le’olam va’ed—the Lord reigns forever. We are supposed to treat God as our king. When we pray we are focusing on who, how and where. Who is God as king—Jesus as king? How he rules and reigns is in a supernatural process of growth, deliverance and teaching. Matthew 13:31 is a parable Jesus tells about the kingdom and how it grows. He compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. He talks about the kingdom as not just being a person, namely himself as king, ruling with God’s authority, it is a process. When we pray: “Thy kingdom come, may thy kingdom reign,” what we are praying is: God let the process keep going, may the process increase, may the yeast leaven more and more dough. The mustard seed seems to be an insignificant thing—Jesus’ ministry seems to be insignificant. He was a relatively unknown rabbi from the Galilee. Jesus teaches us to pray with faith, even with the faith of a mustard seed. He is not saying that one must have great faith. It is not a matter of the individual, this is a matter of the king. One must have faith in the great King. That is why prayer is not so much a matter of changing God’s mind, it is a matter of laying hold of God’s willingness. He is a king who eagerly wants to rule and reign in the lives of his people. So when we pray: “Father your kingdom reign, your will be done,” we are praying: “God let that little mustard seed in me grow up into a mighty tree.” If you pray this prayer daily and you mean it, in the course of your life you will grow into something in which the birds of the air (symbolizing the Spirit) can come and dwell. So the kingdom is a person—the King. It is a process of growth. And finally, it is a people—a people for God’s name. A people God has formed. Jesus even uses the term as a title for his people. When he says in the Sermon on the Mount, “blessed are the humble, the poor in spirit, these are the one who make up the kingdom of heaven,” he is saying: “these are the ones who are in my movement, these are the ones who are my followers.” He uses the term “kingdom of heaven” as a title for his own people, his community of faith. And so when we pray: “Thy kingdom reigns, Thy will be done,” we are praying: “God show yourself as king in the midst of your people.” In Leviticus 22:32 God shows himself holy. Where? Not in heaven, he is already holy in heaven. God shows himself as holy in the midst of his people. “You shall be holy because I the Lord your God am holy and I will sanctify my name in the midst of the people.”
* This is an audio transcript, listen to the original message here.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.