Author: Dwight A. Pryor (of blessed memory) - from the fourth lecture in the audio seminar Praying Biblically
Three responses that we should have to God as king—ruling and reigning:
1. We should affirm and petition for the divine rule to increase. To pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” is to petition and to affirm. You affirm that God is king, he was king and he shall be king for ever and ever. And it is also to petition him to be what he is; to do what he is already doing. “God, do it some more, rule and reign in ever increasing authority in our lives, over us, our Father.”
2. We must also welcome God’s divine ruling and reigning in our lives. And that is what we do when we say: “Father your will be done.” We declare “Father: you are ruling and reigning.” Then we welcome it by saying: “your will be done; come on in Jesus and take charge; I want you to be king of my life.” According to Jewish tradition the time when God redeemed Israel in Egypt and then took them to Sinai is considered the giving of the Torah. God is always willing to give out his revelation, but this prayer speaks about the receiving of the Torah. God gives it, but will you take it? Israel finally said: “we will take it, we will hear, we will do everything you say, O Lord.” And when you pray this prayer, you are effectively saying: “God you have revealed yourself as king, you have redeemed me from my Egypt, and I am saying to you I will hear and I will do all that you say.”
You see, it is utter hypocrisy to utter this prayer and then not take seriously God’s revelation of his will for you in his Word. When was the last time you looked into the Word and said: “God I need to know what your will is in this matter, so I can do it.” Typically we go looking in God’s Word to confirm what we already believe or want to do. How often do we search God’s Word looking for what he wants us to do, and then dictate our behavior in accordance with that? Most of us take exactly the opposite approach to Scripture.
In Jesus’ world and in the Scripture, there is very little attention given to discerning God’s will. The big question is doing God’s will. Yet most American Christians will typically only use that terminology when figuring out God’s will for personal and particular circumstances such as taking a job, moving or marrying. And yet that should be a minuscule part of God’s will for our lives. What you do not realize is that here is a whole compendium of declarations of God’s will for your life, and if you are not taking these seriously why should he bother to tell about the little things in your lives? If we do not take his Scripture, his will, for us seriously and try to do it, then we have no right to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done.” If we do, we are speaking with the lips of a fool, we are speaking utter hypocrisy.
It is easy to pray: “O Jesus, come Lord Jesus, come on and set up your kingdom here in Jerusalem…” That is easy to pray because that has absolutely no relevance to us. It is somewhere in the future. Oh, what a spectacle it would be, we hope we will be around to see it. That is easy to pray, but the Lord’s Prayer is hard to pray–if you want to pray it like Jesus taught it because it has nothing to do with his returning and coming to rule and reign.
Thank God he is coming. This prayer is all about whether you are willing to say: “Father I will direct my life according to your Word. If it says: do not to this, I will not do that. If it says: do this, I will do that. If it says: love one another then with your help Lord, I am going to do it. If it says: thou shallt not bear false witness, I’m not going to do it. If it says: thou shall not commit adultery, I’m not going to do it, because Father, your will be done." So we welcome God’s ruling and reigning by focusing on his Word. Psalm 40:8 says: “I delight to do your will O my God, and your Torah is in my heart.” You see how those two things go together? To pray: “Thy will be done,” is to say: “I will put your word in my mind and heart, so I can do your will.”
3. We praise him for being King. If you want God to come into your life, to penetrate your present circumstances as king, then you need to learn the life of praise. In the praises of his people Israel, God is enthroned. In your praises you enthrone God. Psalm 93 is a favorite psalm that relates to the Lord’s reigning; it is used in the Jewish Prayer Book in anticipation of the reading of God’s Word. Praise is the substance of kingship; praise brings God’s kingship into your lives. How many of you are facing distress, difficult circumstances or decisions? You need to let Gideon’s trumpeters, Jehosephat’s choir, lead the way for your battle. Let Judah go up first, let praise go up first. In our praises we enthrone God. Make Psalm 22:3 a favorite scripture of yours: “you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” The Lord is holy and he is enthroned, he is established, he takes up his dwelling in our praises. To pray: “Thy kingdom reign, Thy will be done” is to begin a life of praise, because when we praise God enters into our circumstances with redemption and deliverance, with power, even the power of the finger of God.
What shall we do then? What difference is this sermon going to make to you? If it does not make a difference you might as well remove me from the scene. Am I here to tickle your ears, to increase the data in your western minds? What shall you do with this?
May I suggest two or three things?
1. This week would you try to pray at least daily the first three phrases of the Lord’s Prayer? Would you try this as a matter of routine, like the early church did? Three times a day they prayed the Lord’s Prayer, corresponding to the Amidah. Would you pray this week: “Father, Abba, you are holy, may I sanctify your name by my conduct. Father may you reign in my life, may you rule over me. O Lord, may your will be done.” You find the words—if you want to use the standard words of this prayer, fine, but say it with kavanah, say it with intention, understanding and with focus, with fervency. Would you try to make it a matter of discipline? I know that this is awfully tough for you to do, but would you try at least every day, three times a day, morning, afternoon and night to pray this prayer? You will find this difficult, you are going to forget. We are so undisciplined as Christians, we cannot remember to do the simplest things, and yet we wonder why the power of God is not in our lives.
2. Will you read God’s Word this week to find direction for your life? I am not talking about whether you are going to move here or there, buy this house or that house or what job you are going to take. Would you read his Word to find out what God wants in your conduct, in your attitudes, and would you try with his help to put it into practice? Then you are putting feet to your prayer.
3. Would you invite God into your life this week by praising him every day? There are different ways to do it. For example: go to sleep with Christian praise music and in the morning be woken up with that same music. Would you find some way to bring praise into your life this week? Would you enthrone God, would you enthrone Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, by finding ways to praise him? Maybe it is reading Psalms, maybe it is singing along with Hosanna. Whatever it is, would you praise God this week? Then finally, we could look forward to that great day of the Lord that is coming, in which the Lord will be King over all the earth—Zechariah 14:9 (one of the most important scriptures in all of the prophets). This is the great eschatological hope of all of Scripture—the one theme that unites this Bible from Genesis to Revelation is the theme of the kingdom of God. And we do get to look forward to that great day in which God will rule and reign over the whole earth. His name will be one and he shall be one. But you know what? We do not have to wait, because we are part of the eschatological community that is living right now. We are in a time warp, we are the firstfruits of that future world, we (the church) are living in the future right now, because right now we can permit God to rule and reign over us—for him to be one and for his name to be one. We are living in the future and we are commanded to be the revelation of Zechariah 14:9 to the world right here and right now. The world around us should look at this community and say: “the Lord is God and he rules and he reigns."
* 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.