Series Title: "Pray Then, Like This ..."
We are taking an in-depth look at the Disciple’s Prayer, traditionally called the Lord’s Prayer. According to many scholars, this prayer captures the best of biblical prayer at the time. It incorporates the primary themes of Yeshua's day, like the concept of God as Father to his people and the importance of sanctifying his name as holy.
I would like to make the case that we have reached the apex of this prayer, Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
To begin, it is imperative you grasp the term kingdom correctly to understand the King's ministry and to fulfill the purposes for which you were brought under his kingship. The Hebrew word for kingdom is malchut, and it is a biblical idea. But the phrase kingdom of heaven (malchut shamayim) is not found in the Hebrew Bible. It was, however, a phrase familiar in the Jewish world of the first century and was well-known among the Pharisees.
Jesus took this terminology and used it in a distinctive way to describe various truths about himself and God. The Kingdom of heaven is simply the Hebrew way of saying the same thing when you say, in Greek, the kingdom of God. (There is no difference between these two, they mean exactly the same thing.)
Jesus, from the beginning to the end of his ministry, went about proclaiming, explaining, and demonstrating the kingdom of God. It was at the very heart of all he said and did.
Biblically speaking, the kingdom is inseparable from the concept of redemption. The first reference to the kingdom in Jesus' Bible (our Old Testament), according to the ancient sages of Israel, is found in Exodus 15:18, The LORD will reign forever and ever. The word reign here is the same terminology as king. The LORD is King; he rules and sovereignly orchestrates the affairs of mankind.
When did Israel make this declaration? After they witnessed God supernaturally intervene in their lives to bring salvation. He redeemed and brought them out of Egypt. Kingship is connected with redemption.
In the life of Jesus, the kingdom's power is evident to all as he goes about healing and delivering people. Some of his detractors claim he casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. His answer? Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? - Luke 11:15-17
These are kingdoms in conflict, and the King pulls no punches, Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. But before he says that, he seizes the opportunity to explain the kingdom. Notice his words in verse 20, If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Finger of God is instructive language that takes us back to Mt. Sinai, where the tablets of stone were inscribed by the finger of God (Ex 31:18).
Perhaps more pointedly to his accusers, it is the same terminology used in Egypt when the Pharaoh's magicians see their staffs-turned-serpents swallowed by Aarons. The dark powers acknowledged the superior power of Israel's God when they said to Pharaoh that this was done by the finger of God (Ex 8:19).
Jesus is clear that his redemptive activity—his power to deliver, heal, and set free—is demonstrating that the kingdom of God has come in a new, powerful, and definitive way. That is why he came out of the desert at the beginning of his ministry and announced that the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mk 1:15). I am here as the king, he is saying, and in the power of God's Spirit, I am ruling and reigning both in the supernatural and in the natural.
It is a long-standing Christian misunderstanding that when we say your kingdom come, we are praying for the future return of Jesus and for him to come and set up his kingdom.
Listen to me, please. That was not what Jesus was teaching his disciples (or us) 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 saw for themselves the kingdom in operation in the casting out of demons, the healing of the sick, and the proclaiming of God's word. Remember, it was the finger of God that inscribed his commandments. The kingdom is inseparable from both redemption and revelation. The disciples have witnessed this with Jesus.
They are not being taught to pray for Jesus to come and set up a kingdom. What Jesus wants is for them to be praying, "Father, may your rule and reign increase, may your kingship expand in the natural (earth) as it is in the supernatural (heaven)." And so when you pray this third phrase of the Disciple's Prayer, it should speak of an intense yearning.
Both the phrase your kingdom come, and, your will be done, have an intensity of emotion about them. This is not some bland theological declaration, it is not some faded hope or insubstantial wish. It is an intense yearning of your heart for God to rule and reign on earth as he does in heaven.
Passionately praying Your kingdom come does not speak so much of a future time as it does of a present activity. Do you see the difference? He wants us to pay attention to God’s dynamic reign here and now. We are saying to our Father, “Draw close, oh God, to rule and reign. And start with us!"
Kavanah is a Hebrew word you need to know. It speaks to focus and intentionality, putting faith into effect. When you declare that Jesus is Lord and do it with kavanah, you are, in effect, saying, “Jesus is king both now and forevermore! May he rule and reign in the midst of his people. Oh, Abba Father, may your will be done!"
Prayer is not so much a matter of changing God’s mind, it is a matter of laying hold of our Father's willingness.
These two phrases of the Lord’s Prayer are used in parallel, reinforcing one another like in Psalm 119:105, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Saying the same thing using different language reinforces the core concept. It is called parallelism, a typical characteristic of Hebrew literature. When you pray your kingdom come, you are saying your will be done—with greater intensity.
The sum of all prayer is simply this, not my will but yours be done. It is incredibly liberating to give the Father, 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. How much more vital and dynamic could our Christian life be if we said that on a daily basis, not just in times of crisis? And if, when we said it, we really meant it!
That is the way Jesus is teaching us to pray.
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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.