The Prayer of Prayers 3

March 4th, 2014

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

We have some difficulties with the word 'kingdom' mainly because all our typical associations are drawn from human models of secular power. This was even more the case in the First Century, when the local examples of kingly authority (King Herod and family) were not really what one was looking for! In the mouth of Jesus, as the kingdom of God, the term becomes something quite different to the vain and violent scuffles of the Middle Eastern courts.

Part of the problem is that the term is caught up with the question of the character of the Messiah. Was the Messiah to establish a victorious earthly kingdom or not? The disciples evidently did not exclude this possibility even after the resurrection (Acts 1:6). Jesus says in St John's Gospel 'My kingdom is not of this world' (St John 18:36) but he also says (the first words we hear him say in St Mark) that the kingdom of God is 'at hand'. However, if we broaden the range of the Greek word basileia to mean not just a physical kingdom but kingly authority then the problem presents in quite a different way. The question is then whether we acknowledge God's kingship, God's sovereignty in our lives. For assuredly, the petition for God's kingship to come means inevitably that our 'kingship' must go. The loss of our kingship is no great loss, since we often make a complete mess of it anyway. When the sovereignty of God rules our lives 'on earth as it is in heaven' then we discover that the service of Christ is indeed perfect freedom.

This is where the will of God becomes crucial and it is quite right that God's kingship and will are entwined together in the same petition. We are not to think of a 'wilful' attitude in human terms as in the childish sense of someone who is so headstrong that only their way is acceptable. God's will for us is a creative and loving purpose that constantly seeks our good, constantly seeks a more intimate bond with the Holy Trinity. It can certainly be perceived at times as harsh and demanding but that is because we are often so far from God in our thoughts and actions that it feels like suffering to come back. Repentance is an often painful re-direction, a turning around in the path of life.

When we ignore the sovereignty, the kingship of God and resist God's holy purpose, everything we do is out of step with the creative principles of the cosmos—we swim against the divine tide and fail ultimately to be the people God has created us to be. By contrast, if we let God's kingdom and will shape our hearts it matters not whether we be on earth or in heaven, for both will be the same place.


Heavenly Lord, give us
Open and malleable hearts
To accept your sovereignty
And rejoice in your purpose.

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