Monday, 28 January 2008

The Lord's Prayer (2)

THE LORD'S PRAYER (Matthew 6:7-15)
A series of talks given on parish retreat, January 2008
2. PRAYING FOR GOD’S GLORY

Hallowed be Your name

There are two versions of Christianity
In the first version God exists to make me happy. It is centred on me.
In the second version we exist to make God happy.

The first begins with how I can be blessed.
The second begins with how God can be blessed

The Lord's Prayer falls into the second category.

The first thing for which we pray is 'Hallowed be your name'. We pray that God's name will be shown to be holy, set apart, honoured, glorified.


God’s name: His name is the embodiment of who He is. To honour his name is to honour him. YAHWEH, ‘I am who I am’. It was so holy that the Jews would not and do not even now speak it. And yet it sums up the complete uniqueness and the absolute divine freedom of God, the power of God, the otherness of God

And as Christians, we have another name, JESUS CHRIST. It sums up the intimacy and closeness of God - the prophet says, ‘He will be called Immanuel – God with us; the purpose of God – he is Jesus, the Saviour, and Christ, the messiah; the nature and power and love of God.

We should wince every time people say, 'O God' or ‘Jesus Christ’. Sadly ‘God’ is now a standard swear word. I’ve been told of a child in reception class who was in floods of tears at the end of one of her first assemblies. The vicar had taken the assembly. 'That man', she said, 'Kept on saying a rude word, which my mummy told me I must never say. He kept on saying 'God'. Or the story Noel Edwards tells of the time he was involved in a car rally accident and was thrown through the windscreen onto the ground. People ran to him, and as the first person got to him he groaned, ‘Jesus Christ’. ‘No’, said the man, ‘Not him, but one of his faithful followers’.

We should weep every time God's name is dishonoured because of those who profess to be his children. Having said that, I notice that often the most scandalised are those who are not all that keen on bringing glory to God's name, and who are looking for some excuse to shame God and his people.

We need to guard that we are not using God's name as a pretext for seeking our own glory – whether that is in terms of roles that we play, positions that we are given. Jesus was particularly fierce in his condemnation of those who used their religious role to gain wealth, to puff themselves up or to exploit others.


When we pray, 'Hallowed be your name', we are praying for is that people will recognized the ‘otherness’ of God’s name; that they will come to love and to revere the name of God. When we pray 'Hallowed be your name', we seek the honour of God's name, and of the name of Jesus Christ.

Psalm 115 begins with those great lines, “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness”

And that seeking of God’s honour is tied in with the next two clauses


Your kingdom come

It is for God's kingdom that we pray - not this Kingdom (in which we live), not the King or the Queen’s dom (house), and certainly not my kingdom.

My kingdom is centred on me and includes the people who I perceive to rotate around me, or who I think should rotate around me. It is about the people who can meet my needs or carry out my desires.

God’s kingdom is centred on Him. To pray, 'Your Kingdom come', is an act of submission and an act of rebellion.
It is an act of rebellion because we are saying to others who claim jurisdiction over us, that we have a higher authority.
It is an act of submission because we are saying that what is important is not my business, my success, my reputation, my health or happiness - but God's business: his righteousness, his rule, his mercy, his peace, his justice and love.

To pray, 'Your kingdom come', is to stand the world on its head.

It really is a Copernican revolution. Before Copernicus, they thought that the earth was the centre of the solar system, just as I think that I am the centre of the universe.

When we knew we were moving from Islington to Bury, people asked if I would miss being somewhere where so much was going on. I used to answer, and the tragedy is that I believed it, by saying, 'I wasn't too worried because I was arrogant enough to believe that wherever I lived would be the centre of the universe'.

But it is not true. When I pray, ‘Your Kingdom come’, I am declaring that I am not the centre of the universe, just as the earth is not the centre of the solar system. It was only when they realised that the sun was the centre of the solar system, and that the planets rotated around the sun, that it all began to make sense - and it is when I realise that it is me who needs to go round God rather than God who is going around me, that life makes sense.

This is a prayer for kingdom values - for the values of the cross and resurrection: we are praying that God's wisdom and strength will be seen - even if it means that I will be shown to be foolish and weak; we are praying that love and self sacrifice and self giving will triumph. We are praying for those values to be seen in my own life, to be seen in our society.

This is a prayer for the lifestyle of the kingdom. We cannot in integrity pray 'Your Kingdom come', if at the same time we are not willing to change areas in our life where we know that things are not right. There are no no-go areas for God's kingdom.

When we pray, 'Your Kingdom Come', we are obeying Jesus' command to 'Seek first his kingdom and righteousness'.

But this is also a prayer that the ruler of this Kingdom will come, that God's king will come.

At the moment the Kingdom comes invisibly when people submit to Jesus Christ; This is mustard seed stuff. A mustard seed is so small, but it grows to become something so big. At the moment it comes when we submit to him, when we renew our submission before him. It comes when a person receives Christ; when they submit to him, when they trust him and live by faith in him.

But the prayer, 'Your Kingdom come' is also a prayer that looks forward to the time when the promised Kingdom of God will break into this world visibly and in power, when what is unseen will be seen. It is a prayer for the return of Jesus. It is an echoe of the prayer of the penultimate verse of the bible: 'He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.' It is a prayer that Jesus Christ will come

Your Kingdom come

Your will be done on earth as in heaven

I used to read these words as if they were saying, 'Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven - with absolute obedience'. And that is a valid reading. It certainly ties in with Jesus' words in the garden of Gethsemane, 'not my will but yours'.

However, they have taken on for me an additional meaning: 'Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven - with great joy'.

The angels delight to do the will of God.

And we are praying for God’s will to be done here on earth, by me, by others, not only with great obedience, but with great delight and joy.

There are times when it is easy to do the will of God. In fact Jesus promised that his yoke was ‘light and easy’. But there will be times for us, as there were for Jesus, when we struggle to do his will. At those times we need to remember that God’s will really is good, perfect and pleasing (Romans 12:2 cf Psalm 119:97, ‘Oh, how I love your law!’)

Hebrews tells us that Jesus went through with the pain and the shame of the cross because of 'the joy set before him'.


I spoke earlier about two versions of Christianity:

The version that says that God exists to make me happy
And the version that says that I exist to make God happy

So many of our prayers belong to the first version. God do this for me. God do that for me. We treat him as the genii in the bottle.

The beginning of the Lord’s prayer belongs to the second version. We pray that God’s name will be honoured, that his kingdom will come and that his will be done.

But when we do that we discover something surprising. It is in seeking God’s blessing that we discover our own blessing.

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