I was sitting in a fast food restaurant having a late lunch when a young father entered with his small son. The youngster’s head barely reached the counter. It was only by grasping the counter with both hands and stretching to his full height on tiptoe that the child could see the menu board with its mixture of pictures, prices and (to him) undecipherable words. After several moments of fidgeting, in the exasperated voice of one who is old enough to know he is hungry and yet too young to read the menu for himself, I heard him ask, “Daddy, what do I want?”
At the time, his statement made me chuckle. But as I reflect back upon it now, I am reminded of Isaiah’s statement, “And a little child shall lead them.” 3 Does not his childish query of “Daddy, what do I want?” reflect some of our own inquisitiveness and wonder when it comes to the first two petitions of the Lord’s Prayer?
When we pray Our Father…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, do we fully understand what we are asking? Do we completely understand what we are requesting? Are we somewhat like the young lad at the fast food counter? Are we bewildered by the choices of what we could ask for and uncertain about what is “on the menu”? Honestly, are there not times when you wonder exactly how to pray of what to pray? Are there not times when you could easily say, ”Daddy, what do I want?”
Thy Kingdom Come
What is it we are really praying for when we say Thy kingdom come? What are we asking when we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom?
We are praying, first of all, that God would rule in our hearts and asking that His kingdom—the reign of peace and justice and righteousness—be in complete command of our lives.
We are praying for others. For a society, a nation, a world where the will of God is recognized as the ultimate authority. Plus, asking for a social order where Jesus would not just fit in, but feel at home.
To pray Thy kingdom come is to pray for homes where the Son of Man can be entertained without embarrassment. It is a prayer for churches to be alive with and caring and truthful ministries. We pray for cities to be where justice and brotherhood reigns. We are praying for ethical business places and factories, asking for schools where education is not a shameful pretense and requesting guidance for leisure activities on which He would smile and movies that wouldn’t cause tears in His eyes.
What Kind of Kingdom?
The Apostle Paul described the kingdom of heaven this way: The kingdom does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.4 To pray Thy kingdom come is to pray for an era of righteousness, justice, fair play, and a chance for every human soul. It is to pray for the abolition of all wrong, all sin—both individual and social.
Thy kingdom come is a prayer for peace, too. It is a prayer for that true peace which is born of righteousness and justice and fair play, a prayer for joy—not superficial gaiety but rather a deep, abiding joy. It is a prayer for the peace that comes when individuals and communities are living together in a state of peaceful righteousness.
When we utter this first petition of the prayer, we are not merely asking to be in that number that enters the gates of heaven when we die. We are asking, rather, that God’s kingdom might come to us while we live. It is our confession and realization that the kingdom of God has not yet been fully realized in our world. At the same time, Thy kingdom come is a statement of faith that we believe it will come. It may not happen tomorrow or next year or even in our lifetime, but it will come. As John wrote in Revelation, so we believe. The kingdom of the world (will) become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.5
Thy kingdom come is our acknowledgement, too, that without His help, the reign of righteousness and justice will never come. By the same token, neither can the Kingdom dawn without our willingness to work toward that goal. We cannot bring the Kingdom to fruition without God’s help and empowerment—and He will not do it without our hands and feet and lips and lives.
Thy Will Be Done
What about the second request in this prayer of the Master, Thy will be done? What are we really saying when we utter those four words?
To pray Thy will be done is to recognize that obedience to God’s will is the only way that His kingdom will come. The rich young ruler in Matthew, obedient to the letter of the law for his entire life, missed the coming of the kingdom in his own life because he was unwilling to say Thy will be done when the Master told him to sell his possessions and join His band of disciples. 6
Thy will be done is both an easy and a difficult prayer. The words are easy to say, yet difficult to mean. To pray Thy will be done is to surrender ourselves to God’s control. It is to relinquish all rights to selfish desires, self-centered thoughts and egotistical ambitions. To pray for God’s will is to surrender pride and self-sufficiency, egotism and vanity, selfishness and self-gain. It is to place ourselves at God’s disposal—to be willing to be used when and where and AS He sees fit.
Thy will be done is a recognition that God’s will is NOT being fully done. The Apostle Paul was writing about our society as well as his own when he wrote to the Romans. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 7
Not Mine, But HIS
Our will is not always synonymous with the will of God. The prophet Isaiah recorded God’s words. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, says the Lord. 8 There is much going on in our world today that is contrary to the will of God. Wherever there is social wrong, injustice, hate, and wherever a child of the Creator has been wounded by action or word, the will of God is not being done. In a society torn apart by violence, misunderstanding, prejudice and greed, God’s will does NOT prevail!
Yet, to pray Thy will be done is to do more than simply recognize the desires of the Almighty are not being accomplished. To petition that the will of God be done as it is in heaven is to declare that such a state of grace might one day exist. It is to state that we are willing, with God’s help, to cause it to come into being.
Again, it is only as we are obedient to His will for us as individuals that we can see His will for our world become a reality. God’s will cannot be done on earth as in heaven unless all Christians are submissive to God’s will for their individual lives.
Because HIS Will is Best
By praying Thy will be done we are, in effect, praying that God’s best might become a reality in our experience. His best for us might not always be the easiest thing for us to accept. Yet, we must be willing to say with our Lord and Master Jesus Christ nevertheless, not my will by Thine be done. 9
Thy will be done is not meant to be some trite, meaningless jumble of words. It is meant to be prayed carefully, thoughtfully and in a spirit of self-dedication. This is no trifling hypocritical statement. To pray Thy will be done is to say with Isaiah, Here I am, send me.10 It is to make a statement of purposeful action. A declaration that says, “When I rise from my knees and leave this place of prayer, I WILL be about my Father’s business.”
The will of God is not a passive “something” we are to tolerate, put up with or suffer under. Thy will be done is not so much a sigh of surrender as it is a call to battle. We are pledging, with those four words, to wage an aggressive campaign against evil and sin in every form. Then we know that the will of God might be done and that His Kingdom might come into our midst!
So, What Do We Want?
The young boy at the fast food counter was bewildered by the multitude of choices that confronted him. Unable to read, uncertain what his options were, his query rose above the noise of a business at work. “Daddy, what do I want?.” Then the father, in wisdom and love, ordered what he considered to be best for his child.
Many times, in prayer, we voice a similar question of “Daddy, what do I want?”.
These first two petitions of the model prayer of our Lord offer us an answer. We want God’s Kingdom of righteousness, peace and justice to come, and we want to see God’s will at work in our lives as well as in the world.