Dear Family and Friends of Christ Church,
The Lord’s Prayer isn’t a magic formula for prayer. It isn’t strictly a model for all other prayers we might pray. It is, however, a prayer that pulls us into the mind of God, and lets God pray into us God’s thoughts and desires. This morning we consider just one of its petitions designed to accomplish this in us.
Tuesday, May 12, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
AM Psalm 61, 62
Matthew 6: 7-15 The Lord’s Prayer: A prayer for the future that is hoped for now. If you’ve ever attempted to keep up a discipline of “Praying the Hours,” then you know that it is quite a challenge to keep up, even for just one day. Praying the Hours is that ancient Christian practice of praying every three hours of the day from dawn into late night; usually from about 6 am to 9 pm, as it is laid out in the Book of Common Prayer. Then too, you also know that the one prayer that is the centerpiece of every one of those hours is The Lord’s Prayer. It is the one prayer prayed in every observance of the Hours, and it always holds the central position of the rite. It holds that position, not just because Jesus told us to pray it, which of course, he did, but also because it helps us to pray a lot of things we might not think to pray about otherwise. In other words, its various petitions keep us praying for all the things that matter, not just our immediate thoughts, praises, and worries. That centrality leads me to reflect on one petition in particular this morning.
When I was first taught the Lord’s prayer, I especially remember the second petition (the first being “Hallowed be your [thy] name”): “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” This petition, we were told, was all about Jesus’ return that would come “someday.” That understanding wasn’t wrong exactly, it just wasn’t complete. When we pray for the rule of God, the reign of God, to come upon the Earth, it is true that we are acknowledging that it isn’t here yet; at least not here such that God’s will is done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
In that context, when we pray this petition, we are praying for Jesus’ return, and that with his return he will bring that promised whole new world order that his sacrifice for us is going to usher in: a world where terms like “social justice” and “economic justice” and “equal justice” will no longer even be spoken, because there will be no injustice; the whole world will live by the precepts of God’s love and justice as laid out in The Sermon on The Mount.
But there is another context to this petition that is a lot closer to home for us right now. Those first Christians, who prayed this petition right after Jesus’ death and resurrection, weren’t looking down through the ages for a far distant hope to eventually come true. They were thinking about tomorrow; maybe even sometime within the next couple of hours as they prayed this prayer. This petition, for them, was full of immediacy. They wanted that promised new world now, and they wanted to know how they could help make this current world more like that one now.
Right now, this petition has an immediacy for us as well. We might not want a whole new world order, at least not the sort that requires an end of the world as we know it scenario, but we do know that we want a world where all leaders – political, religious and otherwise – all know that they exist for the benefit of those they lead and not for themselves; a world where, when a threat comes against some, all band together to seek the good of all; a world where, even though a pandemic may happen, we learn how to fight it and learn how to prevent such for the future. This list could certainly continue, and you’re welcome to add your own items to it.
But my point is, praying The Lord’s Prayer, especially this second petition, isn’t just for some far distant longed-for outcome. It is for right now. It is a prayer meant to focus us on what God wants for our world in this moment of time. And it is to get us thinking about what we can do individually and together to change it to be more like that world to come. So, here’s a specific thing we can all add as we pray this petition: ask God for some direct intervention in your way of viewing things; that is, ask God to bless you with the knowledge and the wisdom to know how, even in this present time of lockdowns and sequestering and distancing, to effect change. Praying this petition will set your mind and heart where it needs to be to receive that intervention, in the hands of God.