Thursday, July 19, 2007

What are you praying for?

The Lord's prayer is so often prayed that I think its significance has decreased in modern Christianity. I know that I chant through it instead of honestly thinking about the implications of the words I'm saying. Something has really stood out for me in the last few months concerning the Lord's prayer, however.

Matthew 6:10

Your Kingdom come,

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven

Now, I've intentionally made the two lines italicized because I think "Your will be done" is the only thing people focus on when considering earth and heaven. But what did Jesus mean about God's kingdom coming on earth?

One thing that bothers/perplexes me is that God's kingdom is not divided or fractured in Heaven, why should it be on earth? I think the Lord's prayer has huge implications for ecclesiology. However, this is because I take God's Kingdom on earth to be his Church (contrary to both George Ladd and J. Millard Erickson). I like things to be practical and real. As such, I'm generally less inclined to follow Luther, Calvin, and even Augustine in dividing up the "visible" and "invisible" church. I want the invisible to be the visible! I like the idea of one corporate body working together. In fact, I think denominations are the inability of Christians to work through the Spirit within the community. I suppose I'm just not theologically inclined enough to see how one can pray for God's Kingdom to come on earth and be as it is in Heaven, and then remain divided from Christian brethren because that's the way things have always been. The Lord's prayer seems a bit like spiritual nonsense if we're saying to God, "Make your Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.....but do it without me having to do anything."

So, the question is: What exactly are you praying for when you pray the Lord's prayer? Or, a more historical-critical approach: what do you suppose Jesus meant here? Is this a validation for a one Church world? Did Jesus equate God's Kingdom coming on earth as the Church?

Also, something that's well-worth a read is Pope John Paul II's encyclical letter titled Ut Unum Sint. He discusses a reunited and reconciled Church. (HT: Michael Barber)

1 comment:

Michael Barber said...


Great post--thanks for the tip of the hat!

The question regarding the relationship of the Kingdom and the Church is one of the most crucial questions that must be answered.

I'd strongly urge anyone interested in this to read the article Scott Hahn wrote for the Luke volume edited by Joel Green and Anthony Thiselton, et al.

Here's the bibliographic information and the link: "Kingdom and Church in Luke-Acts: From Davidic Christology to Kingdom Ecclesiology,” in Reading Luke: Interpretation, Reflections, Formation Scripture and Hermeneutics Series VI; eds., Craig Bartholomew, Joel Green, Anthony Thiselton (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), pp. 294-326.

This article is, in my opinion, extremely important.