Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
(Matt. 6:9-13 KJV)
When we pray as Jesus taught us, our petitions call for “regime change” in relation to the politics of the day, whatever day it is and wherever we happen to be. This is so because we pray that God’s Kingdom would come to our here and now world, not just generally or ideally, but particularly and locally (Matt. 6:10). This is the very Kingdom—the Government of God—Jesus declared to be present at the beginning of his ministry (e.g., Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; see also Luke 17:21). Further, as we have seen, our Jesus-led praying asks for the King’s will to be done in today’s world as it is in today’s Heaven (Matt. 6:10). As Jesus leads us, we are pleading for Heaven’s way to become more and more present and prevailing with, among and through us in and for our world.
In prior posts I have noted how Jesus tells his followers to address God. Not as the Almighty, not as the Eternal One, not as the Holy One, not as the Most High or only God, not as the Most Blessed One, and not even in the first instance as King. Rather, as Father. This may seem off-putting both for people of Jesus’ day and our own, though for different reasons. For the first century, God’s people commonly focused upon the exalted and transcendent character of their Lord: The Holy One whose name—YHWH—was not to be uttered for fear of profaning God. “Father” suggested associations too common and familiar, perhaps even profane. And, in the 21st century, to identify God as father dredges up the failings of human fathers whose impact on their children may cast dark shadows upon the whole of their lives.
Even so, Jesus says, pray like this: Father …. As he does, he reveals God in a new way, as F-A-T-H-E-R—God, and then names this God King. The whole of Jesus’ life—healing, casting out demons, teaching/preaching, serving and caring, contending for people, especially the last and least, suffering, dying and rising—fills in the content of the term Jesus uses to name God. Considering the whole of his life, F-A-T-H-E-R—God is the One who is near, who shows mercy and thus gives, cares, rescues, forgives, forebears, generously and indiscriminately. Ultimately, F-A-T-H-E-R—God is not simply One who shows love but who is love.
Therefore, Jesus reveals “F-A-T-H-E-R—God” to be the center and source of all that the created world and its creatures need, and invites us to address our worship and praise, along with our petitions and supplications heavenward accordingly. Just as this deconstructs and then re-constructs the concept of F-A-T-H-E-R, so it also deconstructs and re-constructs the concept of K-I-N-G. It is precisely F-A-T-H-E-R—God to whom we ascribe “the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever,” (Matt.6:13, KJV). Now, precisely this F-A-T-H-E-R—God, Jesus claims, is Our Father.
During his ministry Jesus called God “My Father” (e.g., Matt. 7:21; 10:32; 12:50) and when speaking to his disciples he called God “Your Father in Heaven” (e.g., Matt. 5:16, 45, 48). But in this special teaching on how to pray: it is Our Father. As Jesus relates to F-A-T-H-E-R—God so his disciples relate to F-A-T-H-E-R—God. Thus, as followers of Jesus, when we pray according to his instructions, we are entering into the prayer closet to claim Jesus’ Father as Our Father.
Which implies that all of us who pray like this, following Jesus’ lead, are Family, God’s FAMILY. Indeed, in the same way Jesus and Father-God are, so we are in some sense all FAMILY. Consider several facets of this claim, and what they suggest about the nature of Our F-A-T-H-E-R—God’s Kingdom for which we are praying.
Imagine the year is not 2021 but 29 or 30. As Jesus teaches: “Pray like this: Our father …,” he is speaking to the twelve disciples and others in the crowd who are listening and open. Among them are small town/village folk and city dwellers, uneducated and schooled, tax-collectors and political activists (if not violent revolutionaries), women and men, some notorious for their sins and others noted for their piety. Some of them would be among the “conservative fundamentalists” and others the “liberal humanists” of that day. All of them following Jesus’ lead, learning to pray: “Our Father-in-Heaven.” All in the Family.
Let’s imagine the year is not 2021 but 1021. The dominant faith throughout the vast Roman Empire is now Christianity. Thus, when the faithful gather, they pray: “Our Father …. Thus, when the faithful gather, Romans and non-Romans, Middle Easterners, Africans, Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Asian-Indians, Eastern Asians, perhaps even some Chinese—all those different peoples, gathering for worship then scattering to live as disciples, are lifting their voices, calling upon “Our Father.” All of them Family.
At present we don’t have to imagine it’s 2021, but it may take some imagination to appreciate that today’s followers of Jesus regularly pray like this. In every corner of the world, dispersed among the 7.5 billion people on earth, voices in multiple languages blend together addressing “Our Father …”.
Although last year, 2020, was the year of the pandemic, COVID19 sadly remains present and threatening thus far in 2021. There is no region of the world entirely free of this viral contagion and its unknown variants. At the same time, there is likewise no region of the world without communities of Jesus crying out: Our Father … .
This is the FAMILY-OF-GOD-Prayer, and the FAMILY extends to all corners, and includes representatives from virtually every nation, tribe, clan, and family. This is not just a future vision from the Revelation; it is already present reality. In a world divided and defined by so many differences, fearful and vengeful, feuding and warring, rich and poor—in every region, despite all such differences, ONE FAMILY prays Our Father …
This is so important to remember when we pray and as we pray. Consider these questions and answers:
Q. When we ask for “our daily bread,” who is included?
A. All who pray Our Father …
Q. When we plead, “Forgive us … as we have forgiven …,” who are the forgiven and the forgiving?
A. All who pray Our Father …
Q. When we plead, “Lead us not into … and deliver us from … ,” for whom are we petitioning protection and rescue?
A. All who pray Our Father …
When we pray for Our needs and concerns, in view of Our circumstances, we pray as disciples of Jesus who are connected to the family that spans the globe, and calls upon the same F-A-T-H-E-R—God as we do. If in Jesus we are truly Family, if in a sense, we all gather in F-A-T-H-E-R—God’s presence, we pray with and for one another as surely as we pray for ourselves.
These connections become clear once we begin making requests to Our F-A-T-H-E-R—God in Heaven. The first request is: Hallowed by thy name. Or, let your name be holy. “Name” refers to the essential character of God, the kind of God to whom we pray. “Holy” means distinguished, recognized, honored, in all the ways appropriate to God’s name. Thus, first on the list of Jesus’ requests is for God to be recognized and honored for who and how God is. So, let’s remember:
Q. Who and how is God?
A. Our F-A-T-H-E-R—God!
The first request calls upon Our Father to be known, honored, understood and experienced in the way that Jesus reveals. Put another way, we follow Jesus in offering our lives as the audio and visual commentary—the Bodily Expression—of F-A-T-H-E-R—God’s plan for humanity. We are asking to live, relate and respond toward (especially) one another so that all may know God as F-A-T-H-E-R, and thus recognize us—all of us—as F-A-T-H-E-R—God’s FAMILY in Jesus.
We’re not praying that all might know we claim to be, but that we are in fact the FAMILY of F-A-T-H-E-R—God. We are praying for Bodily Expressions of F-A-T-H-E-R—God’s nearness, goodness, kindness, and care. Indeed, of F-A-T-H-E-R—God’s love that shows mercy, assures forgiveness, secures freedom, and lays Self down to protect and defend. We are praying that Bodily Expression of F-A-T-H-E-R—God’s name could be seen wherever the Family may be the world over.
This anticipates the second and third requests: “Let your Kingdom come; let your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.” In fact, these requests are two sides of the same coin. The Kingdom is wherever and whenever the King rules, which is to say, where and when the King’s will is done. So, Jesus instructs: Ask for Kingdom-come, that is, for the King’s will to be done.
Note this: When Jesus teaches us to pray for Kingdom-come he assumes the presence of the King who is forming the Government of God amidst all the governments of the world currently in place. Kingdom-come assumes the reality of God’s Government as the alternative to the governments claiming the peoples of the world and their allegiance. But not as a rival kingdom among the nations vying for support, rather as the Kingdom that fulfills and perfectly matches the governance humans most need. And, likewise, we pray for not just another better King, but the singular King whose will and way express such ultimate governance.
When we hear or say the word ”K-I-N-G” most people immediately think of someone who has power and uses it to take command, lay down the law, enforce an agenda, and establish a reputation (or name) for greatness. This is just what a ”K-I-N-G” does.
Yet we are not praying for this kind of King or Government. Rather, the Government of God will be led by Our Father. By naming God in this way, Jesus reveals the kind of King God is, and casts “Kingship” in new light, the light that God is and Jesus brings. So, the High King of Heaven, almighty and eternal, without peer or rival, is Our-Father-God who sent Jesus to live, die, and rise again for us! The High King of Heaven manifests ultimate power in service to love—drawing near not to take but to give, not to lay down law but to lay down love embodied in Self, not to be served but to serve, suffer, sacrifice, and thus to save the day.
Jesus says: Pray like this to His Majesty, Our-FATHER-GOD: Please align our lives and relationships—our everything—with your heart and your mind, so that your nearness, generosity, goodness, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and freedom fill the land. Yes, Our-Father, may it be so in all the lands where The Family gathers to pray and live as citizens of the Heavens.
To sum up Jesus’ teachings on how to pray, thus far, fraught as they are with political implications:
- God is F-A-T-H-E-R-in the Heavens, as Jesus reveals.
- God is Our- F-A-T-H-E-R-in the Heavens, dispersed throughout the world.
- God, Our- F-A-T-H-E-R-in the Heavens, is K-I-N-G, as Jesus reveals!
- We ask for the Government of Our- F-A-T-H-E-R-in the Heavens to prevail over all, beginning with the Family but extending geographically and temporally over all places and peoples.
- Wherever the Our- F-A-T-H-E-R-in the Heavens Family happens to be—this is the Kingdom that claims their ultimate allegiance, in ways consistent with the name of the King, Our-F-A-T-H-E-R-in the Heavens.
- All other and rival kingdoms/governments, and their claims for allegiance, must be subject to the Our- F-A-T-H-E-R-in the Heaven’s Kingdom and its way of life, as Jesus reveals and embodies it.