When I was 23 I was working on an oil rig in a tiny town in East Texas, living in a little mom and pop hotel
On a day I was at the laundry mat where I meet a man who was in his seventies.
We had about an hour and a half long conversation.
But I use the term conversation very loosely…he talked I listened.
When I walked to my truck…it struck me that I knew many details of his life and yet he didn’t even know my first name.
He never asked…he was too intent on telling…to do any asking.
He wanted to be known…but he didn’t want to know
I’ve encountered virtually that same scenario many times since then.
In conversations, often…not always…our thoughts can revolve around ourselves, our needs, the topics that are most interesting to us…which for many people…is themselves.
Don’t take this illustration too far…in my relationships with my closest friends, conversations vary.
Sometimes I have a lot on my heart and I talk more…the next time it is mostly my turn to listen.
But overall…in the friendships and relationships that we enjoy the most…conversation is give and take…know and be known.
By the way, purely a side note…I don’t want to be harsh…but I do want to be helpful…if you find that it is often hard for you to have close friends…or you feel people don’t enjoy being with you.
It would be good to ask if the reason is that you are self-centric in your conversations (or overall relational style)..
This can be fixed…and you can learn to enjoy others and they can enjoy you.
However if you are acting selfishly and yet are looking for other causes outside of yourself…then you will continue to live without the enjoyment you could have of others and they could have of you.
Many people are enjoying close relationships…there is no conspiracy against you…you can change.
An honest look is hard…but it’s much harder to live with the consequences of not taking an honest look.
But let’s go back to the theme of conversation
Good relationships involve give and take…knowing and being known.
This is particularly relevant now since the current cultural conversation is often no conversation at all…it just individuals talking, telling…sometimes yelling.
There is not a lot of effort to “understand” but much energy given to being “understood”…or demanding to be understood.
There is a warning in Proverbs regarding this approach:
Prov. 18:13 He who answers before listening — that is his folly and his shame.
This answering before listening, talking over people…or never even seeking to understand in our passion to be understood…is foolish…and leads, often to shame.
This summer we are in a practicum together…practicing the presence of God…growing in a conversational relationship with God.
It’s part of the yearlong theme: closing the gap on faith and love.
For several weeks we will be looking at the Lord’s prayer…we began last week.
Let’s read it together.
Matt. 6:9-13 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
Prayer is talking with God about the things that are important to the both of us.
It is a conversation…that means it is not all talking and it is not all listening.
And it means, like in all relationships, some times it’s more of one thing than the other.
But it also means that prayer is seeking to understand not just to be understood…God of course already does understand us…we often do not understand him.
Sometimes what happens is that even when we are “listening” to God in prayer and in his word…we tend to “hear” what we want to hear.
We filter his communication to us through the “self” grid…and our conclusions can be skewed.
So in this model prayer…where we are told “how” not “what” to pray.
Meaning: “pray in this way…with this heart and intent.”
We are to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
So part of what Jesus is telling us is that we must understand, as best we can, the nature of the Kingdom and what the King’s will actually.
The Bible describes a world, a universe…where there is a King and Kingdom.
Jesus came announcing the Kingdom of God…he told parables to describe this kingdom, he told people to enter this kingdom, he demonstrated the power and the different kind of life available in the Kingdom, he spoke of the good news of the Kingdom.
Here in his model prayer he says that we should pray in a way that demonstrates a desire for his Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
The kingdom of God is where what God wants done is done.
The gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God is more than…How to get to heaven when you die…it is living in the realm of God’s will and ways for your life.
It is in essence…how to live more and more on earth as you will someday in heaven
The Kingdom, as Jesus demonstrated and communicated it, is already here but not yet revealed in its fullness.
Right now some bow their knees and confess that Jesus is King…and as we do we experience the joy of his kind of life.
**Important: this joy of his life is enjoyed now on a planet that is fallen.
-So we can experience him in sickness, in trouble…as well as in good times.
-We experience in part now what will be in full then.
The promises of God are not all future…but they are also are not guarantees of a life free from trouble…but of a life full of him.
In the future every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is King…though not all do now.
So we are pray for, desire, train for…”his will to be done on earth now…in the same way it is being done in heaven.”
Right now, the only place in all of reality…where the Kingdom of God, or God’s effective will, is permitted to be absent is the social/political/personal realm. (This includes of course demons as well as human personality)
Because the stars, the waves, the deer, the wheat, the oceans live by nature under the authority of his kingdom…humans can choose (for now, later the choice will be gone)…to submit to his authority or not.
And many humans do not submit…and together these rebellious hearts come together to form cultures…were individual human rebellion takes on group form.
This is what we see in human history…the fall of individual humans…leading to the fall of human culture as a whole.
There are times and places where culture is shaped to better align with the values of the King and his kingdom…when that happens…people thrive together.
Families, businesses, churches, cities and nations…the closer they get to aligning with God’s design for individuals and groups…they better life goes for them.
Anyone, Christian or otherwise who lives in line with the truth of how the world is actually designed…will do better than the one (Christian or otherwise) who doesn’t.
So Paul said we should pray…
1Tim. 2:2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
Paul knew the Roman King at the time was not godly, but he said Timothy should pray for him.
Sure pray he would become a believer…but pray he would be a successful leader…successful meaning lead well, make good leadership choices.
Because Paul knew that the closer rulers come to making good decisions the more the people can live in peace and freedom under them…this is good and pleases God, he said.
Even unbelievers can live in ways that are closer to the reality of the true King…when they do…it works better for them and others.
As we look around at contemporary culture must be careful that we don’t suffer from “historical amnesia”…these are certainly neither the “best of times or the worst of times” in human history or American history.
What we see in the world now, has always been seen in the world…and will be seen in the world until Jesus returns.
So when we pray “your kingdom come” we are not praying for God’s Kingdom to “come into existence on earth”
We are praying for it to take over at all points in the personal, social, and political order where it is now excluded.
This prayer for “his kingdom to come, his will to be done.”…is first and foremost…a personal prayer of confession and commitment and surrender.
It is a prayer of “closing the gap.”
We are asking him to reign in the realm of our own daily existence…more and more.
The greatest commandment…Jesus said is…
We are to love God with all our being: first (submit to him as king)
Then we are to love others as we love ourselves: second. (demonstrate our love for him in our relationships with each other)
This is the summation of what we are closing the gap on this year…and every year of our lives.
To love God above all else…then to demonstrate that love in action by loving others sacrificially.
We are to make life about God and others…not about us…this is “Your kingdom come, your will be done”
When the King of the universe came as a man to demonstrate what life in the Kingdom is like…he served, washed feet, then ultimately died.
His kingdom come, his will be done…means that you and I will live this kind of life in every area of our lives.
This is single story living: in our homes, playgrounds, work, schools, stores, and in every relationship we have.
We are to demonstrate and live in God’s kingdom…his rule in us must be seen in us everywhere we go.
This must be no facade…it must be becoming true.
The current top enlisted sailor in the Navy resigned last week. He was under investigation for creating a toxic workplace.
It is said that he speaks in public often of servant leadership…but in his real, non-public life it is a different story…he consistently made life about him…and life hard for those around him.
I don’t know how much of this is true for this man…but it must not be true for us.
We must become people who more and more are making life less and less about us…not just in words but in deeds.
So when we pray “Your kingdom come, you will be done”…this is come in our lives first…not “God change those dirty politicians, or bosses, or criminals, or neighbors…”
Your kingdom come into my life…we should our own weaknesses, limitations, habits…so we must ask that we will act with his power and according to his will in our daily lives.
Again…primarily by loving the people God has given us to love…and all that entails.
We can miss this entire point, not because it is so complicated, but it is so simple.
We are prone to look for the complex and trip over the simple truth.
Dr. Strange: Movie where an arrogant neuro surgeon has an accident where he loses the use of his hands.
He travels to Nepal and studies a series of complex, metaphysical books and trains with masters in complex, non-rational ways to begin to be able to manipulate the universe to fit his desires.
I know…it’s just a movie.
But it demonstrates how humans very often believe that what is truly powerful, spiritual, great…is something complex, baffling, beyond understanding.
But in fact it is so simple, so non-complex…that we walk right past it.
“For God so loved the world, he gave his only son that whoever believes in him would not perish.”
“Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.”
“Jesus did not come to be served but to serve.”
Jesus is the King…All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him.
Right now, he allows people to refuse to yield to his authority…but this will not go on indefinitely.
Eventually what is true in heaven…will be true on the new earth.
But now, as we live between the first and second coming of Christ…a time when rebellion is possible.
We are to pray and work and move towards…having hearts where his Kingdom is seen and his will is done.
Love God, Love people…this is his kingdom come, this is his will done.
We pray that for ourselves…we pray that for our friends…we pray that for our church…and for our country and our world.
But this is a conversation…praying is asking and listening.
If we are going to pray that we live inside his will…we must be aware of what his will is.
And we must pay attention to what is happening to our hearts so that we actually become people who want what he wants.
It’s not…”Father, show me your will so I can I decide if I want to do it or not.”
Embedded in this prayer is a request for both a mind to understand his will and a heart to obey it.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done”…is
“I want to know your will, I want to do your will.”
- Knowing his will…seeking to better understand life in the kingdom now…what does his “Kingdom come look like?”
I want to use a dialogue between me and an imaginary person who has doubts regarding some of what I have said so far…to discuss this point.
“Terry, you said this is simple versus complex…but that is nonsense. I mean have you actually tried to read the Bible?”
Yes, I have, I’m currently wading through some dry and confusing OT books right now.
“So you admit, the Bible is complex?”
I admit parts of the Bible are complex yes, but that was not my point. My point was specifically that understanding life in the Kingdom, is at its essence, not complex.
“Okay, then what is the essence of life in the kingdom?”
Love God, love others.
“You don’t think that’s complex?”
No, I think it is difficult, but at its core…it’s simple.
“Okay, then give me an example.”
In my life, rarely has it been hard for me to know what loving my family and friends should look like…not when I have been honest with myself…I have found it hard many times to love them, because I am selfish and didn’t want to do what love required me to do.
In the same way I have often struggled to know the specific will of God regarding decisions like jobs, and relationships and the like…but in terms of his general will…things that cover 90% of my life…how to respond to him today, how to treat others today, how to respond to trouble and to blessings…his will has been very clear and often hard.
So: praying that “his kingdom come, his will be done”
Is by default also a prayer that we are asking to know his will and understand the nature of his kingdom.
When we hear “knowing God’s will” our minds normally go to the things that we really want direct information about…things that concern our life decisions…what job, car, house, etc.
This is normal and it is good…though often we can turn into passivity…waiting on God to write it on the wall rather than using wisdom and experience and getting good counsel.
But the fact remains the will of God regarding how to live life in his Kingdom has been revealed in the words of the Bible and the Word made flesh, Jesus.
Most of the problems we experience interpersonally are the result of our own selfishness…and unwillingness to deal with the Scripture as it is plainly given to us.
Phil. 2…Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.
This is just not hard to understand…it is hard to do.
The fact is, If I put your interests ahead of mine, and you do the same for me…both of our lives will be easier, more fulfilling, less stressful…and overall a joy.
Don’t stand frozen waiting for God to reveal his will for your life…act on what he has clearly said.
Do you see the person he has put in your life? Home, work, school, group, grocery aisle?
Okay…try to love them.
This is his kingdom come, this is his will being done.
This approach to life will also open you up to much more of the rich detail of his will for you.
But to wait for details without engaging what he has plainly and simply told us…is to wait in vain.
So…you already know his will…you can stop wondering about it, or asking him to write it on the wall.
Now the second part of this prayer.
To grow in following through on his will.
- A heart to obey…learning to want what he wants…to do what he wants.
The Kingdom of God is where what God wants done, is done.
So to pray this…means we are saying “yes” to God in your life.
In his agonized prayer in the garden, Jesus poured out his heart to God the Father. He confessed that all things are possible for his Father (Mark 14:36) and he also asked that if possible this “cup” be taken from him (Matt. 26:39).
The cup is the wrath of God that was to be poured out on Jesus for us.
There is no contradiction in these passages.
As Jesus prayed on that dark night and his disciples heard and remembered his prayers, they heard him say both things.
“All things are possible”…and then “if possible.”
In one sense, all things are possible for God because he can do anything that can be done.
He can create the universe from nothing. He can raise Jesus from the dead.
But he cannot lie. He cannot die.
He cannot choose to not be God.
Jesus asked, “Father, you can do all things, is there another way this can be done?”
Then Jesus immediately confessed, “But let me be clear, if there is no other way to do what must be done, then what I most want is what you want.”
The fact is that God could not redeem humanity apart from the death of Christ and his bearing our wrath in his body.
His love could not allow us to remain in our sins without a means of salvation.
His justice could not allow us to escape his wrath without a means of justice.
All things that can be done are possible for God, but God could not save us apart from the death of the Savior.
Jesus did not want to bear the cup of God’s wrath and Jesus wanted to bear the cup of God’s wrath.
He wanted another way, but what he most wanted was his Father’s way.
What about you?
Are there things in your life now in which you do not want to submit to God?
Do you fear the future and find yourself hesitant to fully give your life and hopes to Jesus?
It is okay to pray, “God your will be done, but if there is another way than this one, I’ll take it.”
Jesus prayed in that way and we can as well.
But in the end, when the answer is, “No, there is no other way except this one,” what will you do?
Will you pray: “Your will be done, your kingdom come…in my heart and life as it is in heaven”?
Again…this is not complicated but it is also not easy.
Jesus sweat stress drops of blood in the garden.
He was napping when the storm threatened to sink the boat he was in during a storm…but in the garden before his crucifixion…he was not napping…he was in agony of soul.
This models for us…the difficulty of surrender to the will of God…sometimes its not hard, but sometimes it is enormously difficult.
But the prayer itself is simple…”Not my will, but yours.”
Not my kingdom, but yours come.
*We must cry out in our struggles and maybe even more so in our times of success and ease…”YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done!” Never mine, never mine…always yours!
*Trouble in relationships?…sure it may be their fault…but how much of it is because you are trying to live in your own kingdom and want others to live their as well.
*Struggle with ongoing sin patterns, habits, and addictions…how much of it is your commitment to your own will being done?
*It not supposed to be surprise that this is a struggle…
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
But though it is a struggle to live a “your kingdom, your will life”…it is not complicated…we must be fooled into thinking it is.
It really is quite simple…love God, love the people God has given you to love…make life about him and them…refuse to make it about yourself.
This is his joyful and powerful kingdom.