Open Matthew 6:9-15.
“Our Father…” We’ve recited it, heard it taught, and used it as a pattern for prayer. But for Jesus it was more. In 57 words, he pulled together everything he was working for. It’s a kingdom manifesto. We pray to God as king, for the community he governs (his kingdom).
In this prayer, Jesus showed us how to approach the ruler of heaven and earth (6:9-10). Then he showed us how to present our requests to the great king (6:11-13). Our audience with the king aligns us with his purposes, as people living under his reign.
No one in Judaism was addressing God as “Father,” except the Son (2:15; 3:17; 4:3, 6). We saw how Jesus taught his followers to see the sovereign of the universe as Father (5:9, 16, 45, 48; 6:1, 4, 6, 8). Now, for the first time, Jesus draws us into his familial relationship with God — as our Father. His Father is our Father. We’re included in his royal family. Even the least of us — especially the least of us — is part of the king’s family (Matthew 25:40).
Our Father is in heaven, and we’re on earth. The relationship between these two realms is crucial to the Biblical narrative. Earth was designed to operate under heaven’s reign. How devastating was the rebellion! Attempting to overthrow God’s kingship, we dragged God’s name through the dirt. Grasping power over others, humanity introduced conflict and struggle into his realm. We conduct wars, kill our enemies, starve others out, and pile up possessions. If power was where it ought to be — in God’s hands — none of this evil would be present. Humans were designed to image God, but we have so dishonoured his name that people ask, “How can there be a God when there’s so much evil in the world?”
What kind of world would it be if everyone submitted to God’s kingship instead of seeking power over each other? If everyone honoured God’s name instead of promoting their own? If everyone fulfilled God’s will instead of forcing our own will on others? A world submitted to God’s government would be a slice of heaven on earth.
Imagine a community where everyone recognizes God’s kingship, where we trust our king to provide for us all. We would not rip each other off. No one would horde resources while others starve. We would be satisfied with the fresh bread he provides for today, with no thought of stockpiling for tomorrow. Jesus teaches us to voice our reliance on our true king who provides for us day by day (6:11).
As the community of the king, we would not defend our honour by returning evil for evil, for that is not how our heavenly sovereign treats us. We would view offence as an opportunity to forgive, extending the same grace to the family that our Father extends to us all. Jesus teaches us to request a healed relationship with our king, as we practice healing relationships with each other (6:12).
A community under God’s kingship is willing to trust him where he leads us. He will lead us through the present trials, just as he did in the days of the exodus. He led them out of slavery, establishing them as a nation under his reign. That’s the plea Jesus teaches us to make: that our God will deliver his creation from its bondage to evil, and into his perfect reign (6:13).
As we entreat our sovereign to lead us to that place of complete deliverance, he calls us to implement that kind of community now, in the present, before all is set right. Now — while evil is present and people abuse us — now is the time to enact the kingdom of God by extending forgiveness.
The kingdom comes as we, the subjects of the king, live as our king directs. If we do not extend forgiveness in the present, our Father will not treat us as his subjects, so we will not experience his governance (6:14-15).
In praying the Lord’s Prayer, we place ourselves under the great king, dependent on him, aligned with his purposes, enacting his healing love for his family.
Matthew 6:9-15 (expanding the kingdom message):
9 Father of us all, in heaven, may your authoritative name be untarnished, your character recognized as pure and devoted to us (despite human rebellion).
10 May your kingship be restored, so your intentions come to pass on earth as they do in your heavenly realm.
11 We trust you for fresh bread each day, refusing the self-sufficient way that grasps power and wealth.
12 Release us all from the wrong we have done in rejecting your kingship. We affirm that we have released everyone who has wronged us, so we can live together in harmony as your community, under your kingship.
13 We trust you to lead us out of the present testing times, to rescue us from the power of evil, to restore the earth under your kingship.
14 For if you all released the people who overstepped the boundaries and demeaned you, your heavenly Father will release you all, 15 but if you did not release people, neither will your Father release you all from overstepping the boundaries of his authority.
What others are saying
Hans Dieter Betz, The Sermon on the Mount: A Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Including the Sermon on the Plain (Matthew 5:3-7:27 and Luke 6:20-49), Hermeneia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1995), 378:
I conclude that the Lord’s Prayer does indeed contain a theology, Jewish in nature and scope, that possesses its own peculiar contours. This theology is presupposed throughout, giving the Prayer unity and direction. Much of what looks traditional at first sight turns out to be unusual, even provocative, under closer examination.
James D. G. Dunn, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? The New Testament Evidence (London; Louisville, KY: SPCK; Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 97:
Equally noteworthy is the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘May your kingdom come’ (Matt. 6:10/Luke 11:2). For no one can have any doubt that the main theme and emphasis of Jesus’ preaching was ‘the kingdom (or kingship) of God’. But too few note the principal corollary, that in the kingdom of God, God is King, God alone; God alone as king, the only God as ruler over all (including all other so-called gods), God as the only one worthy to command complete and singular loyalty and obedience. In the kingdom of God the (human) subject owes unconditional obedience to the king; a double allegiance is impossible (Matt. 6:24/Luke 16:13). The king, and the king alone, has the power to determine the eternal destiny of his subjects (Matt. 10:28/Luke 12:4–5).
David Wenham and Steve Walton, Exploring the New Testament: The Gospels and Acts, Second Edition., vol. 1 (London: SPCK, 2011), 171:
Thus in the Lord’s prayer, ‘your kingdom come’ is parallel to and interpreted by ‘your will be done’ (Matt. 6:10): God’s rule is seen when he is obeyed.
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