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“Unlocking the Treasures
of the Lord's Prayer”

Part :2
"Bringing a Little Heaven to Earth

Based on Matthew 6:5-13
Delivered on April 26 & 19, 2009
by David J. Claassen
Copyright 2009 by David J. Claassen

            It happens often, and it still makes the news.  Some CEO of a major company is asked to step aside.  A new CEO is quickly put into place, and everyone hopes that things will turn around for the company.
            You drive past a restaurant.  The last time you ate there you had bad food, lousy service, or both, and you haven't been back in a long time.  Now there's a sign that says “Under New Management.”  You'll probably give it a try, because if there are new people in charge things might be different — and, you hope, better.
            When we think about getting involved in something we naturally ask, “Who's in charge?”  “Who’s calling the shots?”
            The world is filled with kingdoms, small and big, from a mom-and-pop restaurant to General Motors, from a family to a nation.  You can look at everything in terms of kingdoms, and someone's in charge of every kingdom, be it small or great.
            Jesus taught His disciples a prayer, and if we’ve made the commitment to be His followers, we're included with those disciples.  He taught us a prayer that we've come to call the Lord's Prayer.  We’re continuing a six-part series titled “Unlocking the Treasures of the Lord's Prayer” with part two.  We're looking at the part of Jesus' prayer where we should pray like Him with the words, “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew
6:10 KJV)
            What are we supposed to mean when we pray those words?  What should we have in mind, what are we asking, and what are we committing ourselves to when we pray something to the effect of “Heavenly Father, may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? 

God's Kingdom above, around, and in You
When we think of heaven we think of a perfect place — and we should, because that’s what it is.  There's nothing wrong in heaven: there's no sin or anything bad.  Best of all, it’s where God fully reveals Himself.  Life on earth is a very different matter.  This side of heaven things are far from perfect; everything seems messed up in one way or another.  The main problem is that there's sin in the world.  We believe that God is here, because He’s present in all places, but not like He is in heaven.
            Jesus would have us pray, then, to the Father, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Part of what we're supposed to do in prayer — and it can take many forms — is to pray that a little more of heaven could be brought to earth!
            It's difficult to understand how God is working in this world.  On the one hand God is what’s called “sovereign.”  That means that He’s in ultimate, absolute control.  Jeremiah the prophet declared, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm.  Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17)  God's rule is comprehensive, encompassing all people, politics, governments, economic systems, weather, cosmic events, and everything else.
            However, according to what Jesus has us pray, God's will is not being done on earth as it is in heaven; otherwise He wouldn’t have us pray that it would be!  God isn’t running His universe in an overt way where He’s forcing things to be absolutely perfect.  Some people expected Jesus to set up such a kingdom, but He didn’t.  A good case in point was when Jesus Himself stood before an earthly leader.  That leader was Pilate, the ruler of a small kingdom, who had the power of life or death over Jesus.  Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.  But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)  Jesus described how God's control of things — His kingdom — can be compared to the way yeast works in bread: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:33)  You don't see yeast working, but it does, though it works slowly and almost imperceptibly.  That's an image, Jesus said, of the way God our Father is working in this world.
            Someday things will be different: Jesus will return.  He told us, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)  History as we now know it will be stopped.  There will be a “reboot” (to use computer terminology) and the perfect will of God that’s done now in heaven will indeed be done on earth, but now we have to pray that things keep moving in that direction.  That's what Jesus had in mind when He taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

Living under God the Father's Leadership
            What does all this mean for us?  How does praying this part of Jesus' prayer affect us?  I'm thinking of how Mary, Jesus' mother, responded when the angel told her that she was going to have a baby without benefit of a man and that her son was being sent from God.  She prayed, “May it be done to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)  The twelve year-old Jesus was found by Mary and Joseph in the temple after He was missing and they had been looking for Him high and low.  He said, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?” (Luke 2:49 NASB)  At the end of His time here on earth, just before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father, “Not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) 
This part of the Lord's Prayer — “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” — reminds us that prayer isn't about trying to change God's mind; it's about changing us and the world around us.  Eugene Peterson stated that “God must not be used.” (Tell It Slant, p.269)  Prayer isn't about our trying to get God to fit into our plans; it’s about our trying to figure out how to fit into His plans, with His help.  It's a relinquishing of control over the little kingdom called “SELF,” putting it under God’s control.
            Picture your life as a kingdom laid out on a map.  Next to your “kingdom” are the “kingdoms” of those near you.  Some places our “kingdoms” overlap where we voluntarily or involuntarily yield control and are open to being influenced.  In large measure, however, we want to rule our own lives.
            Now picture God's kingdom: His rule and reign.  He has set up this world, and our lives, in such a way that He won't take over our “kingdoms” of “SELF” by use of eminent domain.  He wants us to voluntarily annex our “kingdoms” to His.  This annexation of our little “kingdoms” of “SELF” to His rule and reign will never be complete this side of heaven, but we can keep praying and living in a way to move in that direction! 

Practical Living in “God's Country”
God wants our lives to be beautiful in His sight.  How can this happen?  I believe that first of all, it requires a shift in the way we think about our lives.  They aren’t really our own lives; they’re His!  I got to thinking about how my experience of growing up on an Iowa farm with my farmer father illustrates that.
            I grew up on the farm and then went off to college, but I came back to work on the farm again during the summer months between my years at college.  In my later teen years and early twenties I did just about everything a farmer does.  I fed hogs and cattle and cleaned up after them and I fixed fences.  I mowed hay, side-raked hay, and bailed hay.  I plowed, disked, dragged, and planted the fields.  In all ways I was a farmer — except one.  I wasn’t making the ultimate decisions about any of those things; my father was.  He decided how much I should feed the cattle and when to clean out the hog pen; he made the decision about which fields the corn, soybeans, hay, or oats were planted in.  I was farming, but I wasn’t the farmer; my father was.
            That's how I'm supposed to look at this “farm” called my life — this “kingdom” of “SELF,” as we might call our little corners of the world.  It's my life, but it’s really only my life to either keep from the Heavenly Father and live my way, or to give to Him to be lived His way.
            Another quick analogy might help.  I know some of you go on business trips.  One of your toughest jobs is convincing your family — when you have to leave them behind for a few days — that the trip isn’t a vacation; it’s work.  You may be able to do a bit of sightseeing, but you're not going away to please yourself; you’re going to serve the company.  This is the way we should view our lives: they’re not to be lived to serve ourselves, they’re to serve the Heavenly Father and His kingdom.
            This means that we should yield to being the kinds of mates, parents, children, co-workers, neighbors, and friends that the Heavenly Father wants us to be, not the natural way we'd like to react and live.  It means that we seek to yield our inner thoughts, motives, and desires to be the way He wants, not the way our fallen nature would allow or desire.
            This, by the way, is the best, most effective way to influence the world around us for God's good.  We do that when we first seek to have His will be done with us as His will is being done in heaven.  Only when we let the Heavenly Father rule our little kingdoms can we hope to serve as an example, an influence, and an agent of change anywhere else.  It begins with us; it has to!  We change the world around us by changing ourselves!
            We each have a little kingdom called “SELF,” and we can maintain control of it ourselves or we can let the Heavenly Father annex our little kingdoms to His great, grand kingdom!  Doing that will be for our benefit; He's that kind of good and loving Heavenly Father.  Jesus promised us as much: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
            May we mean Jesus' prayer when we pray it, including the “kingdom” part!  “Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew
6:10 KJV)     


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