The Model Prayer, part 2: God’s Plan

Posted: October 23, 2011 in Matthew, Uncategorized

Matthew 6:10, “The Model Prayer, part 2: God’s Plan”

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  We’ve prayed it often, but perhaps not given it too much thought.  There’s a nice rhyme & meter to it, and for the most part that’s all many people have paid attention to.  But there’s so much more!

By way of review, we saw that Jesus was teaching about prayer.  Prayer is most simply defined as “speaking to God through Jesus Christ.”  If we’re not truly communicating, we’re not praying.  If we’re not communicating with God, we’re wasting our breath.  If we don’t have Jesus as our advocate & mediator, we’ve got no access to communicate with God at all.

Secondly, we saw that as Jesus gives us the model prayer, that prayer is primarily about God for the glory of God.  There is a time and place to present our needs & requests to God, but we always need to remember who God is as our Father, what He’s done for us in Christ, and how He will be glorified.  God has joined us together in one body – one people – one Church, and through His glorious grace because of the work of Jesus upon the cross He has made us His children in every way possible: spiritually and legally.  Because of who God is, our first request in the Model Prayer is for God’s name to be hallowed – to be made holy.  We are to pray that God’s name would be sanctified among all the earth, and demonstrated to be holy among His people.

As Jesus goes on with the Model Prayer, He expands.  1st, prayer was about God for the glory of God – 2nd, prayer is concerned with the plan of God.  Again, this is so unlike what we normally think of when it comes to prayer.  Prayer for many people is extremely self-centered – it’s about what benefits us, and about the things that we wish for ourselves.  In fact, “wish” is an extraordinarily appropriate word when it comes to the way many people (including born-again Christians) think about prayer.  It’s not that they’re praying in such a way that they’re actually seeking God’s face for God to move in His glory, but they’re in actuality simply “wishing.”  Not unlike children act when they blow out the candles on their birthday cakes, Christians simply throw out a “wish” to God in order to express the things that we want.  Again, there is a time & place for us to seek God for our needs (as we’ll see next week), but we need to understand that prayer is not about our wishes; it’s about God’s will.

Matthew 6:10-11 (NKJV)
10 Your kingdom come.

  • God has a kingdom!  If we haven’t learned this yet in the book of Matthew, we haven’t been paying attention. 🙂  The genealogy of Matt 1 demonstrated how Jesus had the legal right to be the heir to the throne & covenant of David.  The visit of the magi in Matt 2 showed that Jesus received treasures and gifts that were due for a king.  The introduction of John the Baptist in Matt 3 showed John preparing the way for the King & preaching about the need to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand.  Matt 4 saw Jesus pick up the exact same message as He ministered around Galilee.  And then at the Sermon on the Mount starting in Matt 5, Jesus taught what it is like to live as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The gospel is completely intertwined with the idea (and reality) of the kingdom of God.  How important this is for us to remember!  We have a tendency of making the gospel such an individualistic thing (just me & my Jesus & no one else), or even a nationalistic thing (Jesus, mom, and apple pie – God bless the USA!), and we sometimes forget that when we respond to the gospel (the good news that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins & lives today) that we’re made part of a kingdom.  It’s not solely about us – it’s not about our nation of birth – it’s about the kingdom of our new birth.  That is where our ultimate allegiance should lie – that is where our citizenship should be focused: upon the kingdom of God!
  • Remember that there is a “now & not yet” aspect to the kingdom.  It certainly exists now, but it definitely does not exist in its fullness.  These aren’t contradictory ideas; Jesus spoke about both.  There is a spiritual kingdom that was heralded in Jesus’ earthly ministry…  John 18:36, "(36) Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”" []  There is also a physical kingdom that has yet to take place… Matthew 20:23, "(23) So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”" []  Even after Jesus’ resurrection, when the disciples specifically asked if Jesus was going to be restoring the kingdom to Israel, the Lord told them that it wasn’t for them to know the times & seasons for that sort of thing (Acts 1:7) – they had another job to do in the meantime, and they were to be about that.  If there was ever a time when Jesus could have (should have) clarified a solely spiritual kingdom, that was it – and Jesus simply told them to wait until later.  Thus the kingdom is now (calling us to immediate action as God’s people & citizens), and the kingdom is future (we await a glorious hope when every promise of God will find its literal fulfillment).
    • So much division among Christians could be resolved if we simply understood the now/not-yet aspect of the Kingdom!  Those who believe that social action is the only way of fulfilling their role in the Kingdom would also have an eye towards eternal destiny – those who believe that only doctrine & faith are what matters in a Christian’s life would also be working and living among the downtrodden of the world as they currently live as a citizen of the Kingdom.  It’s always easier for us to attempt to make the Kingdom an either/or (either now in this life or later in eternity), but what is easier for us is often simply an excuse not to do all that our Lord Jesus has called us to do.
  • Because there is a kingdom, there is also a King: the Lord Jesus Christ!  How easy this is to take for granted!  We call Him our friend because He called us that (Jn 15:15) – we call Him our joint-heir because this is part of the gift we have received by the grace of God (Rom 8:17)…but may we never forget Jesus is the King!  The very title of “Christ” is a reference to this fact. “Christos” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah” – which simply means “Anointed one.”  It’s a cultural reference to the kingly anointing.  David had been anointed (messiah) – all of his sons who were heirs had been anointed (messiah) – all of them pointed the way to the ultimate Anointed One who was promised by God: the Lord Jesus.  He is anointed as the King.  To call Him “Christ Jesus” is to basically call Him “King Jesus.”  How important it is for us to purposefully acknowledge Jesus as the King.  Popular books & portrayals of Jesus often show Him as just another “one of the guys,” or simply a man – stripped of any sign of power or authority.  IOW, popular portrayals of Jesus tend to show Him as He might have appeared in His 1st coming.  The problem with all of that is that the NT never again shows Him as “just another man” after His resurrection.  Post-resurrection, there’s no mistaking the fact that Jesus is God the King.  He proclaimed that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him (Mt 28:18), and He demonstrated this fact in all of His glory when He appeared to John in the book of Revelation. Revelation 1:13–16, "(13) and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (15) His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; (16) He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength." []  This is not a description of “just another” Jewish carpenter!  This is a description of God the Son in all of His glory, revealed as the King!
    • Take a moment to think about what that means for us.  If we are Christians (if we have placed our faith & trust in Christ Jesus asking for the forgiveness of sin & new life – surrendering our lives to Him as Lord), then we have been called, loved, and saved by the King.  It wasn’t just anyone who called you to be saved, King Jesus called you.  It wasn’t just anyone who died the punishment you deserved, King Jesus did that for you.  It wasn’t just anyone who loved you with an everlasting love; it was King Jesus.  The king of all creation knows you by name & called you to Himself to be saved.  What amazing grace!  We’re impressed if we receive a letter from a local dignitary or business leader; how much more in humbled awe ought we be amazed at the fact that we’ve been personally called by the KING?
  • The prayer is specifically that God’s Kingdom would come.  That can take place in three ways.  1st way the Kingdom will come: outward growth – evangelism.  Just as any earthly kingdom can grow simply by an increase in population, so can God’s Kingdom grow as people receive the gift of the new birth.  That the Kingdom was to grow numerically was at the heart of John the Baptist’s message & Jesus’ ministry along with the disciples.  They continually told people that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and when the disciples went out two-by-two, they were instructed to teach people that the kingdom of God was near (Luke 10:9).  Of course, that instruction did not end with the disciples.  It was passed on to all of the Church in the Great Commission, and today is supposed to be a central function of the Church.  One way we can pray that God’s Kingdom would come is that people would be saved!  There are literally billions of people in this world who still have not yet heard of the gospel of Jesus Christ – many of whom live in countries in which Christianity is forbidden.  How will they hear?  How will they know?  We pray for God’s kingdom to come – we pray for God to send workers into His harvest field – we pray for missionaries to be called & equipped – we pray for cracks in the walls of false religion to be widened – we pray for the Bible to be smuggled into areas in which it’s currently illegal – we pray for fanatical murderers to fall to their knees in repentance…and that’s just praying for God’s kingdom to come in other nations!  In our own country, we pray for God’s kingdom to come & thus we pray for hearts to be open to the good news – we pray for Christians to have courage to share their faith – we pray for local churches to be faithful to the gospel message – we pray for our own individual hearts to be broken for the lost & burdened to be simply obedient to the call of God to share the news of Christ!
    • Don’t miss the personal aspect of all of it.  It’s virtually impossible to pray “Your kingdom come,” and not be personally willing to get involved.  Question: does God need us to bring His kingdom?  Of course not.  He is the Almighty; He needs no help with anything.  Yet He chooses to use us, thus the only way someone hears the message is if someone else is sent to preach it to them (Rom 10:14-15).  To pray “Your kingdom come, but please don’t use me in the process” is ludicrous & downright rebellious.  What parent would appreciate a similar request from his/her child?  Of course the request is right, but the heart is wrong.  Those who do not wish to be involved in the growth of the kingdom (at least in some way) likely don’t truly understand what the kingdom is at all.
  • 2nd way the Kingdom will come: inward growth – edification.  Remember that the kingdom is both now & not-yet.  There is a spiritual aspect to the kingdom, which takes place in the hearts among those who are citizens of it.  For God’s kingdom to come is partly referring to God’s kingdom growing among us in our hearts as we follow Christ.  It’s about us using the gifts of the Holy Spirit to build up one another (1 Cor 12:7) – it’s about the offices of the Church helping individual Christians grow & be equipped to do the work of the ministry (Eph 4:12) – it’s about us bearing one another’s burdens & so fulfilling the law of Christ (Gal 6:2).  As we grow as citizens of the kingdom, the kingdom grows as well.  Thus to pray that God’s kingdom will come is also to pray that God’s kingdom would come in our own lives & the life of the Church overall – that we would act as kingdom citizens in submission to the plans of our King.
  • 3rd way the Kingdom will come: fulfillment – the Millennium.  Obviously we cannot pray for God’s kingdom to come without thinking of its literal physical fulfillment.  Yes, we pray for outward growth & inward growth in these days, but there is coming a day when the kingdom of God will come in all of its fullness.  This is the “not yet” aspect to the kingdom, and though this is debated by well-intentioned Christians, the evidence for a physical kingdom of God is literally all through the Bible (OT and NT).  God promised David that the Messiah’s kingdom would be established forever (2 Sam 7:16) – the psalms speak of the Messiah inheriting the nations & the ends of the earth (Ps 2:8) – Isaiah writes of a time when the Messiah rules the earth and describes it as a period of amazing peace & safety (the wolf dwells with the lamb, the lion eats with the ox) & the Gentiles come to seek the Lord (Isa 11)…and that’s just a sampling from the OT!  In the NT, the kingdom is a constant theme of Jesus’ teaching – Paul writes that we will one day reign with Christ (2 Tim 2:12) – John writes clearly of the Millennial kingdom, Satan’s imprisonment, and final rebellion at the end (Rev 20).  To pray for God’s kingdom to come in this way is to simply agree with God & pray for the ultimate fulfillment of His will.  To be sure, God’s literal kingdom is going to come whether we cry out for it or not – but why wouldn’t we pray for His Kingdom?  The sooner God’s kingdom comes, the sooner our Lord Jesus comes back!  To cry out “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” IS to pray for God’s kingdom to come because it’s when Christ sets foot upon the earth that we will see God’s kingdom in its glorious fulfillment.

…Your will be done

  • 3 things we need to know about God’s will.  1st, God’s will is best.  By virtue of the fact that God’s will proceeds from God, we can trust that God’s will is going to be best.  At first glance, this may seem to be obvious, but this can be a tough pill for many people to swallow.  After all, they see certain things that God has allowed to take place (the suffering of loved ones, the loss of a job, the struggle simply to survive, gross injustices) & they understandably wonder: “If God has allowed all these things to happen, then how can I possibly think that God’s will is best?  I would have come up with vastly better things for my life!”  Like Job, sometimes people wish they could take God to court & question Him over the things that God has allowed to come into their lives, and they might not be so quick to agree that God’s will is best.  Yet at the same time, we have to affirm that God is good to His very core (He is the very definition of goodness & righteousness) & if God specifically wills something to be, then it must be good, because it will reflect His character.  Granted, God’s perfect view of what is best might be different than ours.  He may allow some kinds of suffering to come into our lives to better shape us into the people He wants us to be.  Part of the way we know Jesus better is through the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil 3:10), and if Jesus suffered, and the disciples suffered, and the early church suffered, we can be sure that God will allow us to suffer as well.  All of this is going to be wrapped up in the will of God.  But all of this also brings up a really good question: some of the sufferings that happen in our lives come as a direct result of sin.  Was it God’s will for that sin to take place in order to bring about some kind of result?  Theologians have written about several different categories of the will of God, two of which are: His perfect will & His permissive will.
    • The perfect will of God.  Some call this the “sovereign” or “decreed” will of God, because it acknowledges that God is sovereign over all things.  God does indeed rule the universe, and He has a plan at work that will find its fulfillment in eternity.  From the 1st act of creation in Genesis to the final acts of restoration in Revelation, the perfect will of God is in action.  God had foreordained our salvation, and sovereignly oversees the fulfillment of His covenant promises.  None of what He spoke to Abraham, Moses, David (or anyone else!) will ever fall short because God’s perfect will is going to be accomplished.
    • The permissive will of God.  This has less to do with what God decrees than with what God allows.  Because God IS sovereign, there’s nothing that happens in this universe that God does not allow.  Yet that does not mean that God specifically forced something to happen.  (That’s a false concept of God that falls more along the lines of fatalism.)  Did God specifically choose a tornado to fall on this certain specific spot because He sovereignly decreed it would happen?  Or did God allow tornados to form because that’s part of the result of the fall of mankind, and thus periodically natural disasters occur?  That’s the permissive will of God at work.  God is certainly at work & in control, but He does allow some things to happen that are NOT good simply because they are the natural result of choices mankind has made according to the permissive will of God.
    • Here’s the good news: even the things that are terrible results from the permissive will of God can be used by God as good in the lives of those who belong to Him! (Rom 8:28)  It was awful that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but God used their sin to raise Joseph up to 2nd over all of Egypt & to provide salvation for the fledgling Hebrew nation.  It was unfathomable that the Jews would call out for the crucifixion of the Son of God, yet that was the very act that provided salvation and atonement to all who come to Christ in faith.  God’s goodness does not excuse our sin, but praise God that our sin is no obstacle to God to achieving His will for His glory!
    • This actually fits directly with the prayer of asking for God’s kingdom to come. Contextually, the coming kingdom of God is part of the perfect will of God.  The exact way it comes about in our lives is part of the permissive will of God.
  • 2nd, God’s will is revealed.  People often think about God’s will being hidden from us, but the opposite is actually true in many respects.  God’s will is often revealed to us – the proof is the book we hold in our hands: the Bible!  To be sure, there are some aspects of the purposes of God that have been hidden in the past, and seen to be a mystery – but those things have been revealed in Christ.  Even if we assume that there are some things that won’t be revealed to us (the exact day of the rapture, for instance), we can say with confidence that we know what God’s will is for us in many other areas.  All we need to do is open the pages of Scripture.  Some examples?
    • Salvation for the lost (2 Pet 3:9). 
    • Unity in the Church (Jn 17:20-21). 
    • Sanctification for the believer – moral purity (1 Thess 4:3-6). 
    • In actuality, the list could go on & on.  Anything that the Lord gave us as a command is something we can be absolutely sure about regarding His will.  We know it is His will for us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength & to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We know it is God’s will for us to be holy, as He is holy.  We know it is God’s will for us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, etc.  If we want to know the will of God, all we need do is open the word of God!
  • 3rd, God’s will is not a cop-out.  To pray for God’s will to be done is a wonderful request, taught to us by our Lord Jesus in the Model Prayer.  Yet some people treat it as a cop-out – they use it as an excuse for too little faith, or they ignore it in a proclamation of their own supposed “faith.”  It can go to either extreme.  How many of us have only prayed half-heartedly for someone’s salvation, simply tacking on “But God, your will be done” as a resignation that if that person didn’t come to Christ, it must not have been God’s will?  Without getting into discussions of predestination & free-will, all Christians can say on the authority of the Bible that it IS God’s desire that all men repent and come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim 2:4) – God in fact commands that all men everywhere to repent & be ready for the judgment (Acts 17:30).  It IS God’s will that we pray for salvation – to tack on “Your will be done” as a type of escape-clause away from faith is to pray the opposite of God’s will.   At the other extreme, we see “faith-healers” and all sorts of people in essence declaring that their individual will is more important than God’s.  They’ll pray for some kind of healing or miracle to take place, and claim that if we’re asking for the “Lord’s will” to be done, then we don’t truly have faith at all.  Neither one of those extremes is how God desires for us to pray when we’re asking for God’s will to be done.  Thankfully, we don’t have to guess at it, Jesus Himself models it for us in the Garden of Gethsemene.  Matthew 26:39, "He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” " []  Was Jesus completely honest in His request?  Yes.  Yet did Jesus have any lack of faith?  Absolutely not.  Jesus presented His requests unto God, but understanding that the Father’s will was best, simply submitted Himself to whatever the Father wanted.  That’s our example!  We can pray for someone’s salvation, knowing that God wants them saved.  We may not know what the outcome is going to be, but we continue to bring it before the Lord asking for His will to be done.  Likewise, we pray for healing without shame, but we go to God with the understanding that He alone knows the number of our days & the experiences we need to endure in order to be the men & women He wants us to be, and we humbly submit ourselves into His hand. 
  • Ultimately, to pray for God’s will to be done is a declaration of submission to our King.  The question is: are we submitted to Him?  Do we truly want God’s will to be done?  Some of us might often say it, but do we truly mean it?  May we ask God to give us submitted hearts.

…On earth as it is in heaven.

  • Literally in the Greek, these words are in reverse order.  “In heaven, and upon the earth.”  Either way, the idea is the same – if the emphasis is perhaps a little different.  We know God’s will is perfectly accomplished in heaven; where people rebel against the will of God is upon the earth.  Thus that’s what we’re praying for: that God’s will would be received on the earth in much submissive obedience as it is by the angels in heaven.  We’re praying that humans would respond in the same way as the angels – unquestioningly & immediately to whatever word the Lord gives us to do.
    • That’s an amazing goal, if we stop to think about it.  At first glance, we might think this only applies to non-believers – that they would repent from their sin & surrender their own will to the will of God.  Yet there’s much to pray about here regarding believing Christians as well.  How many of us immediately follow through on a command that we know is clear from the pages of Scripture?  How many times do we have to ponder the verse & finally decide that we want to obey?  Sometimes people even go so far as to use the excuse “I’ll pray about it,” as if prayer was actually necessary in that case.  Pray about following through on the revealed will of God?!  Amazing arrogance of our flesh!  Prayer is never a substitute for obedience.  Thus how appropriate it is to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven – that even in OUR lives, God’s will would be followed through upon immediately & to His glory.
  • Speaks of the accomplished will of God.  It’s one thing to pray that God’s will would be fulfilled eventually; it’s another thing to ask that God’s will be fulfilled presently.  To ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven means (at least in part) that we’re praying that God’s will be done right now.  There are many things we need to wait until eternity to see (the final defeat of Satan, the wedding feast of Christ, etc.), but there are many things about God’s will that we CAN see right now.  I wonder sometimes if we don’t forget that in complacency?  Do we forget that God is alive and active today & that He hears prayer and acts according to His will for His glory?  Those who are what philosophers call “deists” typically believe that there is a God, but He is impersonal & uncaring & He set the universe in motion, but then retreated from the scene & does not personally interact with His creation.  It seems that many Christians might be Christian in name, but deists in practice.  They truly believe that they are saved, but outside of salvation, God doesn’t really act or move on behalf of His people.  Perhaps they pray, but they don’t believe that it will do any good.  May God guard us from such thoughts!  Our God IS alive – Jesus DOES reign – God DOES answer prayer!  To pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven is to pray that we would see God’s will being accomplished before our very eyes!  Our hearts’ desire is to see God glorified through the outworking of His plan.  May we guard against complacency & pray in earnest that God’s will would truly be worked out upon the earth.
  • Regarding the perfect will of God being accomplished upon the earth as it is in heaven, keep in mind that this is exactly what the Bible tells will happen after the Judgment.  Even after the time of the Millennial kingdom, there will be a brief period of rebellion, but after the Great White Throne judgment, there will be a new heaven & new earth & creation will be re-established to what God had originally intended it to be prior to the fall.  On that day & forever forward, God’s will WILL be done on earth exactly as it is in heaven!

Prayer is about God’s plan.  After we have praised God for being our Father & prayed that He would be glorified & made holy, Jesus teaches us to pray for the plan of God to be fulfilled. We’re to pray for:

  • God’s kingdom: Whether we’re praying for the “now” aspect of the kingdom – that it would grow in numbers as people come to Christ, or that the Church itself would grow in maturity as we properly act as kingdom citizens.  Or that we’re praying for the “not yet” aspect of the kingdom as we look forward to the 2nd coming of Christ & the fulfillment of the covenant promises of God in the Millennial Kingdom.  We’re praying for God’s kingdom to be known in all the earth & demonstrated among His people.
  • God’s will: We certainly have requests of our own, but first we are to humbly submit ourselves to God & His will.  His will is absolutely best & can be trusted – His will has been revealed to us in the Scripture – His will ought to build our faith, rather than being an escape from it.
  • The soon fulfillment of these things.  Our prayer isn’t merely for eternity & times far-off – we’re praying that God’s plans and purposes would come to light today.  We pray actively, looking for an active result from our living God.

Christian – do you pray for the plans of God to be fulfilled?  That’s what Jesus is teaching us here in the Model Prayer.  You may be going through a trial right now in which you have no idea how to pray.  Jesus tells us exactly what to pray right here!  Acknowledge your submission to the plans of your Heavenly Father & ask Him to continue building you as a citizen of His kingdom, and for Him to use you for His will in your life.  The prayer may not be: “Lord take me out of this,” but rather, “Lord, use this according to Your plans for Your glory!”  There is a glorious freedom in submission as we acknowledge that our Lord is indeed the King.

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