Matthew 6:9-15 Part 5

Some pretty clear instructions have been given to Jesus’ disciples about how we are to pray.  First and foremost it is speech to God, and its focus is God.  And therefore its content is to be praise and worship of God for His glory.

Secondly, our prayer is to fervently reflect a whole-man involvement.  Jesus even uses an imperative form here, letting us know that our passionate involvement in the purpose and actions of God is the essence of prayer!

And, thirdly, our prayer is not only to be fervent, and not only to be directed God-ward, but it is also to be faithful.  In other words it is to reflect the truth of God as revealed in His Holy Word!

Last Lord’s Day we found that we are to pray for the arrival of the Kingdom, which is not just a future event, and for the accomplishment of His will on earth as it is in Heaven….  And that’s not just future either!  And both of these things are evidenced in the Revelation.  And because they are so revealed by God, they constitute the ingredients of a faithful prayer!

  1. So prayer is to be God-centered, rather than man-centered.
  2. It is to be fervent.
  3. And it is to be faithfully centered in the revealed Word of God. 

Now, those three things are so vitally important in our understanding of prayer, that we will need to come back to them for more involved study.  But first we need to do something with the content of what Jesus says here.  We need some light about the Kingdom and about the Sovereign will of God.

And, before we get definitions, a couple of observations might be in order.  And the first one is that these are not complicated or mysterious concepts!  Now, they’re not easily seen by reading one verse of Scripture, as so many are inclined to do.  But they aren’t so mysterious as to be incomprehensible!  In fact, the Kingdom is such a clear teaching in Scripture that modern millenialists have packaged it up and removed it from the present “Church age” and set it aside to bring back at some future time!  So it’s bound to be a clear concept – since so many think it’s important enough to completely put it out of the way for awhile. 

And the same type of thing can be said concerning the Sovereign Will of God, too.  That’s such a clear and irrefutable teaching in the Scriptures that whole systems of humanistic thought have been formulated in order to refute and deny it!

So there should be no fear of these two things.  We shouldn’t have any hesitancy in involving ourselves with them.  They’re simply a little more broad than we’re used to thinking!

Which brings me to my second observation, which is that these two are concepts which are very broad in their scope.  And within them are an almost infinite number of things about which we are to have concern.

In other words, the fervent prayer, “Arrive, Your Kingdom” has a broadness about it which encompasses much Revelation.  So the Kingdom concept, whenever it is mentioned, ought to provoke thought, and prayer, and meditation, and work – all of these being faithful responses to the Revelation of Who God is and what He’s doing.

And when we pray for the Kingdom, the things for which we pray should therefore fit into the broader concept of the Kingdom itself.  Our concerns ought to be Kingdom concerns.  Our concerns ought to be concerns which are important to God!  And so our prayer events are provided with an almost bewildering array of subject matter with which to deal! 

The third observation is that, since the focus of this pattern for prayer is the glory of God, then these two things, “arrive Kingdom”, and “accomplished will”, along with the holiness of His Name, ought to be seen as the two things which bring Him the most glory!  “Hallowed be Your Name, Arrive Your Kingdom, Be accomplished Your will.”  Follow that?

Let me do that again.  We’ve already established that the primary emphasis for prayer is God and His glory.  And Jesus has given us a pattern for prayer here which is short and packed with those critical elements which the pattern must have.  And since maximum weight must be given to every word in it, then it follows that the glory of God must be served in the greatest possible manner by the two events for which we are commanded to pray! – the arriving of His Kingdom and the accomplishing of His Sovereign will.

And the fourth and last observation for now, is a simple one, but a very important one – since it will cause us not to speculate and form fanciful theologies as many are want to do.  Our Lord Jesus has said “Repent, for the Kingdom is at hand.” and, “Our Father in the heavens,” and now – “Arrive Your Kingdom, be accomplished Your will, as in heaven, so also on earth.”

We have to see, from these and other passages, that God is Father in the heavens, and that the Kingdom is said to be from Him, or the Kingdom “of the heavens” (or from), and that this Kingdom was given by Him to His Son Jesus when He was raised the Son of God with Power; and that the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of the heavens, and the Kingdom of Christ are all used interchangeably according to the context.  The Bible does not speak of three different “Kingdoms”, but only one.  And any definition of one will necessarily include the other!

The only factor of difference being a time factor, since God the Father is said to have given the Kingdom to His Son to extend it to its maximum limits – (the purpose of which is to bring the Father more glory) – and then to return it to the Father whole and pure after the job’s done!  But the nature of the Kingdom remains the same – the only changes being those of who’s doing what and when!

Now, with those observations in mind let’s home in on these two concepts for a few minutes so we’ll know what to pray for.

And perhaps it will be easiest to begin with an illustration that will show us conclusively what the Kingdom is not. 

There arose, in Germany – in the late 1700’s – philosopher who made his mark in the history of thought.  His name was George Friedrich Hegel.  And Hegel had two students who also made their marks.  One, whose philosophy you all know something about, was Karl Marx.  The other one you probably know even more about, although you might not put what you know with his name.

He was Soren Kierkegaard.  And Kierkegaard denied the validity of all reason.  For him God is truth; but truth exists only for one who inwardly experiences the tension between himself and God.  If a person is an unbeliever, then, for him, God does not exist.  God exists only in subjectivity.  For Kierkegaard, real religion doesn’t consist in necessarily understanding anything – it is a matter of personal experience!  The important thing isn’t what has objectively occurred in history, or even what one believes about what has happened objectively in history; what is important is how he believes!

The method of religion isn’t necessarily intellectual; it is an experience of suffering and despair; it is passionate appropriation and decision; it is joy in having and feeling; it is intensely personal.  What is appropriated is of little importance.

In his linguistically vivid style, Kierkegaard tells of two men at prayer.  One is in a Lutheran church and entertains a true conception of God; but because he prays in a false spirit, he isn’t praying to the true God, but to an idol!  The other one is actually in a heathen temple praying to idols; but because he prays with an infinite passion, he is, in truth, praying to God; for the truth lies in the inward “how”, not in the external “what”.

Now, this illustration implies that it is objectively indifferent whether one worships God or an idol.  What counts is the individual’s subjective relation to an unknown something.  But if our worship is directed to an unknown something, rather than to the historic God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Who gives us information about Himself, there would seem to be no distinguishable difference between worshipping God and worshipping the devil (or any other creature)!

Now, be that as it may, we’ve been speaking of the personal nature and inward direction of religion for some time now – I suppose ever since we began Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  And Kierkegaard’s thought serves us well – for he is an exemplary proponent of what we would today call the new evangelicalism – or “neo-evangelicalism” which really isn’t new, is it? Since its finest model lived nearly two hundred years ago – and the thought certainly wasn’t new then!

In fact, Jesus’ preaching specifically directs our eyes from self toward God, doesn’t it?  The experience of religion which Jesus requires isn’t one which is inwardly directed, but which focuses attention upon the Creator and Savior of mankind!  In fact, all of Scripture does exactly the same thing as the pattern for prayer – it directs us toward this passionate concern for God and for His truth!

Now, this whole exercise in philosophy and history this morning is for the purpose of making this point – that the conception of the Kingdom of God and the sovereign will of God which is prominent today is that of Soren Kierkegaard! – A man who, along with a number of others, has had tremendous impact on today’s religion.  And this is a very good example of the tenet which says that ideas have consequences.  Because it’s certainly true in this case.

You see, personally directed religion has served to limit the Kingdom of God to its effect on the inward man.  Let me say that another way, because we can’t miss this.  There is so much concentration on the “self” – the “me” in neo-evangelical Christianity that whatever ideas there are about the Kingdom – they’re all internalized!  The extent of thought about the Kingdom is its effect on the person!

Today’s religion has failed to see that there may be so much more to the Biblical concept of the Kingdom – and of the Will of God – than what it now sees, because the direction of religion today is toward self!  The direction is not toward God and His revelation of Himself in history, but the focus of religion is personal experience – the ATTENTION of professing Christians is turned inward.

And the world has suffered for it.  And the Church has suffered.  Institutions and families have suffered.  But mostly, I think, people have lost the reality of the Kingdom.

What all is lost?  The fact that no one knows what the Kingdom is, is indicative of what is lost!  A proper understanding of OUR Father.  The Biblical revelation of the Kingdom.  The Host of God in long-term battle, with the Son of God as Commander.  The glorious victory of God as His Son destroys the strongholds one by one.  The covenant people of God, the promised ones, understanding their duty, CONSUMED by the task of taking control of that which has already been bought and paid for.  A King and His Kingdom.  Not a person and his experiences! But a King and His Kingdom!

People, the world is not inside.  The Kingdom is not inside.  The Whole Gospel is about turning from self toward God through His Son Jesus.  We have to move away from the idea that the universe revolves around me!  Yes it’s true that Jesus died for me individually and personally, but He did that – not that we might turn inward and experience all that passion!  He did that so that His Father might be glorified!  He did that in order to submit the world to the King!

You see, Kingdom implies King.  And it implies Rule.  And the Bible describes God as ruling over every detail of His Own creation!  His will is done in every detail – in every aspect – in all things!  And this God, the Ruler of all things, set His King “Immanuel” – among us, to reconcile a fallen and rotting creation to Himself.  And having provided that payment for reconciliation, then, He, Himself, subdues it to His Own Kingship.  And when He completes that subduing process, and all creation acknowledges and recognizes His Kingship, then He’ll finish the cleansing process and turn it back over to His Father!

And as the Kingdom arrives, men can say, along with King Nebuchadnezzar, “all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say unto Him, ‘what are You doing?’” (Daniel four, thirty-three)

You see, in speaking of the Kingdom, and about His will, we must lose, or put away, the idea of self.  The Kingdom is not internal!  And we must concentrate on the Biblical facts of the reign of God as King.  The sphere of His reign, or the domain in which He reigns, isn’t the center of the issue!  The fact that He reigns IS!  Jesus does not say, later on in this Gospel, as some would translate it – “The Kingdom of God is in you”; what He says is, “The Kingdom of God is among you”!  In other words, Jesus never implied that the Kingdom consisted in the changed heart of the believer!  In modern evangelical thought, as in the thought of Soren Kierkegaard, heaven is identified with the inward man!  The heart is the Kingdom.  The Kingdom is the heart of one who is experiencing God.  Heaven and the Kingdom are one thing – and heaven and the Kingdom both describe that inward location where a man experiences a divine event!  That’s Kierkegaard.  That’s neo-evangelicalism!

But Jesus never once implies that.  And neither does any other part of God’s Word!  It is not surprising that Jesus begins His ministry by preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, for by His advent the time previously foretold has now come to pass.  The latter days.  In Him the Kingdom of God exercises force and the forceful lay hold of it.  (Matthew eleven, verse twelve)

Because He has bound “the strong man”, He is able to divide His spoils by freeing His people from Satan’s power.  By His exorcism of demons there can be no doubt but that the Kingdom of God be arrived!  People must now, above all else, put self away and seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, subordinating all else to this highest good and supreme goal of life.

God will have His Sovereign Will and His Kingdom acknowledged!  He will have every knee bowed – in earth and in heaven – in recognition of that Sovereignty.

The Kingdom is the reign of God.  And that rulership requires the submission of all creation.  And the Kingdom is progressive only in that there is a space and time subduing of all rebellion against that Sovereignty.

So this prayer which our Lord provides for us as our pattern of prayer and of life, isn’t all that complicated or mysterious.  And when He says for us to pray like this:  “Arrive your Kingdom, be accomplished Your Will – as in heaven so also on earth,” He instructs us to pray for that which has been revealed by God – the subduing of all strongholds, the putting down of all rebellion, the conquering of all His enemies; in other words – the reign of the Sovereign God acknowledged by all His Creation.  It will take place – and we are to pray for it, to recognize it, to acknowledge it, to fit in to it.  Seek this first of all, and the rest will be added to you.

We’ve become so internally focused that we’ve abdicated our duties in all the areas for which we are responsible!  Instead of liberating the creation (which is held in captivity), the modern Christian revels in his own personal, internal experience, and, as long as that’s there, nothing else matters – because that’s where the Kingdom is!

As long as that is the definition of the Kingdom, Kierkegaard’s spiritual children will have sway over the Church and the nations.