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Interesting, isn't it? Reality from Hollywood's perspective. No wonder so many people have such distorted views of life, not to mention their sense of values and morals. Not much reality here, either.
The column in the newspaper "Dear Abby" reveals some of this warped picture of reality. "Dear Abby, I suspected that my husband had been fooling around, and when I confronted him with the evidence, he denied everything and said it would never happen again."
"Dear Abby, I have a man I never could trust. Why, he cheats so much I'm not even sure this baby I'm carrying is his."
Let's face it, friends: this culture needs a strong dose of reality, doesn't it? Reality about what's really important! We need to anchor our values and morals in a bedrock far more solid than the whims of our own personal desires. We need to build the house of our lives on a foundation far more secure than the fickle fads of people's opinions. We need real reality! And there's only one place our world can get it.
That's why Jesus gives the Model Prayer in Matthew 6. He wants us to engage in reality-based prayer. And where does reality begin, according to this Prayer? With God, what's important to Him and where you and I fit in. So look with me at today's third passion for real prayer. Matthew 6:10. Let's begin with verse 9.
"(9) Our Father in Heaven, hallowed is Your name. (10) Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."
So what's the picture of reality Jesus is painting here? Once we recognize who God is - our heavenly Father - and therefore we acknowledge the honor that's due to Him, what's next? What part of reality is this third section of the prayer all about?
Dr. William Barclay, in his commentary on this section, suggests that this verse is written in parallelism, a very common characteristic of Hebrew writing. In parallelism, something is said twice: first one way, and then a second way. The second way helps to define the first.
So in this case, the petition "Let Your Kingdom come," is another way of saying "Let Your will be done." That makes perfect sense, doesn't it? A kingdom is the territory where the king's will is carried out. Everyone who lives in the kingdom, everything that happens in the kingdom, is in harmony with the wishes and will of the king. His will is done in his kingdom.
Even so, says Jesus, this is to be our passion as God's children. The reality we want to live in is where God's Kingdom surrounds us and therefore God's will compels us. This is what we'll want for earth more than anything else: God's Kingdom and God's will.
I love the way Max Lucado puts it: "When you say, 'Thy Kingdom come,' you are inviting the Messiah Himself to walk into your world. 'Come, my King! Take Your throne in our land. Be present in my heart. Be present in my office [in my dorm room, in my classroom]. Come into my marriage. Be Lord of my family [my relationships], my fears, and my doubts.' This is no feeble request; it's a bold appeal for God to occupy every corner of your life." (The Great House of God, pp. 61-62)
Is this the reality you want to live in - where God is on the throne and His will is being carried out in every detail of your life and the life of your world? "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!"
What a powerful prayer passion! It calls into evaluation every priority and perspective we have in life. And it challenges us to realign everything in light of God's Kingdom. "Let everything in our lives be done as they're done in Your Kingdom, Lord. Let Your will rule here now!" Suddenly life takes a whole new perspective.
I read recently a statement made by Mariah Carey, the mega-pop music icon to millions. Here's an interesting take on reality. She said, "Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that but not with all those flies and death and stuff."
Have mercy! Talk about distorted sense of reality! Her only sadness over starving kids is that she's can't be that skinny without their pain. Oh my friends, this world needs a strong dose of reality and so do we as Christians. So when you pray, says Jesus, express your passion for God's Kingdom, for God's will, for God's reality to be yours. That's where prayer begins. An alignment of our wills, our perspectives, with His - so that what's important to Him becomes most important to us. That's when prayer really begins.
And that's why you really can't prayer correctly without the Bible. The Bible is what gives us the clearest picture of God's will, of what God's Kingdom is all about. I'm learning how to do this more and more in my personal praying - praying scripture. Taking God's words in the Bible and using them in my prayers to align my thoughts and desires with His. "God, here's what You've said in Your Word. I claim this truth from You as mine. May it be in my life as You've said." Prayer begins with a passion for God's will to be done.
John Stott, author-theologian- and pastor, strikes at the heart of it all with this piercing perspective: "It is comparatively easy to repeat the words of the Lord's Prayer like a parrot (or indeed a heathen 'babbler'). To pray them with sincerity, however, has revolutionary implications, for it expresses the priorities of a Christian. We are constantly under pressure to conform to the self-centeredness of secular culture. When that happens we become concerned about our own little name (liking to see it embossed on our notepaper or hitting the headlines in the press, and defending it when it is attacked), about our own little empire (bossing, 'influencing' and manipulating people to boost our ego), and about our own silly little will (always wanting our own way and getting upset when it is frustrated). But in the Christian counter-culture our top priority concern is not our name, kingdom, and will, but God's. Whether we can pray these petitions with integrity is a searching test of the reality and depth of our Christian profession." (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, pp. 147-148)
"Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done." Do we really want this more than anything else? Do we really want to realign, readjust, rearrange, reprioritize our lives around God's Kingdom? Do you want God's reality to be yours? Are you really willing to pray this prayer?
Remember the rich young man described in Matthew 19 who comes to Jesus with the ultimate question: "What good thing do I need to do to have life forever?"
"Obey the commandments," Jesus replies.
"Which ones?" The young man asks.
"The last seven, including love your neighbor as yourself."
"But I've kept these commandments all my life."
"In that case," says Jesus, "sell everything you have and give the money to the poor. Then you'll have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me."
How does the young man respond? This is a revolutionary request by Jesus, isn't it! It's all consuming, uncompromising, painful, full of self-sacrificing. So the young man turns away sorrowfully. He's not prepared for this radical realignment.
You see, he wants the assurance of a place in God's future Kingdom. But he's not willing to live the demands of God's present Kingdom. He turns back from praying "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done right now on earth as it is in Heaven." He can't do it. It's too hard.
How many Christians, even Adventists, are there who long for the future Kingdom of God, who pine for eternal life in Heaven ushered in by the Second Coming. But they aren't willing to face God's will, God's rule in their lives right now. They're so busy preparing for the future they aren't living in the present.
My friends, God's Kingdom starts now. And Jesus tells us that our prayer passion is to be for His Lordship to take control today . . . to rearrange our priorities, our values, our sense of reality in our lives first, and then through us as conduits, to impact the rest of our worlds. "Let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done on earth as it always is being done in Heaven. Let it happen now!"
Chinese Christians have a prayer they pray, "Lord, revive Your Church, beginning with me." That's what Jesus is calling our prayer to be: "Lord, bring in Your Kingdom, beginning with me."
What do you think? Are you willing to pray this prayer? If not, forget the rest of the Lord's Prayer because it all begins here: Calling for God's Name, God's honor, and God's Kingdom to have supreme place in our lives. Giving up control to Him in everything. He's Father, He's God, He's King. What do you say? Will you keep from letting anything block you from praying this prayer for God's Kingdom?
Charles Chu recalls being in China in a tour group. His bus was on the way to a scenic spot with another tour bus in front of it. It was snowing and the road was muddy.
Suddenly, the bus ahead skidded off the road and tipped over on its side in a rice field. Charles quickly jumped off the bus, ran to the overturned bus and jumped on top. Windows were shattered, and people inside were obviously injured. The emergency door was facing upward, so he immediately grabbed the handle of the door and pulled. The door didn't open. He kept pulling as hard as he could, but it wouldn't budge.
By this time, others had come and were pulling people out through the broken windows, so Charles gave up on the door and joined them. When he moved away from the emergency door, another man went over to it, turned the door handle and the door opened easily.
Charles suddenly realized what the problem had been. He had been standing on the door as he tried to open it. In spite of good intentions, he had become the biggest obstacle.
Wouldn't it be tragic if you and I were obstacles to the Kingdom of God in our worlds . . . because our picture of reality was so distorted, because we were too consumed with building our own kingdoms and satisfying our own desires instead of God's? Starting next week, we'll look at the rest of the Prayer as it describes what it means to really live God's Kingdom now. Isn't this what you want for your life today? Will this be your prayer passion: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." Is this your greatest passion?
Greg Nelson, CVC Senior Pastor
January 29, 2000