For the last several weeks we have been studying one of the most important topics in the Christian's life: prayer. As believers, we must learn how to pray in order to experience the fullness of communion with God. The prayer Christ presents in Matthew 6:9-13 shows us how to pray. The importance of prayer is summed up in these words:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV) pray without ceasing,
Anything so consuming in the Christian life must be understood. If we don't know HOW to pray or what to pray for, then we don't profit from prayer.
There are three disciplines in the Christian life that are vital to our spiritual health. They are: Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. Which of these should be our first priority? I believe the Bible confirms that studying God's Word should be first, because we don't know how to pray until we know what the Bible teaches about God and His will for our lives. We must know God's Word before we can pray effectively. We are studying the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. Hopefully, by studying this section of God's Word, we will learn how to pray more effectively. Prayer must be guided by a comprehension of God's truth. When we study His Word, we discover the real condition of our spiritual lives, and that drives us to open our hearts to God in prayer.
The Lord Jesus shows us the importance of prayer by his prayer life. The Bible says that He would get up before dawn to pray:
Mark 1:35 (NKJV) Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
There were times when he spent all night in prayer:
Luke 6:12 (NKJV) Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
The disciples saw in Jesus a tremendous commitment to prayer. That's probably what prompted them to say, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). And that is exactly what Jesus is doing in this model prayer, he is teaching us to pray.
Last week we looked at verse:
Matthew 6:9 (NKJV) "In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
The Lord preceded His model prayer with these words: "In this manner, therefore, pray". The first phrase is houtos oun in the Greek text and literally means: "thus or therefore." it could be translated: "along these lines." So Jesus wasn't saying, "Pray these exact words." Many people misunderstand the Lord's instruction regarding prayer. Instead of learning how to pray from this model prayer, we recite it. However, it's not a prayer to be recited but a pattern for all prayer.
There is no other place in the entire New Testament where this model prayer is recited. In none of Paul's writings or the other epistles do we find the disciples joining together and praying this prayer. It is a model to pattern your prayers after; it is a skeleton that you are to put meat on. The importance of understanding this should become clear from our study this morning.
The prayer is addressed to "Our Father who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9). That crucial statement indicates that this prayer is in a family context. Prayer is limited to those who have God as their Father; it is important that we understand this.
Psalms 34:15-17 (NKJV) The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry. 16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
Proverbs 1:28-31 (NKJV) "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. 31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
John 9:31 (NKJV) "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.
Because we as believers in Jesus Christ, are sons born into God's family through faith in Christ, we have the privilege to come to God our Father in prayer:
Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV) Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The first petition, "Hallowed be Thy name", is a request that God would set Himself apart, display His holiness and bring to Himself the honor that is His. In the Greek the verb comes first as in the petitions in verse 10. They are all aorist imperatives, punctiliar action expressing urgency.
What did we say that it means to "hallow" God's name? Jesus is telling us to pray, "Let your name be treated as holy". So, "Hallowed be thy name " is a request, not a declaration. We are not saying, "Lord, your name 'is' hallowed!" We are saying, "Lord, cause your name to be hallowed."
Last time I gave you four ways in which we hallow God's name, do you remember what they were? You hallow the name of God when you trust him, fear him, obey him, and glorify him.
It seems kind of foolish to me to pray, ""Lord, cause your name to be hallowed" when we are dishonoring his name by not trusting him, not fearing him, not obeying him, or bringing glory to his name. How many people pray this prayer Sunday after Sunday while they are living in sin? How many Catholic priests have led people in reciting this prayer while they were involved in raping young boys? How many homosexuals recite this prayer while committing what God's Word calls an abomination? It's like saying, "While I dishonor your name by my life, may you cause your name to be honored."
We must see that this pattern for prayer starts with a request that God's name, His character, would be treated as holy. The prayer doesn't begin by focusing on you. There are other requests in the prayer that focus on us, but they are to come after we focus on God and His glory. Prayer is to begin with God's priorities. Arthur W. Pink wrote, "How clearly, then, is the fundamental duty in prayer here set forth: self and all its needs must be given a secondary place, and the Lord freely accorded the preeminence in our thoughts, desires, and supplications. This petition must take the precedence, for the glory of God's great name is the ultimate end of all things."
If we start our prayers this way we are constantly reminding ourselves of who God is and our need to live in a holy manner trusting God in every area of our lives.
Let's move on to the second request:
Matthew 6:10 (NKJV) Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
For our time this morning, we are going to just look at the second request, "Your kingdom come." We could translate this: "Let Your kingdom come, and let it come now."
To understand this request: we need to understand the importance of the kingdom in Matthew. Matthew is the gospel which was written for the Jews. It was written by a Jew to Jews:
Matthew 1:1 (NKJV) The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
It is very important that we understand what the Lord is telling us here. Matthew's gospel begins with the Kingly office of Christ. He sees Christ as the son of David, the son of Abraham, and the promised Messiah. The Son of David is a Kingly title:
Matthew 9:27 (NKJV) When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David, have mercy on us!"
David was given a kingdom that would be everlasting. When Jesus was referred to as the "Son of David", He was referred to as being in the generations of the kings. In the very first verse of Matthew, we see that he is recognizing the Kingship of Christ.
Watch what we see in:
Psalms 145:12-13 (NKJV) To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, And the glorious majesty of His kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
This speaks of the kingdom of David. This is the prophecy of the Kingship of Christ.
We must understand that David is in the grave. Throughout the generations between David and Christ, the king of Israel never failed to be a descendant of David. Why? It pointed in a prophetic way to the office and Kingship of Christ. Now we see that the Book of Matthew immediately begins setting forth the Kingship of Christ.
Psalms 145:13 (NKJV) Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
This is speaking to the Jews of their King, the Messiah. Matthew 1:1 shows that this now is that promised Messiah. One of the great objects of Matthew is to demonstrate that all the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus, and that, therefore, he must be the Messiah. It has one phrase which runs through it like an ever-recurring theme -"...That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets..." That phrase occurs in Matthew about 16 times.
It is Matthew's primary and deliberate purpose to show how the Old Testament prophecies received their fulfillment in Jesus; how every detail of Jesus' life was foreshadowed in the prophets; and thus to compel the Jews to admit that Jesus was the Messiah.
Jesus is a king, and he came to proclaim a kingdom. His public ministry centered around a significant statement in:
Matthew 4:17 (NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Jesus, as King, was announcing the presence of the prophesied kingdom for Israel in the person of the Messiah. The public ministry of Christ revolved around announcing the kingdom promised to Israel in the Old Testament. Christ had been performing miracles of healing, which demonstrated Him to be the Messiah of the Old Testament. So, the "Sermon on the Mount" must be interpreted in the context of the ministry of Christ announcing the kingdom to Israel. It is given in the context of the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament over which Jesus Christ will rule as king.
The phrase "the kingdom of heaven" and "the kingdom of God" were frequently used by Jesus. He talked about the kingdom when He preached the good news:
Luke 4:43 (NKJV) but He said to them, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent."
The kingdom is the heart of Christ's message. And here in Matthew 6:10 he tells his disciples to pray, "Your kingdom come." The Talmud, which is the Jewish commentary of God's Word, says that the prayer in which there is no mention of the kingdom of God is not a prayer at all (Berakoth 21a). This shows the importance that the Jews placed on the kingdom.
If Christ taught his disciples to pray, "Your kingdom come," then it should be obvious that the kingdom had not yet come. Has it come yet?
Let's look at what the Scriptures say of the "time" of the kingdom. In the first mention of the kingdom in Matthew, John said:
Matthew 3:2 (NKJV) and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
Jesus said the same thing:
Matthew 4:17 (NKJV) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
What does "at hand" mean? The Greek word for "at hand" is eggizo. It is the perfect tense here, which literally means: "has come near." This phrase "at hand" introduces a state of affairs which is already beginning.
In Matthew chapter 10, Jesus called his twelve disciples together and commissioned them to go throughout Israel preaching the message that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mt. 10:7). The content of their message was identical to the message of Jesus and John before him. Now notice what Jesus says in:
Matthew 12:28 (NKJV) "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
If there is any doubt that the kingdom of God has arrived in an inaugural sense with the first advent of Christ, Jesus swept it aside by proclaiming that the kingdom of God "has come upon you". The words "has come upon" are the Greek word ephthasen, which suggests an arrival which catches unaware. The only logical conclusion was that the kingdom of God had come in the first century.
As we look at other scripture we see that the kingdom was set up, or inaugurated, in the time of Christ, but it was not yet consummated:
Hebrews 12:28 (NKJV) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
The word "receiving" is from the Greek word paralambano, and it is in the present tense showing progression. The kingdom was being brought into its fullness during the first century by progression.
Now, if the kingdom of God had come in the first century, then it should be clear that the nature of the kingdom was spiritual. Time defines nature. Jesus said that the kingdom "has come" - TIME; so the NATURE of his kingdom must be spiritual.
The nature of the kingdom that Christ preached was entirely contrary to that which the Jews anticipated. The Jews anticipated a complete usurping of the empire of Rome. Certainly Daniel might lead many to believe this, in that his prophecy describes four beasts (or empires lived out through Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome), the last of which was exceedingly dreadful and powerful (i.e., the Roman Empire) (Daniel 2:40; 7:7).
It is also likely that the Israelites understood the history of these beasts (three of which had come and gone), and that they were in the middle of the rule of that fourth and dreadful beast. But Daniel makes very clear the fact that during the days of this fourth beast (Rome), God would set up His everlasting kingdom:
Daniel 2:44 (NKJV) "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
It's not surprising that the Israelites had a literal interpretation of the above passage. After all, that passage, along with other Old Testament passages, seems to be saying that there would indeed be a time when a literal physical kingdom would be established with, and through, the Israelite people. And if we didn't have the revelation of Jesus Christ and His own interpretation of Old Testament biblical prophecy, certainly it would seem that a literal and physical kingdom was in store for this people of God.
But we are not without interpretation or explanation of the kingdom. And more importantly, we have it from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Let's examine a few statements of Christ that seem to clearly identify a kingdom nature that was vastly different from the traditional interpretation that existed in the minds of the Israelites, particularly at the time of Christ.
The Pharisees, like many believers today, had a natural or physical interpretation of the kingdom. Christ was constantly showing them that the nature of the kingdom was spiritual. The Pharisees asked, "When will the kingdom of God come?" What was Christ's response? He first corrected their interpretation of the nature of the kingdom:
Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 "nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."
The word "observation" is from the Greek word parateresis, which means: "inspection, (i.e. visual evidence)". If you can't see it, what type of kingdom is it? It is a spiritual kingdom. Jesus is telling them, "The kingdom of God is not what you expect, for the kingdom of God is a kingdom that is within you, not a physical kingdom."
The spiritual nature of the kingdom is easy to understand if you see that the kingdom is the church. According to scripture, the Kingdom and the Church are synonymous. The two words are used as synonyms in Matthew:
Matthew 16:18-19 (NKJV) "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Here Jesus discusses the Kingdom and the Church almost in the same breath. Jesus tells Peter, "The confession you just made will be the foundation of My Church, and I'm going to give you authority in the kingdom".
Notice what Christ said to Pilate immediately preceding His crucifixion:
John 18:36 (NKJV) 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."
Pilate only understood physical kingdoms. So when Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world, Pilate said, "Are You a king then?" Pilate didn't understand how Jesus could be a king if you couldn't see his kingdom. Jesus was speaking about spiritual realities, and Pilate could not understand them because he had no spiritual insight.
In the third chapter of John's Gospel is the familiar account of Nicodemus, a religious leader of the Jews, who came to talk to Jesus. Nicodemus acknowledged Him to be a great teacher from God:
John 3:3 (NKJV) Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
In this verse Jesus announces to Nicodemus the requirements for being part of the kingdom that He is going to establish. He told Nicodemus that if a person is going to be part of the kingdom that He is setting up, it is necessary for the person to be born again.
Let me ask you something, "Why can't the person who is not born again see the kingdom of God? What is it about the kingdom of God that only believers can see it?" The answer is obvious: it is a spiritual kingdom!
So, we see that the kingdom was set up in the first century, it was inaugurated but not yet consummated as we saw from Hebrews.
So, when was the kingdom fully consummated? According to Luke, it happened in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple:
Luke 21:20 (NKJV) "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.
History tells us that Cestius Gallus and his Roman army fulfilled this in A.D.66 when the Romans surrounded the city of Jerusalem. Jesus goes on to say:
Luke 21:21-22 (NKJV) "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
When the Roman armies were seen surrounding Jerusalem, this was the sign to the Christians to get out of the entire country as soon as possible.
Luke 21:31-32 (NKJV) "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.
Luke ties the destruction of Jerusalem with the appearance of the Kingdom. He also states the Kingdom will arrive in its consummated state before that generation standing there dies off.
The consummation of the kingdom was also tied to the second coming of Christ:
Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
According to these verses, when was Christ to return with his kingdom? Within the life time of his disciples! He said that some of the disciples that he was talking to would still be alive when he returned.
Luke 19:12-13 (NKJV) Therefore He said: "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. 13 "So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come.'
Jesus was going to leave them to receive His kingdom. When he returned in glory, His kingdom was fully consummated.
2 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV) I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
Here we see Paul telling Timothy in the first century that Christ is "about to" (the word "will" is the Greek word mello which means: "about to") judge the living and dead at His appearing and His kingdom.
So the answer to the question, "When is the kingdom to come?" - It was inaugurated during Christ's earthly life, and it was consummated when Christ came in judgement on Jerusalem in AD 70. The kingdom of God is the Church!
A. W. Pink, in commentating on "Your Kingdom Come" wrote this:
A few of our readers may have been disturbed by the foolish and harmful error that the Lord's prayer was not designed and is not suited for use in this dispensation: that instead, it is "Jewish" and intended for a godly remnant in some "great tribulation period" yet future. One would think the very stating of such a fantasy quite sufficient to expose its absurdity to those with any spiritual intelligence. Neither our Lord nor any of His apostles gave any warning that this prayer was not to be used by Christians, or any intimation that it was designed for a future age. The fact that it is found in Luke's Gospel as well as Matthew's is clear indication that it is to be employed by Jewish and Gentile saints alike. There is nothing whatever in this prayer which is unsuited to Christians now (emphasis DBC), yea, everything in it is needed by them.
Is Pink correct? Is there anything in this prayer that is unsuited for Christians to pray today? Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, "He was teaching His disciples to pray that this kingdom of God should come increasingly and come quickly, but the prayer is equally true and equally right for us as Christian people in all ages until the end shall come."
Are they correct? Should we, twenty first century Christians, pray, "Let your kingdom come"?
Carl came home from serving the Navy at sea last week. Would it be proper for Susan to pray today, "Father, please bring Carl home from sea safely"? What's wrong with that prayer? Carl is already home! Why would she pray for what she already had? Two weeks ago was that a valid prayer? Yes, it was because Carl was still at sea at the time.
So, what was right for the disciple of the first century to pray is not necessarily right for us to pray. We look back on what they looked forward to. We must understand "audience relevance" when we are studying the Bible. For example look at:
Philippians 2:19 (NKJV) But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state.
Paul says that he hopes to send Timothy "shortly." Are you excited about Timothy's soon arrival? Why not? The Bible says that Paul will send him "shortly." Aren't you excited about meeting Timothy? Who is the Apostle Paul writing to?" Who is the "you" that he is going to send Timothy to "shortly"? It was the Philippian believers in the first century! You understand that, don't you? Christians today don't understand the "shortly" to be to them but to the Philippians of the first century. Why then, when it comes to the return of Christ, do they not take "shortly" in its first century context?
As we read and study a text of the Bible, we must keep in mind audience relevance -- what did the original audience understand this to mean? The Bible was written for us but not to us. I have had some Christians flip out on me for making that statement. They think that the Bible is written to us. It should be quite simple to show them otherwise. If you ignore audience relevance and view this verse as written to you, what do you have?
Joshua 6:25 (NKJV) And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. SO SHE DWELLS IN ISRAEL TO THIS DAY, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
If you understand this are written to you, you have a lady that is well over 3,000 years old. Is Rahab still living in Israel today? Of course not! Why does the Bible say she is still living in Israel today when she isn't? When the book of Joshua was written, she was still living in Israel. This statement was true and accurate when it was written. But to us, some 3500 years later, it must be viewed in light of audience relevance. This same idea is true with the prayer, "Your kingdom come". The early church prayed this in anticipation of God's consummated kingdom. For us to pray this is foolish.
Believers, we must know God's Word before we can pray effectively. There is no sense in praying for something that we already have. The kingdom arrived in its fullness in AD 70. For us to pray, "Your kingdom come" is to say that we don't believe His Word. And if we don't believe His word, we can't pray the first petition, "Let your name be treated as holy".
As we use this model prayer, we should be praying, "Heavenly Father, cause your name to be treated as holly. Thank you Lord for making us citizens in your everlasting kingdom that you consummated at your second coming."
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