As Christians, there’s very little we could do with our time that is more important than prayer.
At some point we must get off our knees and enact that which we find in our conversations with God. But, without that prayerful guidance, the work of our hands, hearts and tongues can be aimless, even counterproductive to our faith.
Yet, despite the importance of prayer, many Christians find themselves flummoxed when it comes to formulating a conversation with the Almighty. I confess, my own prayer time typically has followed the pattern of my other conversations: after about 90 seconds of talking, I fall mute.
That’s why I’ve been excited for a new book study at our church on “Kneeling with Giants,” by Gary Neal Hansen.
The book examines different methods of prayer, from St. Benedict’s formulaic daily office to meditation, healing prayer and use of the Psalms as a daily prayerbook.
I was struck this week by Martin Luther’s teachings on using the Lord’s Prayer as an outline around which to expand and deepen our prayers.
Luther teaches us to pray through the Lord’s Prayer, as we would in church, then to go back in contemplation and prayer to each line.
I kept coming back to the second supplication: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
There’s nothing in this world that won’t be fixed by the realization of those 14 words. Poverty, injustice, hunger, war, fear, greed — all will be wiped away when the Kingdom of God reigns on earth. So, it’s fitting we should pray for this to come to pass.
But, is this prayer simply a supplication for God to grant us the kingdom? Is it simply a prayer asking God to make the kingdom happen?
I imagine, reflecting on all that’s wrong with this world, asking God: “Why haven’t you brought your kingdom to reign?” After all, surely God wants us to live in the truth and love of his kingdom, not just in death, but in this life.
But, then I reflect on Luke 17:21, and Jesus’ answer on where to find the kingdom: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
If the kingdom is within us — or in our midst, or among us, depending on translation — then whose job can it be to bring the kingdom to reign? God’s answer to my question, “Why haven’t you brought your kingdom to reign?” is another emphatic question: “Why haven’t you built it yet?”
When we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done…” we’re not just praying a passive supplication. We’re praying for God to use us to build his kingdom.
How can we know his will? Other than what’s revealed in Scripture, we can’t. All we can do — everything we must do — is pray for God to get our selfish desires and preoccupations out of the way, and to let his will be done through our everyday work. Let us die to ourselves, and let God’s will be done.
Our response to “your kingdom come, your will be done…” is summed up in a Latin prayer by St. Josemaria Escriva: Voluntas Dei super omnia. God’s will above all. Amen.