The Greatest Request (Matthew 6:9b, 10)
Passage: Matthew 6:9b–6:10
I. The Consequences or the Cure?
Let me ask you this: when you pray, do you typically pray with your focus on the consequences or the cure?
Let me give you some examples of what I mean: When you pray for someone with cancer, do you simply pray for their upset stomach and their constant fatigue, OR do you pray for the eradication of the cancer itself?
Or, when you pray for a crime-ridden neighborhood, do you simply pray for a decrease in drive-by shootings and more police patrols, OR do you pray for the social and economic transformation of the community?
The consequences or the cure? There is certainly nothing wrong with praying specifically for any of the consequences or symptoms mentioned above, but shouldn't our focus also be broader and bigger?
This morning, Jesus wants to continue teaching us about prayer. He wants to challenge us to pray, not simply for a cure along with the consequences, but for THE cure, the Cure of Cures, for the remedy that stands above all remedies.
Turn with me to Matthew 6. As we have done for the last two weeks, let’s look again at verses 9-13, to “The Prayer”, the prayer Jesus gave to His followers, the prayer we traditionally call the “Lord’s Prayer”.
During this series, we've talked about two goals for this month: First, I am hoping and praying that you will pray and are praying this very prayer every morning this month.
Second, or number two, I am hoping and praying that you will deepen your understanding of this prayer so that each morning, your time in prayer will increasingly deepen, and God will in turn deepen you.
So let's look together, once again, and “The Prayer”. Follow along with me as I read...
II. The Passage: “Your Will Be Done” (Matthew 6:9b, 10):
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Now, as I've mentioned over the course of the last two weeks, I believe “The prayer” is a daily prayer that anchors us to God's priorities instead of our human tendencies. Last week, we 'unpacked' the opening address of this prayer and looked in depth at the unparalleled privilege of coming to God as Father.
But this week, let’s move to the actual petitions of the prayer. Notice that the remainder of this prayer can be divided into two sections. First, there are the first three petitions, in verses 9 and 10, all of which contain the term “your”. Second, there are the last three petitions, in verses 11 through 13, all of which contain term “our”.
This morning, we need to tackle this first set of petitions; the “your” petitions.
A. “Your” Name
And we find the first “Your” petition in the last part of verse 9. But when we begin to figuratively unpack this petition, we are immediately struck by the smell of mothballs.
There is something OLD in this box, and that something is the word “hallowed”. What in the world does this “hallowed” mean? And how can God’s name be made or become “hallowed”?
Well this infrequently used word is actually the verbal form of a word we use frequently in reference to God. I'm talking about the word, “holy”. Since the word “holy” means set apart, or sacred, or revered, I think a better translation of this phrase would be, “May your name be revered” OR “revered as holy”.
Now, remember, the term “name” represented the whole nature of the person in Hebrew thought. Therefore, this is a prayer for the adoration of God, that our Father in heaven would be revered. Listen to a few verses that express this same idea:
Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! (Psalm 99:3)
Through the prophet Isaiah, God speaks of how His people “will sanctify (set apart) my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:23)
In Ezekiel, God was going to act because this kind of reverence was not taking place. He declared in Ezekiel 39:7...
“And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel.”
B. “Your” Kingdom
But look at the beginning of verse 10 (Matthew 6). Jesus also teaches us to pray, “May your kingdom come”. But what does that mean ? Are we asking for some kind of celestial city to descend from the sky? Not exactly.
The kingdom of God is simply the “rule” or “reign” of God, the rule that John the Baptist and Jesus had come proclaiming back in Matthew chapters 3 & 4. Their words in 3:2 and 4:17 are exactly the same: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”.
You see, the King of heaven, the king himself had come...in human flesh. Through Jesus, the rule of God was being extended in a new way. Jesus was saying “Turn! Turn from your resistance and rebellion, and turn to the King!”
But this proclamation about the Kingdom was not simply a call for submission, it was also a declaration of what was coming. One day, according to Jesus, and through Jesus, God will put down every rebel impulse in this universe; one day, God will restore all creation to that blessed state of harmony, in which everything is perfectly in line with his desires.
That's why in Matthew 25:34, Jesus describes how one day He himself will separate the nations in judgment: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
C. “Your” Will
But look again at Matthew 6:10. There is yet another request, a third request connected to the second request. Jesus teaches us to pray: “May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
Now, let's be clear. Sometimes the Bible speaks about God's “will” in reference to His grand design, His plan, His overarching purpose. But that's not what Jesus has in mind here. We don't have to pray for God's plan to take place. It has...it is...it will! No, when Jesus talks about God's “will”, He is simply talking about what God desires, what God wants. “May what you want to be done BE DONE!”
Jesus was no stranger to this part of “The Prayer”. Facing His most desperate hour, as He sat in the shadow of the Cross, the night before His execution, we read in Matthew 26:39 that Jesus prayed:
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”, and in verse 42, we read: Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
In the garden, Jesus gave us a glimpse of heaven. In spite of the pressure, Jesus did what God wanted him to do. And that's what happens in heaven. God is worshiped and obeyed, all the time, in every way. There is no sin. In heaven, no one says, “My will be done”. They say “Thy will be done.” “Your will be done.” That's why we pray that earth would become more like heaven.
III. The Great Request
Now, let's stop there. Have you noticed something about these first three “your” requests? These three requests are, in fact, one request. These three petitions represent three ways of praying for the exact same thing.
“May your name be revered as holy” Revered by whom? By everyone! And to revere God as holy is to bow before His throne; it means recognizing His rule. “Your kingdom come.” God's kingdom invades our world through hearts that revere God. “May your will be done.” Those who revere God, who submit to Him, they live for His will, not their own.
You see, the very first request of the Lord’ Prayer is offered up three times, in three different ways. But why is this request, or why are these requests, first in this prayer?
We have to remember that the Kingdom of God was the central idea in Jesus’ ministry. It was the summation of all His teaching. It was the heart and soul of everything he talked about and everything he did.
And when we understand the kingdom of God, we realize that there is no greater prayer that we can prayer than this one. There is no greater request that we can make than this one. There is no greater petition that we can offer up, nothing that surpasses this one.
If the Lord’s Prayer is “the prayer of prayers”, if it is the crowning prayer of the Christian life, then this request is the crown jewel!
No matter the circumstances that drive you to prayer, no matter the issue weighing heavy on your heart, no matter how you might envision or define your need, this is the best request that you can ever offer up.
In the light of this request, every other request is merely a prayer for the consequences.
How can I say that? Because these petitions are for the 'Cure of cures', the 'Remedy of remedies', the 'Solution of solutions'.
There is no need that does not spring from the condition for which this petition is made. There is no need that will not be met in the realization of this prayer.
Jesus taught about the Great Commandment, and He charged His apostles with the Great Commission. But before He spoke about either of those, He taught His disciples to offer up the 'Great Request'.
If requests or petitions are the result of needs, then we have to say that the 'Great Request' is the 'Prayer of prayers' because it addresses the 'Need of needs'. What is wrong with this world? Why the hurt in your life?
The problem is not ultimately a matter of your circumstances.
The problem is not ultimately a lack of education.
The problem is not ultimately a lack of resources.
The issue is not ultimately a matter of this or that policy, of this or that administration, of this or that legislation.
Your problems do not ultimately derive from your failure to succeed in business.
Your problems do not ultimately derive from your failure to find a companion.
The ultimate problem is not radical Islam, or the gay lobby, or Hollywood, or teen pregnancy, or third world sweat shops, or AIDS, or the glass ceiling, or too few prisons, or global terrorism, or the economic downturn!
The ultimate problem from which every other problem flows is that men and women are not serving the King of Heaven...they are serving themselves.
The root contagion is our rebellion against God, our failure to do His will.
We have shaken our fists at God, and in doing so, we have polluted the universe with poison of our pride.
We suffer directly as a result of our own sin, others suffer because of our sin, and we suffer as a result of others’ sin. Jesus preached the way He did because He knew that our Need of needs is our need for the rule of God to rule us, for the Kingdom to come.
This request is echoed in the words of Paul (I Cor 16:22): Maranatha! (which means, “O Lord, come!”) It is echoed in the words of John (in the book of Revelation 22:20), “Come, Lord Jesus”
Jesus teaches us to pray this prayer because He knows that only with the complete answer to this prayer, will the source of all evil finally be eradicated.
This doesn’t mean we don’t pray for all those issues that represent the consequences of human rebellion, the consequences of sin. It means we still pray fervently for each of these situations, but always with an eye on the ultimate answer.
It’s easy for us to get bogged down with the blinders of the daily grind, isn’t it? And this means getting bogged down in our prayers as well.
When our vision is limited, we will pray limited prayers.
When our faith is small, we will pray small prayers.
When we are simply focused on our problems, we will pray simply for ourselves.
When we are simply focused on the surface wounds of our world, we will pray simply for band-aids.
But Jesus wants us to pray big prayers, prayers that resonate with the heart of God. And this prayer is the biggest.
If, as we have said, the Lord’s Prayer is meant to anchor us to God’s heart, then there could be no clearer expression of His heart than this plea: That His name would be revered, that His rule would be realized, that His will would be done in all things. (2x)
Let me sum it up: the first petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, this 'Great Request', are intended to refine our desires and anchor us, on a daily basis, to God’s ultimate solution for creation’s ultimate dilemma.
IV. Our Practice in Light of Our Plea
But what effect should praying this daily prayer have on our daily lives? How should our practice be transformed in light of our plea? Or we might ask, “What will it look like when God answers this prayer?” Let me give you three ways in which I believe God wants to answer this prayer:
1. His reign over me.
First, the Great Request is being answered in regard to His reign over me.
One commentator put it this way: The Kingdom involves the individual acceptance of the will of God. Therefore to pray “Thy Kingdom come,” is to pray, “Lord, help me to do your will.” (William Barclay)
You cannot pray that God’s name would be revered if His name is dishonored because of you. You cannot truly pray for the extension of His Kingdom if Jesus is not your King. You cannot truly plead for God’s will to be done on this earth, if you are not prepared to do God’s will yourself.
As we’ve said before the Lord’s Prayer is a daily prayer of submission to God’s priorities for our lives and for the world. As Paul encouraged the Ephesians, we need “to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (5:10).
As we offer up the Great Request, our hearts should be, in the same instance, echoing the cry of Jesus himself, “Not as I will, but as you will, Father”
2. His reign over them.
Now, second, we could say that the Great Request is being answered in regard to His reign over them.
God wants us to grasp His big picture for this universe. He wants us to be motivated and constantly corrected by this big picture, by His kingdom agenda for creation.
And while there is most definitely a future aspect to the Kingdom, right now, the Kingdom comes through you. In some sense, you are the answer to your own prayer for the Kingdom to come.
What do I mean? I'm talking about them...out there; a world dying because of sin, because they are resisting the loving reign of God. When we pray “The Prayer”, we should be praying for them! We should be praying: “May your kingdom come in my friend's life...in my neighbor's life...in my co-worker's life...may my unbelieving parent or spouse or sibling revere your name as holy...may your will be done in their life...because right now, they are dying in the noose of their own will!”
If your day begins with offering up the Great Request in prayer, is the rest of your day about allowing God to answer that prayer through you, in the lives of those around you?
3. His reign over all.
Finally, our third point: the Great Request will finally and fully be answered in regard to His reign over all.
The Great Request will finally and fully be answered when all creation is brought back under God’s reign.
God’s policy is regime change. A day is coming when every creature that dare raise itself up against the reign of God will be destroyed. A day is coming when perfect justice will be administered. When the cries of the oppressed will be answered and the violence of their oppressors will be punished.
A day is coming when every sorrow and pain will be wiped away. When the chaos of man’s rebellion will be replaced with the perfect harmony of God’s unchallenged rule. When every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
When we pray the Great Request, we must remember that this is the final and fullest answer to our plea.
And how might this affect our practice? It will hopefully remind us that this is not it. It will hopefully remind us not to get comfortable.
I can only guess that those Americans who were held as prisoners by the Germans during World War II were consistently looking to the horizon for their liberation, for the coming of the US Army. They never ceased to be Americans in such camps, and in many instances, they continued to influence those around them with the values of their country. But no matter how long they were held, they never stopped looking to the horizon.
The Great Request is one way that we can look to the horizon. It’s one way for us to remind ourselves...daily (!)...that this is not it; liberation is coming.
In all of this, we have to remember what we've talked about before: “The Prayer”, the Lord's Prayer, is powered by the gospel, the “good news” of Jesus Christ. We cannot call God “Father” apart from the adoption that Jesus accomplished on the Cross. In the same way, we will not revere God's name, or submit to His reign, or live to do His will unless we are walking in that “newness of life” that Jesus' death and resurrection makes possible.
Our old self must be crucified with Christ, if the Great Request is to be fulfilled in our lives. And the Great Request will not be fulfilled in the lives of those that God has placed in our lives apart from the gospel.
Therefore, to pray this prayer every day is to pray daily for the gospel to saturate our hearts and minds, and then radiate through our words and works to everyone around us.
If you’re not sure you understand this “good news”, this gospel, please come talk with me afterwards.
But let's pray...let's pray that this Great Request would be on our lips daily. And as it is, let's pray that, more and more every day, that God would make this petition our passion, so that in all of our words, actions, desires, and prayers, we would be declaring, “your kingdom come.”