Pledging Allegiance to the Messiah’s Kingdom – The Lord’s Prayer

The Sermon on the Mount is the epitome of Kingdom ethics and discipleship.

The sermon opens with the Beatitudes, which begin and end with a promise that the blessed belong to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3, 10). The Sermon ends with a promise that those who “do the will of the Father” will “enter the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). At heart of the sermon is the call to “seek first the kingdom and its righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

Near the center of his sermon Jesus provides a model prayer for kingdom people. Some call it “the Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.” From at least the late first century, some disciples of Jesus have prayed this prayer three times a day (Didache 8:2-3). As a daily prayer, it functions not only as a petition for God’s care, it also as a daily pledge of allegiance.

In the prayer, we address the Creator as one who is both intimate in relationship with us and transcendent beyond us. The Creator is “our Father, who is in heaven.”

In the first half of the prayer, we commit ourselves to the transcendent God.  We pledge allegiance to the divine name, will, and kingdom. We have no other allegiance. This is the heart of worship itself–a loyalty that transcends everything else in our lives and orders the whole of our lives under God’s reign.  Anything else is idolatry. We call upon God to act so as to sanctify God’s name, accomplish God’s will, and bring the divine kingdom to the earth.

At the same time that we ask the Creator to enact the divine agenda, we also commit ourselves to become the instruments of that work. We pray for the sanctification of the name, the accomplishment of the will, and the inbreaking of the kingdom but our prayer is no mere passive wait.  Rather, we pursue those goals as proactive agents of the name, will, and kingdom of God. Empowered by God, we commit to cooperate with God’s work to bring heaven to earth.

To pray this prayer is to subordinate our agendas and desires to God’s kingdom. We acknowledge that God’s will rather than our own is primary. We pledge allegiance to God’s kingdom rather than to the kingdoms of this world. We seek the will of God.

The prayer, however, is not simply about our allegiance to God, but it is also a testimony of God’s commitment (yes, even allegiance) to us. God is present to us in our daily lives. The last three petitions assume God’s benevolence for us and claim God’s promises of daily sustenance, reconciliation (or forgiveness), and power against the evil one.  God is for us, and God will not abandon us.

God feeds us, forgives us, and protects us. We need the divine gift of life (physical, emotional, spiritual), and we need the divine power that overcomes the evil one. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer God’s promise is renewed in our lives–God will sustain us in all our needs whether it concerns bread, sin, or spiritual warfare.

At the same time, when we receive these gifts we are also obligated to share them with others.  When we pray for bread, we commit to share the bread God gives.  When we pray for forgiveness, we commit to forgive others.  When we pray for protection, we commit to protect others.

The Lord’s Prayer, prayed daily with purpose and commitment, will transform us. Through this prayer, we acknowledge God’s transcendence, commit ourselves to God’s agenda, and embrace a new way of living in the world that conforms to God’s will, honor God’s name, and manifest God’s kingdom. Through this prayer, we trust in God’s daily provisions for our lives, receive God’s forgiveness as we forgive others, and embrace God’s protection against the evil one. Through this prayer, we pledge our allegiance to God, and we remember God’s pledge to us.

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