An Uncomfortable Prayer

A few years ago I read  Darrell Johnson’s Fifty-Seven Words that Change the World: A Journey through the Lord’s Prayer. It was one of those rare books that didn’t just change the way I think, it changed the way I act. Johnson convinced me to use the Lord’s Prayer as a template for my personal prayers. I’ve been doing so ever since, mostly at night when I’m lying awake.

When you repeatedly pray through the Lord’s Prayer in a meditative way, each phrase becomes a familiar base to work from. You move through them like—what? Bases in the baseball diamond? Properties in Monopoly? Stations of the cross?  To engage each phrase takes a little mental work each time, so that the words don’t slip meaninglessly through your brain. But their well-worn faces re- orient you. Repetition reminds you of what truly matters, the same yesterday, today and forever.

One of those phrases, however, is consistently a bump in the road for me: “your kingdom come.”

Everything else in the prayer makes sense of the world in which I live. “Our Father in heaven” challenges me to see the world I live in as our Father’s world, with a father’s love at the root of everything. “Our” inevitably must include people whom I am not sure I want in my family—but the love of  “our” Father embraces them all. Those opening words challenge me to see the love of God in the midst of all the trials and joys of my life. But it’s still my life.

The next phrase, “your name be made holy” also affects my world. For it is in that world that God’s reputation must grow. I am asking him to increase the reverence with which he is held, everywhere. Naturally I must be part of the answer to my own prayer, in setting God’s name above every name in my thoughts, words and deeds. But the prayer is bigger than me—it envisions the whole world making praise to God. Washington. Paris. Kandahar. “Your name be holied” calls for a loving Father to make the world echo with his praise. That’s mindbending. It would transform the world. But it’s still the same world, isn’t it?

“Your kingdom come,” however, breaks with the world I know. True, God’s kingdom must grow in this world, but as Jesus told Pilate, it is not from this world.

If I am comfortable imagining the transformation of my world, this phrase uncomfortably reminds me that a new regime is in the offing. My reputation and my welfare in this world are not so very important. They will be swept off their feet as a new world is being born.

Every time I pray this I find it comes as a little shock. It is as though I were to ask for my own house to be knocked down and replaced with a better one. That is not a comfortable thing to pray—at least, not for us comfortable people.

The prayer ends up with this same theme: Yours are the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Yours, not mine.

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2 Responses to “An Uncomfortable Prayer”

  1. Jenni Krengel Says:

    Great stuff to think about! Thanks for the post and book referral. Erik and I have been so challenedged and encouraged by Forget the Jones. Hope your family is well. Jenni Krengel

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