Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10 ESV
Jesus gave His disciples an example of the kind of prayer they were to pray. It was to be done in humility, not for the praise of men. It was to be done privately, with an awareness that God was the primary focus. It was to be direct and to the point, not accompanied by an over-abundance of words or cleverly worded language. Prayer is not our attempt to tell God something He does not know. Jesus told His disciples, “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8 ESV). When we pray, we are not bringing God up to speed on all that has happened in our lives over the last 24 hours. He already knows. We aren’t even informing Him of our needs. He knows those as well. So why pray? Because He has given us the privilege of coming into His presence. Because He is our loving Father and we should long to have a relationship with Him. To some degree, prayer is less about sharing information than it is about sharing our hearts. God wants to hear from us, and we should want to hear from Him. We should desire to know His heart and get His perspective on all that is happening in our lives. Prayer should be a two-way dialogue that includes both talking and listening. We are not there to tell God what to do. He is not some kind of cosmic genie who is obligated to grant us our wishes. He is the God of the universe and the creator of all things. He is sovereign, so He knows what is best and He knows what He is doing. Prayer is our opportunity to come before Him and realign our perspective, to refocus our attention on what really matters, and yes, share our personal cares and concerns.
But Jesus would have us remember something extremely important. It seems that this realignment of our perspective is essential to prayer. Jesus said, “Pray then like this…” (Matthew 6:9 ESV), and the second example He provided us was “Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10 ESV). When coming before our heavenly Father, we are to do so with a focus on His kingdom, not our own. The tendency is for us to try and use prayer as a form of leverage to get what we want from God. We bring our well-thought-out lists of requests, expecting Him to answer every one of them according to our wishes and on our timeline. But Jesus would encourage us to come before God with a desire to see His kingdom come, His will be done. If nothing else, this conveys an attitude of worshipful submission to and trust in God’s wisdom, love, and power. Obviously, this does not mean we can’t bring our requests to God. Paul strongly encourages us to do so. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:5-6 ESV). We can and should share our requests with God, but always with an attitude of humble submission to His will. We are welcome to share with Him our needs and desires, but we should do so with an expectation that He will do what is best, because He knows best. When the apostle Paul prayed for others, his desire was that they would know the will of God – “we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9 ESV). There is no doubt that we spend a great deal of our lives devoid of an understanding of God’s will. We don’t know what He is doing. We can’t see what is happening behind the scenes. We have a limited perspective and are driven to conclusions by our immediate circumstances. We are also prone to focus on temporal solutions to perceived problems. If we are sick, we pray for healing. If we are in financial straits, we pray for a solution. If we’re out of work, we pray for a job. But what is God’s will in all of this. Why would we pray for His kingdom to come, for His will to be done? Because at the end of the day, there is something far greater going on than our individual lives and our tiny, temporary personal kingdoms. When we pray, “Your will be done,” we are acknowledging to God that we desire His will over our own. We are letting Him know that we trust His plans and submit our own to Him. So if what we ask for does not come in the form we requested or in the timing we desired, we don’t panic or get angry, we rest in His will. Martin Luther put it this way: “Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize that in this your divine will is crucifying our will” (Martin Luther, Personal Prayer Book, pg 33). There is a certain sense in which prayer is where we come to grips with God’s will. We bring our desires, requests, needs and aspirations to Him, but we walk away with a greater desire to see His will lived out in our lives. To pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done is to acknowledge or deep dependence upon Him. It is to desire His rule and reign to be evidenced in our own lives. It is to long for His will to be accomplished through our lives. When you begin your prayers that way, it will dramatically alter the manner in which you bring your requests to Him. You will hold them up to Him with loose hands. You will cling to them lightly, knowing that His will is best, and should He choose to say, “No” to your request, it is for a very good reason. And you will be okay with that.