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I. Triune Nature of Christian Prayer
“Hear us Father, when we pray, through Your Son and in Your Spirit. By Your Spirit’s Word convey, all that we through Christ inherit, that as baptized heirs, we may truly pray.” (LSB 773:1)
As you well know, Christians are not the only ones who pray. Jews pray, Muslims pray. Hindus pray. Even those who check the “none” box under ‘religious preference,’ pray. The real difference between the Christian’s prayer and that of all the others is that the Christian prays to a different God than the others do. “Hear us FATHER, when we pray, through Your SON and in Your SPIRIT.” The Christian prays to the TRIUNE GOD; whom we believe to be the only true God.
So, since Christian prayer is the only prayer that is directed to the only TRUE GOD, Christian prayer is the only TRUE PRAYER. All prayer to a god that doesn’t exist… is, well, just talk. It’s talk to no one or nothing.
Truth is, all prayer that is not directed by the HOLY SPIRIT Who leads us to the FATHER in the name of the SON, is downright dangerous, because it’s never safe to come before the FATHER apart from the JUSTIFYING, RECONCILING, CLEANSING work of the SON.
In our Old Testament reading we heard the prophet Elijah pray to the “LORD MY GOD” for the widow’s son. Elijah prayed in the Spirit to the Father with all boldness and confidence, through faith in the promise of a Messiah who would cleanse him of all of his unrighteousness, and wash his prayer with forgiveness, so that the Father would hear it and answer it.
This is how we are to pray. And we are able to pray with even more confidence and boldness than the great prophet Elijah. And that is because the Father has sent His Messiah into the world and the Christ has atoned for all of our sins by His crucifixion and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit has united us to the Son through Holy Baptism, and our prayers are washed with the forgiveness that HAS BEEN won for us by the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for you.
We pray because we can. We pray because we know that our prayers are heard and warmly received by almighty God. We pray with boldness and confidence as dear children ask their dear Father “for you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…” (Rom. 8:15-17)
“Hear us Father, when we pray, through Your Son and in Your Spirit. By Your Spirit’s Word convey, all that we through Christ inherit, that as baptized heirs, we may truly pray.”
II. “Our Father…”
And so it is that Jesus says, “Pray like this, ‘Our Father in heaven…’” I suspect that when we have said just that much, we have said more than we can ever begin to appreciate.
Because to be able to say just that much required that the Father send His dearly beloved Son into the world to suffer and die for sinners.
And it required the Son, who is ‘very God of very God…of one substance with the Father….” to humble Himself, even unto death, even death on a cross, for sinners.
And it required the Holy Spirit to call sinners out of the darkness and into the light through the Holy Gospel, even while they were still sinning.
All this had to happen just so that we may “pray like this, ‘Our Father in heaven…’”
We should be sure to understand that this incredible privilege that is ours to call the almighty God, “OUR FATHER,” belongs with every petition that we pray.
‘Our Father, hallowed be Thy name.’
‘Our Father, Thy kingdom come.’
‘Our Father, Thy will be done.’
‘Our Father, give us this day our daily bread.’
‘Our Father, forgive us our trespasses.’
‘Our Father, lead us not into temptation.’
‘Our Father, deliver us from evil.’
“With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”
III. 2nd Petition
Today we consider the 2nd Petition: “Our Father … Thy kingdom come.”
A. Curtain Raised on O.T.
The curtain rises on the Old Testament with the Word of God speaking over the formless and empty deep as the Spirit of God hovers over it. Our attention is quickly directed to a place called Eden where the man and the woman live under the dominion of God the Creator of everything.
If ever there was a prototype for the Kingdom of God, this is it. Here in Eden, God ruled over the hearts and minds of every person in the world. And every person lived in joyful obedience and willing service to God. This is the “Kingdom of Heaven” on earth.
It didn’t take very long however for the man and the woman to exercise their God-given, free-will and rebel against the God who made them. They disobeyed His Word. They rejected God’s rule over their hearts and minds and decided that they wanted to be free from God. They wanted to be ‘independent’ of God. They wanted to be “like God.”
What began as the individual protest of one man and one woman, quickly became the collective rebellion of entire families, and then cities and then nations and the finally the whole world to this very day. Everyone lives under the sovereign rule of their own sinfully corrupted hearts and minds. Everyone does what seems right in their own eyes.
How easily, of our own free will, we gave ourselves over to the dominion of ‘other gods’ who promised us a better life in a better kingdom than Eden. Only later did we begin to realize how impossible it is to reverse the whole procedure and go back to the way that things were before we crossed that line. We are captives in a kingdom that is anything but paradise. We are prisoners of our own sinful hearts and minds.
B. Curtain Raised on N.T.
But right alongside of this ‘descending line,’ along which the human race dives deeper and deeper into the darkness, there is another line, an ‘ascending line’ that runs in exactly the opposite direction and leads to the coming of a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
This ‘ascending line’ runs through the entire Old Testament and it is the hope and the prayer of all who believe that God will not surrender His Kingdom, He will not abandon His creation, even to rebellious and unfaithful citizens such as themselves. They follow that ‘ascending line’ and eagerly await that day when the Lord who always rules over His whole creation, will once again establish His rule even in the hearts and minds of His unfaithful and traitorous people.
As the curtain rises on the New Testament, there is John the Baptist, declaring for all to hear, “Repent, for the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is at hand.” (Mat.3:2). God is about to reclaim His rightful place as King and Lord in the hearts and minds of His people. And He is going to do so, ‘in these last days,’ just as He had done in the beginning; by His Word and through His Spirit.
It was at the beginning of His ministry in the Synagogue in Capernaum, that the attendant handed Jesus the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He turned to where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” And then He rolled up the scroll and handed it to the attendant and said, ‘Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:20-21)
The hour has arrived. The Kingdom of God has come. Jesus Christ is the Word of God in the flesh who has come into this rebellious and wicked world to restore the Kingdom of Heaven to His Father.
In his Large Catechism, Luther says that the Kingdom of God “is what we learned in the Apostles Creed. Namely that God sent His Son, Christ our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil, and to bring us to himself, and rule us as a king of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death and an evil conscience.”
C. The Kingdom of God
“Pray like this, ‘Our Father … Thy kingdom come.”
Ultimately, finally, inevitably, Jesus is telling us to pray for that “last day,” when the He will come down from heaven, as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, in all His glory and royal majesty that was hidden under His human nature that bears the marks of the cross.
On that day, the Son will once and for all, cut off the entire kingdom of Satan and throw it into the eternal fire, and hand the Kingdom of Heaven without spot or wrinkle or blemish, over to His Father, and God will once again be “all in all.”
Of course, this ‘final day’ has ‘not-yet come.’ And the ‘ascending line’ continues to ‘ascend’ even as the ‘descending line’ continues to ‘descend.’ Yet even now we know that the Kingdom of God has broken into this world in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus orders the demons to depart and they bow to Him. He commands the forces of nature to behave and they obey Him. He speaks the word “arise” to the dead, and they cannot resist His power.
And all of this happens on this side of ‘eternity.’ The future, final day is already being carried out in the present. Already, ‘here in time,’ the Lord is taking men and women, boys and girls into His Kingdom through the forgiveness of their sins. He says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” But His Kingdom is truly present and active in this world.
And so we pray that the Kingdom of God would come to us, not just there in eternity, but here in time as well. We pray in this petition that we would be taken into this Kingdom of God and that our hearts and minds would be converted so that we would joyfully and gladly serve and obey Him.
To be sure, this Kingdom of God is not waiting for us to prepare for so that it may come. The coming of the Kingdom of God does depend upon our prayers or the conversion of the nations or the improvement of mankind’s morality.
No, the Kingdom of God comes by itself and without our prayer. It comes in, with and under the darkness getting darker and the collapse of society and the rejection of God’s Word. In the midst of all of this, the Kingdom of God has come and continues to come and citizens are being added to its ranks in ever increasing numbers. Thy Kingdom has come and even the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Jesus Christ has entered into Satan’s house and bound him with His own death and resurrection and is even now plundering his house. (Mat.12:29).
And He does so with nothing more than His Word preached and His Sacraments administered. The kings and kingdoms of this world laugh at such ‘puny’ weapons as these. But don’t you laugh at them. These are the ‘weapons of the Spirit.’ And with these alone, this King will bind the strong man and ransack his house and set the prisoners free.
In addition to this, Jesus arms each and every citizen of His kingdom with the Keys of the Kingdom by which we may act as His agents, forgiving the sins of those who repent and opening the Kingdom of heaven to them, in the name of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
“Our Father in heaven… Thy Kingdom come.”