This book, first published in 1996, is available from Amazon.com for kindle at $7.60. For a book that old, this seems to be a bit high for a kindle edition (especially since the paperback is available for only $8.00) – but it is well worth it. There are six chapters, each focusing on a segment of the prayer. As is true of many of N.T. Wright’s books, this one began as a series of sermons, these during the Advent season of 1995. The prologue declares:
We live, as Jesus lived, in a world all too full of injustice, hunger, malice and evil. This prayer cries out for justice, bread, forgiveness and deliverance. If anyone thinks those are irrelevant in today’s world, let them read the newspaper and think again.
The chapters are:
- Our Father in Heaven
- Thy Kingdom Come
- Give Us This Day
- Forgive Us Our Trespasses
- Deliver Us From Evil
- The Power and the Glory
Wright being Wright, each chapter in one way or another relates the segment under consideration to how Jesus presented the coming of God’s kingdom “on earth… as it is in heaven” and what that means for the world, the church, and the individual servant of God. This, of course, is in keeping with all of the books of his that I have read.
While some may find this stress on the practical aspects of how Jesus introduced the kingdom too repetitive or even boring. I find it encouraging. Serious consideration of the Kingdom of God has fallen on hard times, though several writers are addressing this in admirable ways. For too long, “kingdom studies” have languished, except among dispensational premillenialists and those who react to this understanding of the good news. Wright, in this book, uses the Lord’s Prayer to focus our attention on specific aspects of the kingdom and how those translate into both hope and action. The first chapter, “Our Father in Heaven,” asks us to think of what it meant for Jesus to call God “Father.” From this, he launches into how in the Old Testament, God calls Israel His “firstborn.”
When Jesus tells his disciples to call God ‘Father’, then, those with ears to hear will understand. He wants us to get ready for the new Exodus. We are going to be free at last. This is the Advent hope, the hope of the coming of the Kingdom of God. The tyrant’s grip is going to be broken, and we shall be free….
In the next paragraph he adds:
The other strong echo of ‘Father’ within Jesus’ world reinforces and fills out this revolutionary, kingdom-bearing meaning. God promised to King David that from his family there would come a child who would rule over God’s people and whose kingdom would never be shaken. Of this coming King, God said to David, ‘I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son’ (2 Samuel 7.14).
Thus, true freedom for Israel and for all men will come through the Son of David who is also the Son of God, the Messiah. We are to seize this promise for ourselves by boldly calling God, “Our Father who is in Heaven.” Yet, this involves a risk to us. Jesus’ prayer in the Garden to One He called “Abba, Father” was a prayer of agony. So Wright continues,
Saying ‘our father’ isn’t just the boldness, the sheer cheek, of walking into the presence of the living and almighty God and saying ‘Hi, Dad.’ It is the boldness, the sheer total risk, of saying quietly ‘Please may I, too, be considered an apprentice son.’ It means signing on for the Kingdom of God.
If simply addressing God as ‘our father’ means, to Wright, that we are signing on for the Kingdom of God, imagine what “Thy Kingdom Come” will mean to him! Of course, the Messianic hope of Israel was for God’s kingdom to come. They were tired of the kings they had to deal with, Caesar just being the last in a long list of Tyrant Kings.
He looks at three aspects of the kingdom coming as presented in Isaiah: Freedom for captive Israel, the defeat of evil, and the return of YHWH to Zion.
Again, as he points out, this was not “simply some new religious advice – an improved spirituality, a better code of morals, or a freshly crafted theology.” Instead, Jesus and His first followers (though they were surprised by the direction events took when Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead), believed the prophecies “were fulfilled, though not in the way they [the disciples] had expected:
They believed that in the unique life, death and resurrection of Jesus the whole cosmos had turned the corner from darkness to light. The Kingdom was indeed here….
Yet, this kingdom still is not apparent in the world because of the continued existence of injustice, evil, pain, and suffering. They did not dodge this by putting off the coming of the kingdom to a future return of the Lord, though they realized it would not fully come until then. Instead, they continued praying and living this prayer – that God’s kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven.”
For us to pray this means we need to see the world with God’s eyes:
See it with the love of the creator for his spectacularly beautiful creation; and see it with the deep grief of the creator for the battered and battle-scarred state in which the world now finds itself. Put those two together, and bring the binocular picture into focus: the love and the grief join into the Jesus-shape, the kingdom-shape, the shape of the cross – never was Love, dear King, never was Grief like thine! And, with this Jesus before your eyes, pray again, Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven! [sic]
He adds that we pray this, not only for the world, but also for the church. But to pray this for the church means that we must be signing on to be kingdom-bearers. That is, that we must become a community of healers as servants of the Lord
This means praying this prayer for ourselves as well. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” means that His will must be done in us as well – for we are bits of earth, mere lumps of clay. Yet God’s will can become reality in us. This means, of course, personal holiness.
(More to follow)