Monday, February 11
Read: Matthew 6:9-10
Consider: Last week we considered the importance Jesus placed on true worship. We discovered that the worship to which we are called is not simply a matter of giving some of our time, part of our resources or a few good words to God. It is not a matter of trying to grasp an emotional experience. It is not about us. Rather, it is the act of giving ourselves fully to God. Paul was emphatic that “this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).
So, in teaching us how to pray, Jesus began the model prayer with words of worship. That starting point brings us into a proper perspective of what life is and what life should be.
After praise—after submitting ourselves to the lordship of God—the first request of The Lord’s Prayer brings us into an awareness of something bigger than ourselves. It shows us God’s desire for creation. It’s a new way of life that Jesus will constantly refer to as “the reign of God” or the “kingdom of heaven.” We are to pray…
“…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (6:10)
As I grew up reciting this prayer, somehow this first request eluded me. The rest of the prayer made sense—the parts about forgiveness, depending on God for “daily bread” and asking the Lord to “deliver us from evil.” But the part about another kingdom didn’t seem to have much to do with my life. To me it seemed like poetic language that simply introduced the rest of the prayer.
But this request is so much more than a beautiful phrase. It is the centerpiece of all that Jesus taught. At the very outset of Jesus’ ministry, we’re told that “Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God” (Mark 1:14). And what was that good news?
“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near.” (Mark 1:15)
Throughout all of Jesus’ teaching we hear about the kingdom of God—the kingdom of heaven. And we make a huge mistake if we see this kingdom as simply a thing that will someday come. This future kingdom is also the present kingdom. We are called to live in this new rule—this new realm of reality—today! Today we get to live by the values of the kingdom of heaven!
So, this prayer is cosmic in nature, but it is also deeply personal. We’re praying, “Sign me up, Lord. I’ll be a foot soldier in this new kingdom. I pray that it happens in this world through your grace. Make me an agent of your grace so that the values of this new kingdom will be seen, experienced and lived, even among the kingdoms of this world.”
Pray: Pray Matthew 6:10 — “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth” — and ask the Lord how it pertains to your actions and the love that you will give today. Approach your activities with an open mind and an open heart so that throughout this day God can lift your world from the mundane to the cosmic. See your day through God’s eternal plan.
Tuesday, February 12
Read: Matthew 13:31-35
Consider: These two very simple parables are set in the middle Jesus’ other parables about the reign of God. And like so many of Jesus’ parables they begin with the phrase…
“The kingdom of heaven is like…” (13:31, 33)
Those aren’t throw-away words. Jesus wasn’t simply looking for a good introductory phrase like, “Once upon a time…” No, Jesus was teaching us about his kingdom—the one that he brought when he came to earth. The entirety of his teaching was focused on helping us see the meaning, the substance and the glory of this new kingdom. And he taught us to pray for its arrival today (Matthew 6:10). And as he repeatedly taught us about this kingdom, he promised that if we would have ears to hear—if we would be submissive and teachable—we would understand and live in this new kingdom today (Matthew 13:9).
These two parables—the mustard seed and the small measure of yeast—tell us some simple things that we would do well to remember. We live in a day when “big” is celebrated. Huge television networks crank out images from around the world for millions of people to see. Our governments, businesses and cities keep growing and expanding. We’re tempted to measure the worth of something by its size. We think that “big” is significant and that “big” will change the world.
And yet, Jesus talked about two very small things—a mustard seed and a pinch of yeast. In fact, he described the plan of God for the cosmos with these two images. This great present and coming kingdom looks so small at times. It would be possible to go about the duties of our lives and never even see the mustard seed in front of us. In fact, if it were on the kitchen counter, we might just brush it aside. It is possible to eat bread and never realize that a pinch of yeast changed the molecular make-up of that bread so that it looks, feels and tastes totally different than it would have without the yeast.
Yes, the kingdom of heaven is at work. Can you see it?
Pray: The psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (119:18). With that same heart, let’s pray, “Lord, help me to have spiritual vision so that I see the beauty of what you are doing and what you will continue to do through us. Don’t let me brush the mustard seed off the counter or forget the importance of the yeast. Help me to see your mighty deeds at work in my small expressions of love.”
Wednesday, February 13
Read: Matthew 13:24-30
Consider: Again, we see Jesus begin a parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like…” (13:24). As is the case with most of Jesus’ parables, the words are simple, but the meaning is realized over time. In this parable about wheat and weeds, Jesus talked about the kingdom to come, but taught us even more about the kingdom that has already arrived.
There have been Christians throughout our history who have wanted to escape this world. They thought that the only way they could live a life of service to God was to drop out of the culture and create their own culture in which God would be honored and they would be protected. To this day we find Christians who long to be insulated and isolated from our world. Let’s be honest, in America, portions of Christianity have created a sophisticated sub-culture. And, in many ways, this sub-culture has made them oblivious to some of the great needs of our world.
But Jesus didn’t call us to an escapist mentality. In his prayer for his disciples—which is also a prayer for us—he said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
We have the high calling and the high privilege of being “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” right here, right now (Matthew 5:13-16). Of course, this is not by our own power. But we live in a new kingdom, under new values, even as we dwell among the kingdoms of this world. We are “resident aliens” (1 Peter 1:17) infiltrating this world with good news of a new kingdom that has come. We’re not trying to escape to our own little kingdom. We’re trying to show the world that a new King has come and with him a new rule—a new way of living—that is for all people and all creation. This new way is called “love.”
After Jesus called us “the light of the world,” he taught us that…
“A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Imagine that! We are called to be a city on a hill, proclaiming a new kingdom to a world in darkness.
We live in a world of good and evil—wheat and weeds. Yet, we do not live in fear. The King has come, and we live under his power, protection and provision, while we proclaim and live his message of love.
Pray: “Lord, I give this day to you and pray that, through me, your light will shine. ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth’ (Matthew 6:10).”
Thursday, February 14
Read: Matthew 13:44-46
Consider: Again, Jesus began these two, short, parables by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”
Kingdoms have laws. They also have values. They consider some things precious and other things cheap. Every time Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven, the people who heard him knew that he was drawing a contrast. They lived under the domination of the Roman Kingdom—the Roman Empire. That kingdom certainly had a set of laws and it certainly held to a set of values. And every time Jesus talked about the values of his kingdom, it was clear that he was condemning the values of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire was built on violence and the worship of false gods. It was an arrogant empire and was not afraid to crush anyone or any nation that came against its interests. Those values were so deeply engrained that scholars often refer to them as “the theology of Rome” or the “cult of empire.”
So, Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven—or the empire of heaven—to show us that the values of his kingdom would always be at odds with the kingdoms of this world.
Our problem is, we love the kingdoms of this world too much. And because we do, we don’t always recognize the violence and arrogance of those empires, including our own nation. In many ways we worship with the “cult of empire” because we think we can find our joy, security and significance there. Jesus said there is something more precious.
So, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field,” like something of “great value” (Matthew 13:44-46). It shows us what is really important. It reveals what is precious and what is cheap. And when we discover it, we find that nothing else can compare, for the kingdoms of this world cannot deliver on their promises.
Pray: “Lord, show me what it means to forsake everything in order to possess this hidden treasure. Thank you that it is no longer hidden, for it was fully revealed to us in Jesus Christ. I pray that I may have eyes to see the values to embrace and discernment to know the values to reject. This wisdom comes from you and for that wisdom I humbly pray. ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth’ (Matthew 6:10). Amen.”
Friday, February 15
Read: Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23
Consider: Jesus didn’t often explain his parables. He let them speak for themselves and let his hearers (including you and me) struggle with them to see more clearly the meaning of this new kingdom. I’m convinced that many times Jesus wanted us to be perplexed by his parables so that we would seek his wisdom. Of course, this can be frustrating. There is something in us that craves certainty, and that craving often makes us demand easy answers. We seem to believe that if we can understand it, quote it and tweet it, we can live by it.
We’re not the only ones. After Jesus told the story we read today, his exasperated disciples asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” What follows is fascinating. It’s the part I left out of today’s scripture reading (13:10-17). I left it out because it’s not a quick read. You need to meditate on it prayerfully, because it is not easy to understand Jesus’ explanation of why he used parables.
Perhaps because of his disciples’ frustration, Jesus explained the message he wanted them to take from this parable. He talked to them about soil types and how the soil (or lack of it) impacts the outcome when “the message about the kingdom” (13:19) is planted. The seed is good. There is no doubt about that. The condition of the soil is the variable.
God wants to plant his kingdom in us as he plants us in his kingdom. But we are the ones who determine our soil type. Will the seed find fertile ground? Or will the soil be rocky, due to attitudes that we have embraced? Will our curiosity and passion make us teachable? Or will a know-it-all-already mindset choke off what had taken root years ago? Will we be too attached to the kingdoms of this world to allow a new and different kingdom to grow in us?
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is near” (Mark 1:15). The King has come, and his rule is established. But the kingdom must also come to each one of us. While God is at work establishing his kingdom in his creation, we must submit ourselves, as part of that creation, to him. As Leo Tolstoy puts it, “The kingdom of God is within you.”
Pray: “Lord, may the soil of my spirit always be receptive and fertile for the seeds you plant. I want to be teachable so that whatever you place in my life will produce ‘a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown’ (Matthew 13:8). Do the work of your kingdom in me so that you can do the work of your kingdom through me. Change me according to the values of your new kingdom.”
Saturday, February 16
Read: Matthew 6:9-10
Consider: On web sites, social media pages, stickers and tee shirts you find the statement, “Be the change,” based on Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Some statements lose their power by frequent use. But for me, this one never has. I love it because I think we are called to be the answer to someone’s prayer.
It helps me remember that when I pray, I should not simply ask God to do something for someone. I should ask him to do his work, while offering myself to him to be used in seeing his will accomplished. When Jesus taught us to pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done,” he was calling us to kingdom work.
We must always remember that the call to service is a call to submission. Let’s be honest, we often have a tough time with our motives when we wish to serve. Sometimes we want to be heroes. Sometimes we’re trying to find our own significance. And sometimes we’re just looking for warm fuzzies. But if we are serving to simply fulfill our own needs, we are really serving our own kingdoms. So, when we pray, “your kingdom come” we must also pray, “my kingdom go.”
This takes time. God is patient with our growth and, if we are willing, will purify our motives over time through experience. We’ll watch our hearts expand and our egos contract. So be patient with yourself while you move forward in love and service. Love yourself and your potential as an agent of grace. Try to see yourself as your Heavenly Father sees you.
The simplicity of this concept has totally changed the way I pray The Lord’s Prayer. Just as the opening words of worship to God (6:9) are a submission to his lordship over me, so the first request (6:10) is a submission of my life to be used by him as he brings about his kingdom on earth.
Pray: “Through our lives and by our prayers may your kingdom come!” — Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals