The clause that has traditionally been added on the Lord’s Prayer is not in Jesus’ original prayer in Matthew’s gospel.
And it is actually not, if you look at it, a prayer as such. It is a statement of a reality, a state of affairs that simply is.
We’ve prayed at the beginning ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’. But this way of ending the prayer completes that opening. We are saying, your kingdom will come, and your will will indeed be done. In fact, it is.
I immediately think of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, when God utters his personal name, yhwh, which means something like ‘I am who I am’ or ‘I will be who I will be’ – it could be either. And I think the messing with time is entirely the point. The future belongs to the God of Israel, who is the God of Jesus Christ; and so that means that the present belongs to him too, even when things are not yet as they will be.
And we need to say that because the Lord’s Prayer tells you (as the announcers on the London Underground tell you!) to ‘mind the gap’. We pray that God’s kingdom will come, even though we are in no doubt that it will, because things now are not the way they are supposed to be. We are gripped in the crushing vices of human civilization – worshipping the gods of cash, success, and pleasure, gods that appear omnipotent and omniglorious. They are the power and the glory, it seems. To them belongs the kingdom, we think. We have seen enough of the abuse of power and of the narcissism of celebrity.
Perhaps here we might pause. To pray that God’s kingdom will come – to actually ascribe to him the power and the glory – is to not deny that power and glory have a place. In fact, it is to say that there is indeed a right power and a proper glory. There is a person to whom these rightly and properly belong, even though we can scarcely think of one human being to whom these might rightly and properly belong. There are some philosophers, social critics, artists and musicians who would say that even to talk of power and glory in this way is to invite corruption, and to limit individual freedom, and the right of human beings to self-actualize.
Well, yes: the Christian God is not simply a lover, he’s a king. He’s a king who loves, and a lover who rules. He’s the Father, not painted in colours from our own palette, but the one who created the worlds with the word of his power, and who raised Jesus Christ from the dead by the word of the same power.
To recognize his power, and to give him the glory, is not to endorse human forms of power, but rather to give them their careful limit. It reminds them, at every point, of their fallibility, and their temporality. It tells them of the mistakes they will make, and urges them to take great care not to imagine themselves turned into gods. Only to God belongs the kingdom, the power and the glory. There is no other ideal to trump it.
And this is true hope for the ruler and the ruled. It invites us to work as though the kingdom of God had already come, since, as sure as Jesus walked out of the grave, it will. Indeed, when we do what God wants in the world, we are only in one sense lifting the lid on what already is the case. Challenging evil, exposing corruption, protecting the vulnerable, living a chaste and modest life, testifying to Jesus Christ – these are things that, as theologian Stanley Hauerwas puts it, run ‘with the grain of the universe’.
God’s is the future; and so to him be the present.
Rev Dr Michael Jensen is the Rector at St Mark’s Anglican, in Darling Point, Sydney, and an inspiring advocate for the oppressed within his sphere of influence. He is also a trusted friend and advisor to the Common Grace team, whose support and contribution we are grateful for.