When we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), our prayer is urgent. God does not reign on earth. His will is not done here. And it shows.
Several Christmases ago, my mother gave me a copy of a nineteenth-century lithograph by William Strutt. In the background, a city lies in smoking ruins. But in the foreground, a toddler leads a procession of animals: a lamb, a fox, a lion, a bear, a cow, a leopard, and a goat. The title of the lithograph is “Peace.” It draws its inspiration from Isaiah 11:6–9. It is a depiction of what happens when the kingdom of God comes, when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
Obviously, it is not a portrait of the earth we know. Our world suffers from war, poverty, disease, and disaster. Contrary to Isaiah’s prophecy, the leopard does not lie down with the goat; it eats it. Isaiah spoke of a day when enemies “will not harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” but contemporary Jerusalem is a conflicted city, not the city of peace that its name suggests (Jeru = city, salem = peace).
Why is the world Isaiah foresaw so different from the one we see every day? Paul points to the answer in Colossians 1:13–14 when he writes: “For [God the Father] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Here he portrays sin as both a slavery from which we need to be rescued and a rebellion for which we need to be forgiven.
Similarly, in Ephesians 2:1–3, Paul writes: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” Here, Paul portrays sin as three things: death, obedience to the devil, and enjoyment of sarx or flesh, which the NIV translates as “sinful nature.”
Taken together, Paul’s portraits suggest that the source of the world’s misery—the root of the conflict between kingdoms—is sin. We like to think of ourselves as the innocent victims of this conflict—collateral damage in the spiritual warfare between God and the devil—but we are not. We are God’s antagonists. We are rebels against his kingdom. We are the source of the world’s horrible problems. What’s wrong with the world is us.
So, we pray fervently to God: “your kingdom come”—to us, first—that we may do your will “on earth as it is [done] in heaven.”
This entry was posted on Monday, August 2nd, 2010 at 12:05 am and is filed under Experiencing God through Prayer, The Daily Word. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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