I once heard a speaker suggest that parliament should not begin with the Lord’s Prayer. As a young clergyman who on occasions opened the Shire Council meeting with the Lord’s Prayer, I thought that strange. As our nation changes, this prayer was something I felt we all needed to hold in common. But was the speaker correct?
The speaker noted that the prayer is a personal one that expects relationship between the prayer and the one being prayed to. You don’t call anyone, Father! That made sense to me as I opened the Council meeting where councillors were shuffling papers and talking while I prayed. It often seemed like I was the only one with a relationship with the God who we were all supposed to be speaking to.
On reflection, as I consider the parliament of 2019, what a strange prayer this actually is. The prayer prays for another’s kingdom to come, and when prayed in parliament, that is in a context where people are seeking to establish their own kingdoms. There is no doubt that we would all be more at home with a prayer that asks, “my Kingdom come, my will be done…” Now that’s a prayer for all ages, sexes, councillors, parliamentarians and all those I’ve missed. But of course, such a prayer is no answer as my human kingdom will inevitably clash with the kingdoms of others.
When Jesus taught us to pray “Your Kingdom come” He knew God was a better ruler of life than we are. In the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus taught this prayer, the Kingdom rule of God makes a massive difference – the murderous heart gives way to peace, adultery is rejected for faithfulness, lies are replaced with integrity, divorce becomes unthinkable where love abounds and religion is not a show but a genuine matter of the heart. When I consider this transformation, it makes me wonder why we don’t pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” all the time. Having God as “Our Father” and Jesus as our teacher makes a heavenly difference while the alternative makes a hell of a difference. There is none of the cold selfish indifference of earthly kingdoms in the Lord’s Prayer but only the warmth a God who gives us our daily bread, who answers sin with forgiveness, who offers strength in the face of temptation and deliverance from evil. It makes you wonder why we would not pray this prayer all the time.
But, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...” was the clincher in the speaker’s argument for not using the Lord’s Prayer to open parliament. Personally, I could see so many reasons for a nation to pray these words but the speaker could see only one for not praying it. He only needed one reason.
When you pray for God’s kingdom to come you are praying for God’s rule to be complete and for His judgement on sin to be fully satisfied such that all evil and doers of evil will be removed. No wonder some councillors never paused for the prayer. Perhaps they understood why the speaker suggested that parliament should not begin with such a prayer. After all who would want to pray God’s judgement on themselves? Perhaps the speaker was right but I still would like the parliament opened with this prayer. It is one of those moments when all our nation’s leaders are reminded that they must give account to a higher authority than themselves.
If you have no relationship with God as Father and live under his judgement, the Lord’s Prayer is not for you, but it could be. The name Christ means King and when Jesus was crowned with thorns and crucified on a cross, He offered a King’s pardon. As God’s King Jesus removed the judgement all should fear and invited the forgiven to call God, “Our Father”. History tells us that this truth has changed individuals, councils and parliaments and delivered us from many an evil. Perhaps you could pray for our nation.