Thy kingdom come

Yesterday instead of Sunday School, there was a speaker talking about The Lord’s Prayer to all the Sunday School classes. He spoke several different times over the weekend, going through the whole prayer, but yesterday’s class was on, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” To get us talking with those around us, he asked us what our idea of a heavenly kingdom would look like. I think he was trying to get us to think beyond the usual – no natural disasters, peace on earth, that kind of thing. He said that, for him, the answer might be an endless cup of Diet Coke (at which Mike perked up) and being able to eat as much poundcake as he wanted without having to loosen his belt. And that exercise would be fun. We thought about it for a minute and then shared with our neighbors – Mike liked the Diet Coke thing a lot (for the record, he hasn’t had any since he gave it up in August), and I said that I’d like exercise to be more like reading a book. Another friend said that it would be like sitting in a recliner with her two young sons. There were plenty of ideas – the perfect hair day, endless amounts of chocolate, never having to diet . . . and then the man next to us, an older gentleman I’d never seen before, started to speak. He told us he’d been in Europe for 25 months during World War II, and that, after seeing the cost of war, his only answer was no more war. He talked and talked about how we couldn’t understand that, being so much younger. At first I felt a little bit like he had missed the point, that we were just supposed to be sharing silly stuff, but then I realized maybe I’d be missing the point if I didn’t pay attention. So I tried to really listen as he poured his heart out to us, virtual strangers. I tried to step out of my normal patterns and think about what he was saying, that cost he was talking about that my generation doesn’t often have to consider. I don’t know him at all, and I don’t know if I’ll see him again, but it resonated with me pretty sharply. It’s nice to daydream, and it’s great to enjoy the things we’re given here on earth, but when it comes down to it, peace is a lot more important than any of those things (great hairday included).

In talking about that line, the speaker said that we should be careful when we pray for God’s kingdom to come, because he’s going to ask us to be a part of it, to do things that seem uncomfortable to us. A common theme of sermons and other talks I’ve heard lately is that we can’t talk to God like he’s a fairy godfather, that we can’t just ask him for favors all the time. At the same time, we should feel free to talk to him about everything. The more I hear about prayer, the more I realize I don’t know how to pray. It’s complicated and messy, and we don’t get answers for things that are important while simple easy things seem to just . . . work out. It’s hard to trust God with the desires of my heart when things haven’t worked out in the past. I’m still learning about the conversational give and take.

What I really like about The Lord’s Prayer is that there’s so much to it. Last year I thought a lot about forgiveness when I prayed it, and as I’m continuing to unpack it, I imagine that I’ll focus on other lines. Right now what I need to hear is that I need to give things up, to stop trying to control God, to control other people. I need to learn to participate in the kingdom of God without expecting things to work a certain way. And right now I’m just thankful we say it every week at church, because The Lord’s Prayer is still teaching me how to pray. (I hope it always will.)

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