Reign, power and glory are the common currency of much of human interaction. Who makes the decisions, who can make things happen and who gets the credit and praise are the questions that shape society and business. When Jesus first uttered the words “for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever” (that is, if he did, since they don’t appear in the best manuscripts for Matthew or Luke) there was no question who was the ultimate leader, who had the greatest power on earth and to whom praise was due, it was all wrapped up in one person, Caesar Augustus.
Although most of us don’t live in kingdoms we all have particular citizenships that are rarely, if ever, changed. The Roman empire was pretty much the known world in Jesus’ day yet he claimed another citizenship for himself and his followers in the already-but-not-yet kingdom of the heavens. It is likely that the idea of another empire was laughable to the Romans but they did take talk of other loyalties seriously. Praying for another kingdom to be manifest in this world and to bring with it a ruler with true power is to seek insurrection. It is asking for trouble. Some had even begun to consider Augustus a deity during his lifetime. So to pray that your God was the one who truly reigned with ultimate power and was the only being to be glorified was to deny Caesar’s lordship. That could have serious consequences as many early martyrs learned when they proclaimed that Jesus was their lord.
So what are the consequences we face when praying this rebel’s prayer? There is no ego-maniacal emperor threatening our lives. Heck, there isn’t even a social price to pay for identifying as Christian. In fact, the social expectation for many of us is that we at least appear to be Christian. But too often that brand of Christianity is one that is wedded to the state. In the United States, our civil religion is a God-bless-our-nation (kingdom)-power-and-glory. Our theologian-in-chief presidents have consistently fed us a belief that God is on our side and somehow supports our raw use of power to sustain our empire (and if you don’t think it is one, you weren’t listening to the previous administration which had no hesitation using that term). If you don’t think that that is the case, ask the next atheist you meet how they feel about it.
But what if the revolution that the Lord’s Prayer invokes calls us to claim as our primary citizenship our allegiance to God? Wouldn’t that mean that we can’t draw boundaries between peoples? Wouldn’t it mean that our daily bread would mean food for every human? Wouldn’t it mean forgiveness for all, including those whom our leaders would have us call “enemy”?
Six weeks of reflecting on this iconic prayer has changed the way I will pray it from now on. How good to have a regular reminder not only to seek, but to work for the revolution that God wants to happen breaking in from the heavens to transform everything we know.