I have been spending quite a lot of time with the Lord’s Prayer lately. It has become a regular feature in my own private prayer, and I have relished it more than I typically do when the brothers come together to pray in the chapel. I have seen much of what’s going on in the world for months, and sometimes, I just cannot put together my own words. “What more can I say? What more can any of us say?” is the common refrain of my heart. I can’t imagine I’m alone. Sometimes, in those moments, through some prompting of the same Spirit whose sighs are enough, I am given the gentle reminder, “Remember the words he has taught you.”
Of particular note for me recently is the plea, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” It’s difficult for me not to pay attention to the political situation of the country, from the very big stories to the particular zigs and zags of individual newsworthy figures. Again, I can’t imagine I’m alone. And, paying that attention in the midst of all that has gone on, the picture seems very bleak. The failures, incompetencies, and abuses of those in power right now leave me feeling sad and angry. But the words of the Lord’s Prayer, the hope for the coming of God’s kingdom, is a touchstone of hope for me, for three reasons.
First, that this is the prayer of Jesus, the one who intercedes for us, and who abides close to the Father’s heart, comforts me. Christ assures us that we, even in our imperfection, know how to give to the needy. “How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” The promises of Jesus, and the hope of Jesus, are not idle, for he knows the heart of the One from whom all good comes. The kingdom of God will come. When we show forth the love of God, we participate in that kingdom, and anticipate its full revelation.
Second, it assures me that God’s kingdom is something fundamentally different from what we see before us. It’s not the domain of earthly rulers to enact for themselves, even in the best of times. It is certainly at odds with rank and blatant injustice; as the psalmist writes, “Can a corrupt tribunal have any part with you, one which frames evil into law?”
Third, it reminds me that this sadness and anger, this dissonance between what is and what should be, is a normal part of what it means to be a Christian. “Here we have no lasting city,” reads the letter to the Hebrews, “but we are looking for the city that is to come.” We have been called to the greater kingdom, and it has not yet been revealed in its fullness and glory, its mercy and justice. We should feel somewhat alienated from the halls of power; we should be able to see what’s wrong. And the fact that we do is itself a sign of the hope to come.
Many of us are wearied by the changes and the uncertainty of our civil lives, our political communities. I certainly am. But we can take heart, and pray together for the coming of God’s kingdom; it is a hope, big and sturdy enough for us all.
Br. Lucas Hall, SSJE