Our Advent reflections are available as a PDF download or viewable below. This year we are looking at Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.
Since 2016 there has been a movement of prayer covering that period, initiated by our two archbishops, that has become global, under the title “Thy Kingdom Come”. These words are, of course, from the Lord’s Prayer.
Thy Kingdom Come has a website that contains a range of materials and resources, including some powerful, short videos:
Our daily bread, our daily prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is known throughout the world. This short set of reflections has been created with the intention to bring you closer to the words of the prayer and to encourage you to say it every day as we move from Pentecost and its significance for the Church.
If you’ve ever thought about using the Bible for a book club or would like to study it on your own then the Bible Society has an excellent resource. Each book of the Bible is presented in guides offered as an online study or as a printout.
The website also contains some useful articles about the Bible, designed to help you get stuck in.
Here’s an example Bible book – Mark’s Gospel
You should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, help us to honour your name. Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. Give us our food for today. Forgive us for doing wrong, as we forgive others. Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil.
This might not be the Lord’s Prayer you know, but it is the Lord’s Prayer as it’s found in the Bible. Each new translation of The Bible renders this passage differently, in an attempt to give us a version that is more up-to-date or more accurate or in keeping with the flow of modern English. We will include different versions in our study. The earliest version is of course the one that Jesus spoke, in his own mother tongue Aramaic. The earliest recorded version is to be found in the Greek manuscripts that make up the New Testament.
This is the prayer Jesus taught us to pray. You can see a shorter version of it in Luke’s gospel. You might like to compare the two. Most do not have For thine is the kingdom.. – these words are only to be found in later copies of the New Testament Greek text. That part is not actually a prayer but a chorus of praise, a doxology.
Which version should we use?
Our Common Worship liturgy offers a traditional and a contemporary version. This is unusual – millions of Christians around the world day this prayer in their contemporary language, though for many Catholics this is a recent change from Latin. Should we prefer one over the other? It really should not matter, though I have known people to switch or even leave their church because they didn’t like a change in the wording. Remember that the prayer is not a poem and it is not an icon. We do not recite it for its lilting phrases alone and we do not frame it for display and adoration. What matters is the content, the meaning and the One to whom this prayer is addressed.
We will break the prayer into its main parts and seek to enlarge upon the words and how they might relate to us as Christians in our world today. While it is good to be aware of the deeper meanings in the prayer we might agree that the mental exercise of weighing up every line equally and with due consideration will probably wear us out very quickly. As we continue to pray the Lord’s Prayer we will find lines or phrases that will touch us more deeply than others at different times.
It’s important that we do not rush the words. You may have experienced occasions when it’s been like sliding down a snow slope on a tea-tray. Try to slow down: take time over words, and if a line touches your heart don’t rush away to the next one – just pause for a while, even if others are moving on. Never mind if you finish behind everyone else (vocally or in your head).
I challenge you to pray this prayer each day. You might like to recite the different versions that will be presented in each daily section.
How well do you cope with reciting from memory the different versions of the Lord’s Prayer in use in our church?
Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.
Traditional (from Common Worship)
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Jesus requires us to address God Almighty as Father. This was a term Jesus used when he talked about his relationship with the One who’d sent him. Jesus’ disciples (it was one of the disciples in Luke’s account who’d asked Jesus for help in how to pray) would not have the right to call God Father. It was not until Jesus’ death and resurrection that we could come into sonship and call God Father.
We pray this prayer to Father God, the Almighty, the I Am, the Lord. If all you ever manage to say in this prayer are those first two words you have done well. God’s name is more than just a handle. God’s name is an expression of who he is.
God is resident in heaven. Heaven is more a state of being than a place in the sky. We see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12) and have somewhat restricted ideas about heaven. We might content ourselves with the description of heaven as from where God reigns.
The traditional text uses thy and thine. Some people would say that the use of words like these helps to take God out of the wordly and into a special place. It has been suggested that using these older forms is more respectful to God. The odd thing is that they are actually familiar forms, words that are reserved for use with close friends and family. The German du and dein (thou and thine come from a similar root) are used in this way, and the more formal Sie and ihr are not unlike the way we’d address a noble in the third person (“Your majesty is right”).
So, the traditional version is demonstrably more intimate than the contemporary versions!
The first word in the Lord’s Prayer is “our”. Is the Lord’s Prayer a prayer designed for individuals or for congregations to pray?
How does the Lord’s Prayer sound if you start it with “My Father, …”?
Does God remain in heaven, only to be addressed there?
Contemporary (from Common Worship)
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Hallowed ground; hallowed halls; All Hallows, Ipswich – hallowed is a term already in restricted use these days, so it may be odd to see it in a contemporary version! When we say Hallowed be your name we are both reminding ourselves that God’s name is holy and that all creation, including us, will honour it. We are not asking God to make his name holy, because it is already!
Having said this, what does it actually mean? Why do we pray that God’s name, rather than simply God, be hallowed? It is because the name of God is more than just a name – he is not Tom, Dick or Harry. He is the Lord.
The LORD God came down in a cloud and stood beside Moses there on the mountain. God spoke his holy name, “the LORD.” Then he passed in front of Moses and called out, “I am the LORD God. I am merciful and very patient with my people. I show great love, and I can be trusted. I keep my promises to my people forever, but I also punish anyone who sins. When people sin, I punish them and their children, and also their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.” Moses quickly bowed down to the ground and worshiped the LORD.
Pray that God’s name is known throughout creation; that those who do not yet know him will come to know him; that those who have heard but not understood may come to understand, and that those who actively reject may bend the knee to the name of our Almighty Father God through the redeeming and perfect work of Jesus.
How is God’s command “Be holy, for I am holy” expressed in your daily life?
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best – as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Eugene Peterson, the author of the Message Bible, does not even use the term kingdom. Thy kingdom come is replaced here by Set the world right. God’s kingdom refers to his absolute reign, his authority, his power. Jesus announced the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. He also promised that he would return in power at the end, when a new heaven and a new earth will be created.
Even though Jesus defeated the powers of Satan we still live in a fallen world, and amongst fallen people. Our family of faith is called to live by God’s Holy Spirit power according to God’s kingdom, demonstrating it in the way we interact with this world. Since the Fall this world has been subject to another kingdom, one where darkness reigns, and relationships and nature are out of kilter. We, the people of God are reclaiming the ground under the banner of Christ.
When comes the promised time
That war shall be no more,
And lust, oppression, crime
Shall flee thy face before?
We pray thee, Lord, arise
And come in thy great might.
Revive our longing eyes
Which languish for thy sight.
To pray Set the world right (thy kingdom come) is to pray two things – for God to set up his kingdom values in us and in the world, and for Christ to return and reign in glory.
Am I really selected to model in my life and in my church the truth, the power and the glory of God’s Kingdom?
What sort of kingdom do I imagine it will be when Christ returns to earth?
The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
The Voice translation
Our Father in heaven,
let Your name remain holy.
Bring about Your kingdom.
Manifest Your will here on earth,
as it is manifest in heaven.
Give us each day that day’s bread—no more, no less—
And forgive us our debts
as we forgive those who owe us something.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
[But let Your kingdom be,
and let it be powerful
and glorious forever. Amen.]
God is sovereign in heaven – what he says, goes. What he wills, happens. God’s will is right and perfect. It is the best thing we could ever want in our lives. God knows best, not because he’s wiser (he is, of course – even God’s foolishness is greater than any human wisdom – see 1 Corinthians 1:25) but because he knows you more than you know yourself, he (still!) loves you and desires to see you come into that which he has perfectly prepared for you. For you, God’s will is not about issuing capricious orders and commands, it is about him guiding you into the very best way you can live your life.
We struggle with the issues of our fallen world. When we come up against human and natural disasters, warfare and genocide, sickness and plague, and the way they affect us and the people we love, we may wonder whether God’s will is so good after all. The fact is that God is logically powerless to act against the free will that he has bestowed on all people. He cannot give people freedom to choose with one hand and take it away from them with another. God is moved to heartbreak by what he sees in this world, and we join with him through intercession to pray that what he originally created be restored.
We who are redeemed in Christ can live in the will of God, and by our life and witness God can create his kingdom on earth in us spiritually, and around us physically. God does intervene in certain ways (see Exodus 9:12 and Ezekiel 36:26) according to his will. We may, therefore, pray for God to intervene in this world and its people. Perhaps some of the longings in our hearts may be the surfacing of God’s will in our lives.
Are you also prepared to pray “Your will be done in me as it is in heaven”?
What might God be calling me to pray for so that his will may be done on earth?
Will there ever be an end to war in our world?
Scripture taken from The Voice™. Copyright © 2012 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.