…or the need for a new imagination.

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer pretty often. Some congregations pray it every Sunday. Many people pray it in their private prayer life. It is safe to say that the Lord’s prayer is central to Christian spirituality.

Yet many of us haven’t take time to even consider what we are praying. We just pray it. The words of the Lord’s Prayer become rote and can become hollow. They are intended to transform us. This prayer is powerful and can change us to our core.

Here is the prayer if you’re unfamiliar with it,

“This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’”
Jesus, in Matthew 6:9–13

I was struck this past weekend by the “your kingdom come, your will be done” bit. I was in a room of folks, who were almost all Christians, and we were talking about the prayer. As we discussed this portion in particular, I asked them to describe what the kingdom of God looks like? What would it mean for this prayer to become reality?

We stumbled around for a bit. There was little vision for what it meant to pray, “your kingdom come.”

As we talked more, it began to dawn on me that we needed to develop a kingdom imagination. So much of our Christian faith is tied to our minds and to our imaginations.

Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)”

Why does he link the renewing of our mind to transformation and non-conformance?

I think it is because when our minds are renewed we have the ability to imagine the kingdom of God in fresh new ways. We can begin to see what this world could look like if God’s kingdom broke into time and space. When our minds are renewed we can see the world as it should be.

There is a saying in the leadership world, “Begin with the end in mind.” When we do this it is easier to figure out our plan. If we know where we are going there is a better chance that we can make it to the destination. When we pray, “your kingdom come,” we are praying with the end in mind. We are praying, “This is the world as it should be. God, help me partner with you as you bring that world to reality.”

If we can’t imagine what that world would look like, then praying, “your kingdom come” is meaningless. It’s empty words.

So what does this kingdom look like? How are our imaginations to be renewed? What is the end goal?

I think we begin in the “Beatitudes” from Matthew 5.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3–12

This is the world as it should be. When we can start imagining a world like this, we can begin to imagine what it means when we pray, “your kingdom come.”

If we know where we are going, perhaps we can get there.