The Lord’s Prayer is “revolutionary,” writes Mohler in new book
New book from SBTS president highlights radical nature of the most famous Christian prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer is a revolutionary and earth-shattering manifesto for God’s eternal reign in heaven and earth, argues R. Albert Mohler Jr. in his new book, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down. The book released in late January.
Most people recognize the familiar refrains of the prayer Jesus taught to his disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. It’s recited at graveside services and before high school football games. But people often don’t understand the words they’re saying, according to Mohler.
Mohler hopes readers see the large-scale purpose of this famous prayer: The Lord alone reigns. The words in the prayer call for God’s kingdom to come and for his will to be done on earth as in heaven — Mohler calls these the “most revolutionary words human beings could imagine.”
“With those words every empire falls, every throne other than the throne of Christ is shattered. With those words, the world is turned upside down,” said Mohler, who is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in an interview. “That relativizes every earthly allegiance. It puts into context every political power and promises the doom of every political power. What we're saying [when we pray] is, ‘I'm praying that Christ's reign will be visible on earth right now, that the kingdom of God will show up right now.’ So take that, Moscow, Beijing, Washington, Ivy League, or NCAA. There is no kingdom that can withstand his kingdom.”
Historically, according to Mohler, the church has stood on a three-footed stool of instruction: the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed. This book is the second in a trilogy exploring those three foundational texts, with his 2009 book, Words From the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the Ten Commandments, being the first installment.
The book opens with an overview of the discipline of prayer in Chapter 1, then moves to a line-by-line exposition of the Lord’s Prayer in subsequent chapters. It concludes with an epilogue about the doxology (“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen”), which is likely not original to the text of Matthew but is still right for worshipping Christians to pray, Mohler writes in the book.
Commonly, evangelicals resist formulaic or premeditated prayers, but Mohler suggests the Lord’s Prayer provides a model for all believers to follow, just as the disciples did. Not all prayer has to be spontaneous, he said. Neither is it helpful to approach God in a conversational or relaxed way. Rather, the church should embrace established forms of prayer like those found throughout the Scriptures — the kind of prayer that recognizes God’s reign over all things and submits to him as both Lord and Father.
Prayer is one of the means by which Christians can commune with the living God, and the Lord’s Prayer encourages the follower of Christ to come to God as Father. Christians enjoy a unique and intimate relationship with their Creator through prayer, although that does not justify a flippant, overly conversational approach.
“This is not an artificial kind of chatty sentimentality in which we insinuate that God is our buddy,” Mohler said. “This is the kind of communion that an earthly citizen would have perhaps with an earthly king. There is always a distinction between the king and the subject. The relationship is no less real — just now the relationship is all the more precious. Who are we that the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, would care about us or know us, much less want to hear from us?”
Western Christians will recite one of the central ideas of the Lord’s Prayer — “give us this day our daily bread” — without the daily reality of not knowing where their meals will come from. When they read the Bible, Christians need to remember how most fellow believers have read it throughout the 2,000 years of church history, Mohler argued. He pointed out, too, the importance of recognizing that even most 21st century Christians worldwide go hungry.
Still, “daily bread” is a metaphor for God’s provision, according to Mohler, so American believers should always rely on the Father for their daily spiritual sustenance.
One of the dominant forms of prayer in American culture is that of supplication and intercession — asking God to use his power on the behalf of believers. Many Wednesday night prayer meetings become a laundry list of requests regarding the health of family members or for wisdom in decision-making. That way of praying is not wrong, Mohler said. God commands Christians to bring their concerns before the Father. But prayer is more than that. Prayer is oriented toward the kingdom of God. It is not merely supplicational; it is eschatological. It is motivated by a desire to see the world made right through the spread of the gospel, Mohler writes.
“We are praying that we want to see persons come to know the one true and living God,” he said. “We want to see Jesus made famous. We want to see the poor taken care of. We want to see the hungry fed. We want to see righteousness prevail. We want to see mercy demonstrated.”
The book is available for purchase on Amazon for $19.99 and on Kindle for $9.99.