Missions: The heart of God

The Lord's Prayer and World Evangelism

"Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven"
(Matthew 6:10).

Unpack the Lord's Prayer and you will find references to:

Pray the Lord's Prayer in a meaningful way, and two phrases at the beginning -- "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth" -- unequivocally address the need for world evangelization.

For 2,000 years Christians have memorized and recited the Lord's Prayer. Too often though, we have repeated those marvelous words in sing-song fashion with little thought to their deep meaning. As a result, the words of Matthew 6:10 rarely bring global missionary outreach to people's minds. That's too bad, since asking for God's Kingdom to be realized and for His will to be done all over the earth implies at the very least Gospel proclamation to all unreached people groups.

In terms of God's will, sermons on the Lord's Prayer generally use Matthew 6:10 to talk about righteous living and perhaps even social justice. Those things are in God's will, but doesn't His will include even more? Doesn't God ask His people to make Christlike disciples in the nations? Telling the story of Jesus at the "ends of the earth" is, after all, an unambiguous scriptural command. Matthew 6:10 also feeds naturally into Matthew 9:38, which is powerfully rendered by The Message as, "What a huge harvest! . . . On your knees and pray for harvest hands!"

As long as there are people on earth who know nothing of the true God, God's will is not being fully done. As long as people serve other gods -- whether those be "worthless idols" (Jonah 2:8) or gods of wealth, power or pleasure -- God's kingdom will not be fully come. Thus, praying Matthew 6:10 without world evangelism in mind misses a key thought of that verse.

The Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 -- "Go, make disciples of all nations" -- does not appear out of the blue. In teaching His followers to pray, Jesus used wording that should sensitize them to the Father's wish -- expressed multiple times in the Old Testament -- that the whole world be evangelized. Thus, it can be said that, early in His ministry, Jesus may have intentionally worded a model prayer in ways that would prepare the ground for the Great Commission that would come at the end of His earthly ministry.

We are often reminded that prayer should consist of more than handing our wish lists to God. Prayer is essentially about letting Him shape us. As we repeat the words of Matthew 6:10 -- "Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth" -- we must allow the Holy Spirit to truly turn them into the desire of our hearts. Every time we pray the Lord's Prayer, we must allow its majestic words to increase our passion for world evangelism.

     -- Howard Culbertson

This 500-word mini-essay on a world missions Bible passage is one of more than three dozen articles in the "Heart of God" series published in Engage, a monthly online magazine produced by the Church of the Nazarene.


"Lord, teach us to pray"

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