Looking into the Lord’s Prayer 


In this manner, therefore, 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 this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13)


Biblical scholar Dale Allison comments on the references to God’s kingdom in the prayer, noting that in the ancient world kings and kingdoms were valued for helping to bring order to the nomadic world which was seen as dangerously chaotic with roaming bands of marauders. The king and kingdom help bring stability and protection to the vulnerable and defenseless. [*see note below]

In the background may be the ancient Near Eastern idea of kingship, which was soteriological. The sovereign, ‘with the power given him by God…  puts an end to the chaotic period when there is no king, so that also the weak, widows and orphans also have human rights and can exist as human beings’ (so Alfons Deissler, in Petuchowski and Brocke, eds., Lord’s Prayer, 8). In the Lord’s Prayer God is similarly envisaged as becoming the eschatological king (cf. Isaiah 52:7-10; Ezekiel 20: 33). This is something only God can do, and something human beings can only pray for.  (THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, p 122)


The biblical notion is that it is God Himself who sustains the universe and keeps the chaotic forces of nature in check. Praying for God’s Kingdom to come is our appeal to God to keep all forces in the universe in check (including human ones of power and hubris) in order to help those who are least powerful exist. Without God, the world would be even more chaotic than it is.


St John Cassian points out a spiritual issue that arises from our praying that God not lead us into temptation. For Cassian, temptations reveal our hearts – whether we are children of God or whether we choose rather to follow our own wills. So, he doesn’t think we are asking God never to allow us to be tempted for how else can we know or how else can we show that we love God’s will and commandments unless there is a real free will choice presented to us? For Cassian, what we are really asking in this petition is that God be with us every step of our life’s journey so that we choose well.


[From] ‘Lead us not into temptation’ … comes a problem that is not a minor one. If we pray that we be not permitted to be tempted, where will that constancy come from for which we are to be tested? There is the scriptural statement that everyone who has not been tempted has not been approved of. There is ‘Blessed is the man who endures temptation.’ So this cannot be the sense of ‘Lead us not into temptation.’ It is not ‘Do not allow us ever to be tempted’ but rather ‘Do not allow us to be overcome when we are tempted.’  (THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, p 130)


[* The biblical narrative of creation in Genesis 1 has God bringing under divine dominion the powers of chaos, which the Scriptures suggest God continues to control for the sake of His human creatures. The idea that kings or kingdoms can help guard individuals from the chaos that threatens to break into the world may have been a force that helped the development of human civilizations which worked to tame the chaotic elements threatening humans (whether natural or other humans). I think this is idea behind St Paul’s words in Romans 13:3-4 – For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.

The Great Alone: A Novel A novel that captures this sense of the various types of chaos threatening to be unleashed on humanity is Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone.  In Hannah’s book, there are many chaotic forces at work in the remote part of Alaska to which the family has moved – the long dark nights of winter, the weather, wild animals, family dysfunction and mental illness (the last two are certainly part of the ‘demons’ they faced). The main characters in the family see ‘others’ (including government) as the darkening threat but the book is clear there are many threatening forces at work. While several see “the government” and other people as the greatest threats, it is others who help save them from themselves.]