The sermon on the mount was subversive. Our Lord Jesus subverted and re-framed time-honored religious precedents: alms-giving, fasting, public rituals, interpersonal relations, and prayer. The climax of the sermon is the Lord’s Prayer. It is an expression of the desire that God’s kingdom will up-end and replace all earthly authorities, powers, and customs. “Your will be done on earth” (Matthew 6:10).
This is the main idea of Albert Mohler’s book, The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto (Thomas Nelson, 2018, 175 pp). I read the book on a recent trip. It refreshed and renewed my understanding of the Prayer, in its simplicity and power.
In the introduction, he writes: “Looking across the landscape, it becomes clear that very few revolutions produce what they promise. Arguably most revolutions lead to a worse set of conditions than they replaced.
“And yet, we still yearn for radical change, for things to be made right. We rightly long to see righteousness and truth and justice prevail. We are actually desperate for what no earthly revolution can produce. We long for the kingdom of God and for Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. We are looking for a kingdom that will never end and for a King whose rule is perfect.
“This is why Christians pray the Lord’s prayer.”
Mohler writes with the conviction that this short prayer is a call to spiritual revolution. The kingdoms of this world will indeed pass and give way to the kingdom of Christ, in which God’s will will indeed be done on earth. The Lord’s prayer asks that the rule of God be made visible. That is the kind of authority in praying that seems to be lacking in many sectors of Christendom. That is why this book is valuable and deserves a wide readership.
The author confesses his own human weakness in a story he told about going about the business of prayer as one robotically performing a familiar task. He gives other examples of the tendency to pray badly, for which the Lord’s prayer is a corrective.
Analyzing various religious traditions, he asks us to consider what we really believe about God and about prayer. The fact that human beings are created in God’s image means that we are given the privilege of communication with our communicating creator who wants us to think of him as “our Father.”
Faithful to the gospel, Dr. Mohler sets forth the necessity of redemption through faith in Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer for disciples of Jesus to pray. We can only relate to God as Father if we have become his sons and daughters through faith in Christ.
The fact that we are social creatures means that we are not to live or to worship in isolation, and the Prayer challenges our individualism. “Jesus is reminding us that when we enter into a relationship with God, we enter into a relationship with his people.” Mohler rightly emphasizes the fact that there is no first personal pronoun in the entire prayer. The plural pronouns mean we pray this in solidarity with other believers.
Point by important point the author applies the wisdom and beauty of the Lord’s Prayer in helpful lessons for all Christians. Dr. Mohler is a theologian who writes with the clarity of a journalist and with the empathy of a pastor. This is the kind of book I intend to give as gifts to people I care about and recommend to people who read this blog.
Romans 8:26 says “We do not know what we ought to pray for.” That has often been true in my experience. I am thankful for the promise that the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness.” One of the ways the Spirit helps me is the example of the prayers of the apostle Paul. Another is to pray the psalms, which are a guide to praise and worship. Another is the Lord’s Prayer. It is a model, or template, for praying in accordance with the will of God.
C.S. Lewis, in his Letters to Malcomb, Chiefly on Prayer, wrote about how he added to the Lord’s Prayer is own private overtones, or “festoons,” which were his way of using the Prayer as architecture for his personal praying. The categories and structure of the Lord’s Prayer, he said, allowed for freedom of personal application and expression of his worship, intercessions, and confessions.
Dr. Mohler would agree, I think. Reading his book has strengthened my praying. It has reminded me that Jesus has this world situation well in hand, and somehow our praying this way is a part of achieving his victory over the powers of darkness. Think about that when you are praying the Lord’s Prayer this coming Sunday in church.