I was slightly shocked and surprised to read a couple of critiques of the ‘thy kingdom come’ initiative; truth be told. I thought it was sad that an idea, or even a movement, which has garnered such success has been used as a weapon in our ecclesiological disputes and disagreements.
The initiative, it strikes me, is an example of how our senior leaders can, and in this case have, motivated the church to get on and do what the church should do: pray! Of course we all come to prayer with our own unique concerns, anxieties, biases and preferences, but prayer, true prayer, is bigger than these. Prayer is capable of subsuming and redeeming our egos. Isn’t that, in some senses, the whole point of prayer. Isn’t the very phrase ‘thy kingdom come,’ a plea, from the deep, for the suppression of ego?
My own suspicion is this: that if we are praying for the breaking in of God’s kingdom ‘on earth as in heaven’ with a fixed idea of what this does, or doesn’t, mean then we cannot be doing anything other than offering a superficial uttering of the words that Jesus taught us. We need to pray these words in a spirit of openness to change and transformation. We need to allow the results of our prayers to be unexpected. As a church we need to be rooted in and routed from prayer. If we pray these words with a fixed view of what the church should look like then we have missed the whole point of prayer.
If we pray the Lord’s Prayer in a spirit of partisanship, or even resentment, then we might as well not even bother. To ‘pray with confidence as our Saviour taught us’ requires us to put aside all enmity and to provide the space for God to do God’s work in and through us; individually and collectively. I know that it is difficult to put aside our differences and biases, even our mistrusts and dislikes, when we pray but, if we can’t, then maybe we run the risk of praying in the spirit of the publican and pharisee?
The ‘thy kingdom come’ initiative is a gift to the church. Not just the Church of England, but the church. In my own benefice I have been ever so slightly amazed to discover how enthusiastically it has been received by members of the Roman Catholic congregation and the Free Church fellowship: Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133 verse 1). Whilst on holiday in Cornwall this week I worshiped in an Anglo-Catholic Church on Sunday and mid-week in Truro Cathedral. In both places ‘thy kingdom come’ was being promoted and entered into with excitement. The Archbishops’ initiative is, I think, both an ecumenical and denominational gift.
The Lord’s Prayer is, of course, the prayer of the Church. It belongs to all who worship. It matters not a jot whether those who pray it are deeply committed Christians, or seekers. God, I suspect doesn’t care whether it is prayed from the depths by evangelicals or catholics. The Lord’s Prayer cannot be owned and should not be politicized.
It was given simply to be prayed.