By: Sarah Norman
The last several weeks, we have been discussing prayer, specifically that Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. We have learned about surrendering to God's will, trusting in God's provision and following the path God wants us to go. This prayer is ended with “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” One thing we see over and over again when we look at who Jesus is and who He wants us to be, is that the picture He gives us looks nothing like what our culture tells us to be and even more surprising, nothing like what evangelical culture often tells us to be.
He is telling us to pray, “for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory”. That “yours” means God's, not ours. In our culture, so often, we see people grabbing for power, for glory, building little kingdoms unto themselves. If you look at evangelical culture throughout the 20th century, the religious right, the moral majority, so much of it tells us to take power back, that we are in the right so God will give us everything we want. It's prosperity theology at best, blasphemy at worst. We, as Christians, are not suppose to be in power. We are not suppose to be building kingdoms. We are suppose to surrender our power to God.
People so often read themselves into the battle scenes where God's people took back the promised land or choose to only see Jesus in Revelation taking back this world for Himself without seeing everything in between, without seeing Jesus' posture of humility and gentleness and meekness. Jesus set an example for us of how we are to conduct ourselves on this Earth. He set the example of a servant, leaving His throne and coming down to a broken world to die for us. Philippians 2 tells us that He did not see equality with God as something to be exploited, but yet He assumed the form of a servant and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross. This is our example. Jesus is telling us that the kingdom and power and glory is God's, not ours.
We see in the story of Solomon what happens when we lose sight of who's kingdom it is, who has the power and who deserves the glory. We see in 2 Chronicles, King Solomon begins his reign so well, learning from His father David that Israel is God's people, not his, and his kingdom belongs to God. God asks him what he would like and Solomon tells God, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of yours?” He could have asked for money, power, fame, but instead he asked for wisdom to know how to rule God's people. He understood that he needed help, that he did not have all the answers and needed to rely on God for how to rule God's people. The first thing he did as king was to build a temple for God. When that temple was built and it was time to dedicate it to the Lord, Solomon “spread out his hands” (6:12) and “knelt on his knees in the presence of the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven,” (13). He was showing the people of Israel what a posture of humility looked like. He was showing his people that he was only their ruler because God put him there, and God was the true ruler of Israel.
This is the example of a leader that we need in today's culture. But that is not the leader that we ever actually choose. So often our leaders look like the subsequent kings of Israel, leading their country (or church) in idolatry, disguising it as worship of God, thinking they are to be praised above all else, that glory and honor and power are due to them rather than to God. This is who we choose because we live in a society that values the powerful, the rich, the prideful as opposed to the values that Jesus demonstrated such as humility, meekness and gentleness.
The rest of Solomon's life shows us what happens when we turn away from the things of God and follow after the world. Through Solomon's wisdom, given to him by God, he gained fame and notoriety. Everyone around knew who Solomon was and traveled far and wide to see his kingdom and all the great things he had done. Solomon began to marry many women to gain more fame and wealth, to make treaties with other kings and with these women came their gods. Solomon began compromising by allowing his people and his wives to worship all the many gods they brought into his kingdom. His people turned away from God and his heart was turned away from God. The more power and fame and wealth he had, the further he was from God. In his book he wrote at the end of his life, Ecclesiastes, he used the word vanity and the phrase “chasing after the wind” often. As he looked back on his life, he saw that all the things he had gained, all the power, all the fame, all the wives and wealth, all the things of this world were worth nothing more than chasing after the wind; they were all vanity and no substance. He saw that what his life had become was not the life God wanted for him and if you read his words, it is clear he regretted it. At the end of his life, he saw what he had seen when his rule began, that God was greater than he and that God was deserving of power and glory, not him.
As we end this series on what prayer looks like, may we examine the posture of our hearts as we go to God in prayer. When we go to God thinking we know better, wanting God to give us what we want, what our desires are, what will make us happy, we are making God into our own image, treating him like nothing more than a genie in a bottle, hoping he will fulfill our dreams. But when we come to God with a heart postured in humility, knowing that He is greater, he deserves all power and praise, that completely changes the tone of our prayers. When we pray as Jesus taught us, keeping God in the position that He deserves, we begin to see how much we need Him in every aspect of our lives. We deserve no power. We deserve no glory. We deserve no kingdom. All of it belongs to God and God alone.
It is my prayer that the church as a whole in America can begin to see where we, individually and collectively, have prioritized power and glory for ourselves rather than giving it all over to God. It is my prayer that we will see how prioritizing that power has hurt so many people. It is my prayer that we will repent and begin the work of reconciliation with those we have hurt. And it is my prayer that one day the church will truly be able to say “For to Him belongs the kingdom, the power and the glory. Amen.”