The Lord’s Prayer and Redemptive History
I’ve been teaching an adult Sunday School class on the vocation/identity of Jesus and the implications for the church using the Lord’s Prayer as an outline. This morning, as I was reviewing the previous week (“thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”), I suddenly noticed a pattern that proved very helpful in summarizing the previous week.
The basic premise is that the initial clauses of the prayer line up well with Israel’s history and therefore point all the more strongly to Christ’s fulfillment of Israel’s vocation. I haven’t worked it all out, but here are some initial thoughts.
When Israel is first called as a nation, God calls them as His son (Exodus 4:22-23)… i.e. He is their Father. This is the first reference to the fatherhood of God in redemptive history. The Israelites go into the wilderness, where Moses goes up the mountain and receives the heavenly pattern for the tabernacle (Hebrews 8:5). This tabernacle becomes the dwelling place of God. The Israelites then wind up in the wilderness for some time, during which time they are sustained by the bread of heaven, manna (Deuteronomy 8:3).
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus calls on God as Father, pointing toward his church as the people of the true exodus, the sons of God. At this point it gets interesting, because he immediately prays that “thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”. This strikes me as a parallel to the pattern of the tabernacle, and gives the entire clause an interesting flavor. Specifically, it moves us toward an incarnational understanding of God’s kingdom being brought to bear on the earth.
Jesus “tabernacled” among us and revealed the Father to us (John 1). He was the ultimate heavenly pattern, revealing the Father (and His will) perfectly. As we pray the Lord’s prayer and call on God as Father, we yearn to see His kingdom brought to bear here on earth. But this is not a desire apart from us, his Church. Called by Christ, in the power of the Spirit, the bringing of the Kingdom to bear on the world is the bringing of us to bear on the world… or more accurately we should say it is the bringing of Jesus to bear through us in the power of the Spirit.
Next up then is the prayer for bread, once again paralleling Israel’s history. Here we find Jesus is the true manna, the Bread of Life. Just as the Church resonates with the Father/Son theme and the Heavenly Pattern transforming the earth, so too we have bread to seek. We see this in all areas of our lives, and certainly the Sermon on the Mount leaps to mind when we juxtapose thoughts of daily needs and the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). But I believe the redemptive-historical parallel between manna and Jesus the Bread of Life also points us very directly toward the Lord’s Supper. Though the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t explicit point to the Supper, and I wouldn’t want to limit its application to Communion, the association is not unwarranted. This very connect-the-dots sort of movement through redemptive history is seen in 1 Corinthians 10.
Now, I’ve only gotten this far… does the pattern continue? We have drawn parallels between Israel, Jesus, and the Church for the first three clauses of the prayer (Father, Kingdom on Earth, Daily Bread). Do the parallels continue through the remainder of the prayer?