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Jesus and Jewish Prayer

 

“YOUR KINGDOM COME…”

The Kaddish

Jesus continues to teach his disciples that after one recognizes God as Father and King, one then asks for his “…kingdom [to] come…” (Matt 6:10). To a Jew in the Second Temple period, such a petition was fitting because of its parallelism to the Kaddish. According to Rabbi Wayne Dosick, the Kaddish is a Jewish prayer that is “recited by mourners in the days and months following the death of a loved one.”[16] Although this prayer was uttered after someone’s death, the primary focus was not the deceased, but God. As mourners recited this prayer, they would present a plea to God that he would “establish his kingdom in [their] lifetime and in [their] days and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel.”[17] This portion of the Kaddish was an outward expression of God’s lordship over one’s life. Though grief stricken, mourners rejoiced in the fact that, God was still seated upon the throne. Just like the mourners, Jesus knew very well that no matter the circumstance, his Father was still the King. Because of the eternal reign of the Almighty Father, Jesus asked him to establish his kingdom among his people.

Establishment of the Kingdom

For the Jews, praying that the Kingdom of Heaven would come to earth was not uncommon. In fact, most Jews held a common belief that God would deliver them from their oppressors and establish his kingdom in Israel. Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein stated that these ideas were incorporated into the Kaddish in the form of a Messianic prophecy.[18] Although the Jews longed to be free from their oppressors, God could not establish his Kingdom on the earth until humanity “acknowledged God’s kingship…by confessing him as the one true God and giving obedience to his law.”[19] The establishment of God’s Kingdom, therefore, was not a political matter, but a matter of the heart. Establishing the Kingdom, however, would not be instantaneous. In fact, according to Young, the phrase “your kingdom come” was used “…in the imperfect tense, which indicate[d] an incomplete action.”[20] This “incomplete action” was due to the fact that multiple nations refused to acknowledge God as King. During the Second Temple period, the oppressive Roman Empire forbade the Jews from worshipping their God “…as the sole ruler of their lives.”[21] As a Jew who lived in this time period, Jesus longed for the Father to establish his righteous reign over all the earth. Therefore, Jesus incorporated a petition for the coming Kingdom into his prayer (Matt 6:10).

 

“…YOUR WILL BE DONE…”

The Law

Following his petition for the coming Kingdom, Jesus prayed, “…your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10b). This portion of the prayer correlates with the previous in that it was the King’s will to come to earth and establish his Kingdom. Jesus himself said that those who did the will of the Father would enter into his Kingdom (Matt 7:21). According to Young, fulfillment of the God’s will was found in obedience to his Law.[22] However, due to humanity’s tendency to fall into sin, fulfilling the will of God proved to be difficult. Praying that the will of the Lord would be done “…express[ed] an inward yearning…” to obey his Law.[23] Christ himself expressed this same yearning in Gethsemane. Although he knew of the suffering that awaited him, Jesus prayed “…not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 24:42). Just as Jesus embraced the Father’s will over his own life, the Jews were to deny their sin and follow the Torah.[24] In doing so, the Jews would satisfy the will of the Lord and enter into his eternal kingdom.

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Category: In Depth, Summer 2016

About the Author: Alejandro Daniel Castro, AA-INDS (South Texas College), received the call into ministry at the age of fourteen. After much prayer, Alejandro answered the call into ministry, and began serving as a volunteer youth leader at The Family Church. During his service, God placed a desire in Alejandro’s heart to clearly and effectively teach the Gospel to youth. As a result, Alejandro decided to pursue an education in theology and ministry. Currently, Alejandro is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in ministry and leadership at Oral Roberts University.

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