What is the power of prayer?

I believe that the power of prayer is first felt inside of us. It's a sense of God's assent, somewhat like someone answering our phone call....

For the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory are Yours, Now and Forever

Written by Robert Hansel and Renée Miller

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Bob: In previous sermons we've looked at all of the intercessions so the only thing remaining is the very last sentence, "For the Kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever." What's that all about? Clearly it isn't part of the original Biblical text. If you look either in Matthew's Gospel or in Luke's, you won't find these words at all. The prayer that Jesus taught his followers ends with the intercession about being protected from evil. So, where does this come from and why is it in our prayerbook at the end of both versions of The Lord's Prayer?

The phrase, "For yours is the Kingdom and the power and glory forever and ever. Amen." is probably the oldest piece of Christian writing after the New Testament itself. It reflects the fact that after the events of Christ's resurrection, the joy and excitement of that first Easter Day, the early Christians wanted a way to celebrate and express their confidence in the God who could overcome all things—even death itself. This phrase of affirmation and faith was a little doxology of the sort that we sing during the offertory each Sunday. It's sort of a compressed Creed that we now traditionally use to capture all of the confidence and trust that is ours as the children of the God in whom all things are possible.

Renée: Say, Bob, have you noticed how often in our lives we focus on that which stands out and claims our attention, but miss the really important things that are often small, simple, subtle, and even sublime? Two little words in this doxology are like that. The first of those words is the word "for"—"For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours."

"For" may actually be the most important word of the entire prayer because it is the word that sets forth the intent of the heart—the word that sets in motion the faith we say we have. It is the word that declares who we are and who God is. We are able to pray all the other words of The Lord's Prayer precisely because of the word "for." That little word reminds us of the simple yet sublime truth that it is God's Kingdom, God's power, God's glory that make faith real and prayer possible.

Bob: Well, what's the second little word?

Renée: I don't think I'm going to tell you just yet!

Bob: Ok, we can wait, and in the meantime, I've thought of something else I wanted to say about all our prayers—not just The Lord's Prayer. It's important for us to be reminded that The Lord's Prayer, however powerful and practical is not some sort of magical incantation. The prayer brings us into immediate contact with God and with God's purposes for us. That relationship is one of partnership in which we align ourselves as co-creators with God, allowing God to enter and work through us to accomplish the Divine Will.

God's gifts are given actually and immediately but they are resources which we, as God's stewards, must put to work in our own lives if they are to bear fruit. I have heard people complaining that, for them, prayer just has no meaning. It can't really change anything. Well, my experience is that the most important thing that prayer changes is me! It opens my heart to God's presence. It reminds me of a little song I remember learning in Sunday School as a young boy.

Into my heart, into my heart,
Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
Come in to day, come in to stay,
Come into my heart Lord Jesus.

 As we have said time and again over the past weeks..., it all comes down to stewardship: "Everything we are and all that we have are gifts from God. What we do with all that is our way of saying thanks."

Renée: In a way, what you're talking about is symbolized in the liturgy. During the time of the offertory we offer ourselves, and at communion God gives us back God's Self. Perhaps, that's what makes the offering of money so important.

I was at an airport recently … talking with a friend of mine who is a businessman. He was saying that money itself is a symbol and really has no life of its own, but is really nothing more than a medium of exchange. I didn't find anything particularly revelatory in that description about money. But his next words were the ones that shocked me. He said, "But we show our love with our money."

We show our love with our money — the money we offer is the way we show our love. And then we show our desire to share that love when we take those steps toward the altar to receive communion. Like the little word "for," those steps toward the altar set in motion the offering of our lives, but even more they set in motion our hunger, our desire, our yearning to receive God into ourselves. … And as we take those steps on holy ground toward the altar to receive communion we are declaring that we need and want God, that we are showing our thanks, and even more, we are giving and receiving love.

Bob: The Lord's Prayer, I think, is like all prayer. There's good news and bad news. The good news is that God's blessings and God's resources are there in abundance. Nothing is lacking—love, skill, caring, money. God has promised all that to the church. The bad news is that it's in our hearts and in our wallets. We have to be ready to give and to share. And, your friend was right, Renée. We do show our love with our money.

But, let's get back to the text of the closing doxology itself: "For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever." Maybe we need to think a bit about each of those things that we're so confident God has to give and wants us to share.

Renée: I think I'm "good to go" in telling you that second little word I mentioned earlier. The word comes near the end of the doxology. The word is "now." It seems that in contemporary culture we want instantaneous everything and in that sense we are focused on the "now," but when it comes to the fulfillment of God's promises, we focus on "later," on "forever," on "eternity," on "beyond" what we know now. Yet the prayer ends, "For the kingdom, the power and glory are yours, now and for ever."

God's Kingdom is now. God's power is now. God's glory is now. If we simply think it's somewhere up in heaven we live as if it is outside of our daily experience. Waiting until we die to experience God's kingdom, God's power, God's glory leaves us with little eagerness or enthusiasm for the present life. The word Kingdom is diminished if we do not see and believe that the Kingdom is here, all around us, as near to us as our own steady breath. The word power is diminished if we do not see and believe that God's power is here, all around us, as near to us as the life-beat of our heart. The word glory is diminished if we do not see and believe that God's glory is here, all around us, as near to us as our own tender humanity.

Iraneus, one of the early Church Fathers, once said, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive." Participation in God's kingdom, power and glory is not a future reward based on a good or bad performance here on earth. It is active belief that wherever and whenever and however God is present in human life, there is where we experience the kingdom, the power, and the glory.

Bob: And so we come to the end of our sermon series on The Lord's Prayer, celebrating twin truths—God's eternal Kingship and our own role as witnesses in the world, called to live lives worthy of such love. Ours is a challenge to match God's trustworthiness with our own commitment to thanks-living every single day. As Christians we have discovered that the daily use of this beautifully simple prayer that has been given to us by Christ himself is a proven source of guidance and resolve. May God bless each of us every time we pray the prayer that Jesus gave us.

Copyright ©2002 Bob Hansel and Renée Miller. This series was first presented at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, TN.

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