Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.
We come today to the last stanza in the Lord’s prayer, “for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever amen. The eagle eyed amongst you will note that this line doesn’t appear in either of the records of the Lord’s prayer in the Matthew or Lukan account. It does appear in the King James version of Matthew, but most of the first Greek manuscripts of the Biblical texts don’t contain it. It was clearly added very early in the tradition by the Church Fathers and slipped quickly into popular usage. There is a record of the prayer in roughly this form in the didache a 1st century compilation of apostolic teaching, where its recorded as, “for yours is the power and the glory forever.”
Those early compilers were putting liturgy together in exactly the same way Jesus did. When he taught the 1st and 2nd commandment he was bringing two biblical texts together in a novel way. There are many Old Testament texts that sound similar to this last line. For example, the one we use when we receive the offerings at the table at communion from 1 Chronicles 29: 11, “Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. All things come from you and of your own do we give you.”
This ending to the prayer is to help us to see that life is all about God. His is the kingdom, i.e. the ultimate rule and authority, his is the power, i.e. the capacity to bring real change and transformation, and his is the glory, i.e. he deserves the credit for everything that is good and wholesome and enriching in life. He deserves the credit for those things that seem random acts of providence. He deserves the credit for achievements we feel are due to our own abilities and agency. He deserves the credit for working his purposes out in the messy reality of history towards a good end, without ever overriding human freedom.
I paraphrase (after Dr. Larry Crabb) a parable once told by St. Augustine.
Suppose, Augustine said, God himself came to you and invited you to draw up your ultimate wish list, with things on it we’d all agree are OK for Jesus’ followers to enjoy: a good meal when you’re hungry, a great family life, a satisfying sense of purpose and meaning, robust health, a job that shows off your unique talents and earns you respect and lots of money, a season ticket to the theatre, a good night’s sleep every night, and to top it off nicely, a good experience in Church on Sunday where you gratefully worship the generous God who gave it all to you.
Suppose that while you’re looking over your list and deciding its pretty complete – you might even throw in a new car and a holiday home - God speaks again. This time he says, “I will give you everything on your list, and I will grant you a long life to enjoy it all. But there is one condition, only one: If you accept this offer, you will never see my face.”
Augustine explained the parable this way: “The chill that you feel at the thought of never seeing God’s face is your love for God.” I also quote Dr. Crabb’s revelation as he mused on this parable while waiting for cancer surgery, “that every hard thing we endure can put us in touch with our desire for God, and every trial can strengthen that desire until it becomes the consuming passion of our life. It is this that is the source of our deepest joy, the real point in living.”
I think the early compilers added that line because it is Jesus alone who allows us to discover those truths about our Father in heaven. It turns the prayer from petition to worship. All the great contemplatives of our faith from the medieval mystic who wrote the Cloud of Unknowing, to St. Ignatius who gave us the examen and lection divina, to contemporary charismatics who express that adoration in extended periods of song have discovered a similar truth. Life in all its fullness really is all about God. The Lord’s prayer starts with an invitiation to relationship that could be formal but it ends in intimacy. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “human beings’ chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
For Yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, Amen.