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This idea is further explained in several of the later books of the New Testament. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” But two chapters later, James refines the type of wisdom that one should be seeking when approaching God, stating that “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”vii When asking for wisdom from God, one is not expecting to receive the wisdom that allows for savvy stock market investment choices or seamless social navigation. Rather, the kind of wisdom that God offers is that which is intended to make one more like him, which equips one to help further the Kingdom of God. As a result of a strengthening relationship with God, the believer becomes both more prepared for and more desiring of the Christian mission to further the Kingdom of God on earth. We learn that this pursuit of the Kingdom is the primary purpose of prayer in Jesus’ most important lesson on the subject: The Lord’s Prayer. Even those who have never spent a second of their lives within the four walls of a church are at least familiar with this meditation, and others can even recite it from memory. In Matthew 6, Jesus gives his disciples the following prayer: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.viii

Right off the bat, Jesus addresses God as “our Father.” This quickly establishes that prayer is relational, personal, and even familial. Additionally, older translations of this passage, such as the King James Version quoted above, use “thy” in place of “you,” which is notable because “thy” was a much more familiar pronoun than “you,” the equivalent of “tú” rather than “usted” in Spanish. He then asks that “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This request is massive, infinitely important, and completely natural. Jesus is teaching his followers what they should yearn for above all else. Prayers should not center on personal gain, but rather on personal growth, which is the beginning of the Kingdom manifesting on earth. The request for personal internal change is vital to prayer life. More than asking for objects or rewards, prayer is about asking for gentleness, kindness, patience, and self-control while also bowing with humility to acknowledge a true lack of these qualities. Yet even this humility is impossible

to achieve without the Father’s help. In the absence of his aid, all the heart intuitively knows is how to posture without substance. It is easy to state that we need to be kinder; it is difficult to truly believe that, and it is even more difficult not to feel smugly pleased with ourselves for our incredible self-awareness.ix This spiral illustrates our intrinsic flaw and is the reason why Christianity places such an emphasis on prayer: none of us are truly self-aware. This theme is ubiquitous, running through philosophy classes, centuries of literature, and the Bible. American writers Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and their contemporaries ask what truly lies hidden within the human spirit, and all come up with approximately the same answer: nothing good.x Humans overcome one problem only to uncover another. When we stop drinking as much, we start feeling superior to those who have not. When we go out of our way to do favors for our friends, we resent that they do not do the same for us. Prayer offers us the means to become increasingly aware of our own depravity, as night after night we find ourselves continuously asking to be more this and less that. It is at this point that Christians realize how truly fortunate they are to have a God who loves them, listens to them, and wants to “give generously to all.”xi Equipped with this honest awareness of who they are and of their insurmountable distance from perfection, Christians are able to love God far more fully than they could without prayer. This is why the “thy Kingdom come” line of the Lord’s Prayer is so important and why merely requesting kindness is not enough: Christians must desire the Kingdom itself, for the Kingdom is the desire of the One they begin to love more than themselves. This is a natural extension of a developing friendship. We wish our friends well, hoping that they get into the graduate schools of their choice and finish the marathon that they are training for. If we can do anything to help, we willingly offer our support, bringing them coffee in the library while they work on their applications and coming out to the race to cheer for them. When they open the acceptance letter or cross the finish line, we are genuinely happy for them; their accomplishments are our joy. But we would never think to claim that our coffee or cheers are the reason for their success. This is a Christian’s relationship with God; he is the star of the show, the one working on the greatest thesis ever known to man. His followers are there to do anything they can to be able to see him succeed, because his success is what they want even more than their own. After this line, Jesus does eventually get around to asking for something: “Give us this day our daily bread.”xii Notice the scale of the request, though:

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Spring 2016 • The Dartmouth Apologia •

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Apologia Spring 2016  

Volume 10, Issue 2

Apologia Spring 2016  

Volume 10, Issue 2

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