God has instructed His people to pray for many reasons. The most common reason that people pray is to present their requests to God. The biggest collection of prayers in the Scriptures—The Psalms—however, have requests that don’t precisely correspond to those of modern Christianity.
Instead of prayers for the alleviation of sickness of a family member, the Psalmist often prays for alleviation of injustice. Instead of prayers for good jobs in a thriving economy the Psalmist is given to longing for righteousness and equity to prevail. Instead of prayers asking God for blessings upon a personal project, the Psalmist desires that all the nations behold the glory of God.
To what can these differences be attributed? Didn’t the Psalmist care about a sick relative? Didn’t he have people in his midst who didn’t have good jobs? Isn’t there a personal project of the Psalmist that was not going well? The Psalmist had all of these issues just like the rest of humanity. However, all of these issues are just symptomatic of the larger issue of a creation subjected to the destructive reign of the kingdom of man and not the Kingdom of God. The Psalmist is longing for God’s righteous rule upon the earth. Remember Jesus’ words, “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”
The prayer to have God’s “will be done on earth” means that God’s will is not performed by mankind routinely. When God’s righteous will is rebelled against by man, then each of us faces the disoriented realization of this world being profoundly broken.
Many of the Psalmist’s prayers reflect this “disorientation” experienced when the world seems inverted—when righteousness is absent and wickedness is flourishing, when the kingdom of wicked men seems to be taking root and God’s rule seems to be withering.
The book of Psalms is largely given to King David’s psalms/prayers. God had promised David that he would be God’s chosen king over God’s kingdom (see Psalm 2) and all the nations would submit to God’s “son,” “anointed one,” “king”—i.e. David (yes a foreshadowing of Christ). But the subsequent Psalm (3) shows David on the run from his adversaries — not as a victorious reigning king. David finds himself having to fight for perspective since God’s promises did not happen in the exact way that David thought they should. David had to undergo a time of suffering and humiliation before his exaltation/vindication and before God’s rule was to be established.
David’s prayers were his own moment by moment striving to submit himself to God’s plan to allow the righteous to suffer for a season and the wicked to prosper for a season, until God would act to show everything for what it really was— the righteous purified through their suffering, confirmed in their righteousness and vindicated in front of all, the wicked allowed to run in their way until it implodes for all to see, and God shown to be the ultimate Sovereign King in history ruling over all.
Thus, for the servant of God, we ask God to teach us to pray amidst the disorientations of this world: “’Thy will be done,’ but soon, God, ‘Thy kingdom come so that thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’”