We should never struggle with prayer. I make this statement with such confidence because Jesus taught us exactly how to pray. In fact, he gave us the actual words to say. There may be no more clear direction in all of Jesus’ teachings than his instructions on how to pray.
This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’ -Matthew 6:9-13
Given the gift of this prayer, we would do well to pay heed to every word. Today I want to focus on the second petition, ‘your kingdom come.’ Jesus is directing us to pray to the Father with a plea that his kingdom would come. Yet Jesus came proclaiming that the kingdom of God had already come. Consider just a few examples of this major New Testament theme.
- But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Matthew 12:28
- ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’ Mark 1:15
- Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ Luke 10:9
- ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ Luke 10:11
- But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Luke 11:20
If the kingdom of God has already come, even in its provisional form – the now and the not yet – what are we praying for? I’d suggest the second petition calls us to three forms of praying for the kingdom; we are to look for it, live it and long for it. And we do this as stewards.
We steward each day that God gives us by recognizing that our earthly experience is part of God’s larger story, which is the coming of his kingdom. By proclaiming that everything in our life belongs to him, we proclaim his kingdom come. And if that is true, which it is, then we ought to look for evidence of that kingdom. If the Holy Spirit would give us eyes to see, we should expect to catch glimpses of the kingdom all around us. That is the call of the faithful steward. So I ask you, where might you see the kingdom of God revealed today? Jesus claimed that when the sick are healed, demons are cast out and ministry is commenced, we witness to the kingdom come. What would you add to that list? Acts of grace and kindness in an angry and dark culture? Generosity in a time of materialism? Peacemaking in the face of division and disunity? Sacrificial service in a narcissistic society? These and more bear witness to the coming of the kingdom of God. As kingdom people, should we not steward each day by looking for these glimpses and praising God whenever we see them?
Secondly, we live as stewards in an age of owners by asking that the Holy Spirit would continue to cultivate in us the fruit of the Spirit. We pray that through the outworking of that fruit in our lives people may see glimpses of the coming Kingdom in us. To pray ‘your kingdom come’ is to pray for the ongoing transformation of the Spirit in our lives. It is to pray that God would use us beyond our own abilities and in spite of our own sinfulness to be salt and light in the world. Salt and light are kingdom characteristics. How might God use you today to give a glimpse of his kingdom come to all of those that you encounter?
Finally, we steward these days in the hope of the coming of the final Kingdom in all its glory. We are citizens both of the provisional kingdom come, and the glorious fulfillment of the kingdom yet to come. We will walk in the new Jerusalem. We are promised a new heaven and a new earth where the lamb on the throne is at the center of all things. And that hope provides us the courage and strength to live in these provisional kingdom times. We can give ourselves fully in service to the King today, because we live in the promise and anticipation of an eternity of worship and joy in his presence in the kingdom yet to come.
My prayer is that when we pray ‘your kingdom come’, we have in mind all three of these views; looking for the kingdom in our midst and rejoicing over it, seeking to be a witness to the kingdom of God through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, and living in the certainty and hope of the coming kingdom where every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2).
Dear heavenly Father, your Kingdom come!