How do we pray?
We pray “Let your kingdom come!”
When Pilate quizzed Jesus about it, Jesus replied: “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it was, my servants would fight...” It’s an important point. “We do not wage war as this world does.” And every time you hear of Christians seeking political control or demanding guns to defend their country, you are witnessing a misinterpretation of this verse.
Isaiah offered a wealth of description about the coming Messianic kingdom: “The government will rest on His shoulders…His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this!” (9:6-7).
The word “kingdom” in the original language means “rule” or “reign”. God’s Kingdom is unique-it is not a human kingdom. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall, but the reign of God will prevail and last forever. God’s program involves the rule of righteousness.
Jesus told His followers, “the Kingdom of God is within you.” In a spiritual sense, we are living now in the Kingdom. Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries announcing that the Kingdom of God was “at hand.”
It is right here, right now, where Jesus rules.
So why pray that it comes? We are praying that that rule increase and spread, and also we are anticipating the Wrap-up of History when Jesus calls Time.
In that sense, as scholars put it: the Kingdom is both “already but not yet.”
And we pray in both perspectives. We pray for “the increase of God’s government” in the present by calling God to bring revival and change the hearts of unbelievers. And this in its turn becomes a demand for ethical living on a national, even global scale. How long must we tolerate economic disparity, social injustice and political corruption? Lord, let your kingdom come!
Three words come to mind, as we consider the familiar phrase (though much more could be said). The words are confrontational, prophetic and peacable.
“Let your kingdom come!” is deeply confrontational. We are praying towards a confrontation of two ways of living at odds with each other. We are opposing every worldview that is contrary to God. Prayer is political action and social energy. David Wells of Gordon-Conwell Seminary calls this kind of prayer a “refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal.” We see this kind of prayer in what’s called the imprecatory psalms, protest songs and prayers that complain about the evil corruption in the world. God welcomes our complaints. Why don’t we pray more? We’re not angry enough. God wants us to process our strong feelings about life through prayer.
Second, the request is prophetic. Thats is to say, it considers the world and the time we live in according to the pattern of God’s thinking. History is headed to a climax, a Kingdom-conclusion. How that happens is somewhat debatable (!) but one thing we can know for sure is that God is in control of history.
Our task is to wait, watch and to witness. In this sense, our phrase “Let your kingdom come” is much like the final, concluding words of the Bible: “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
Third, “Thy Kingdom come” is a peaceable prayer. Despite this deep sense of confrontation with a prevailing cultural worldview,and despite the prophetic insight that God will have his way, the prayer is a prayer for peace.
God’s kingdom is a kingdom of peace, for there is no fear or threat in it. Anxiety should be a reminder for us to pray, to “cast our cares” on God. When we realize that our sovereign King has things in control, that life has a purpose, that there is a Kingdom apart from our secular culture, we breathe a sigh of relief. Life may seem chaotic, unpredictable, and harsh, but we belong to a Kingdom that will overcome the world. In Isaiah we’re assured, “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (11:9).
In Tom Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, the resurrection of Jesus is the key starting point for understanding for the prayer for the coming of the kingdom. The whole book is worth checking out, but here’s a clip:
“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”
Lord, let your kingdom come! Colonize earth with the life ofheaven! I like that! He goes on:
“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are [just] part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”
Even so, come Lord Jesus.