"Thy Kingdom Come"
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Introduction: Astronaut James Erwin is one of but a few men to walk on the moon. As he stood upon the lunar landscape and looked up at the earth, he prayed for the first time in his life. He thought about the strife among nations, poverty, hunger, and rampant evil; and he thought to himself: "What is more important than man walking on the moon is that God should walk on earth." This is the desire we express when we pray, "Thy Kingdom come."
The King and His present-and-future Kingdom
The prophet Isaiah offers a wealth of prophecy about the coming Messiah-He reveals that one day God’s Son will establish His 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 Messiah will establish His authority. The title Messiah means "anointed one." We inaugurate Presidents; we anoint Kings.
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.
Pilate asked Jesus what kind of king He was; Jesus didn’t fit Pilate’s perception; He didn’t conform to the popular notion of a political ruler. Jesus responded, saying, "My Kingdom is not of this world." He 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 had come-it is here. When we pray "Thy Kingdom come" we are asking God to advance and expand that Kingdom in the hearts of people, and we are anticipating the day when that Kingdom literally comes when Jesus returns. It is a Kingdom that is both present and future-it is here and now, and will one day come in fullness.
This second petition of the Lord’s prayer is a multi-faceted request…
"Thy Kingdom come" is an evangelistic prayer. We are part of the answer to this, our own prayer. For we have a role in bringing God’s Kingdom to completeness. "Thy Kingdom come" is a call for God to increase His Kingdom, to convert the hearts of unbelievers, to draw people to a saving knowledge of Christ. We need to pray for revival. Many years ago New England was the scene of the Great Awakening, a time of tremendously effectual evangelism as the Holy Spirit moved throughout this area with great power. We are seeking missionary achievement at home and abroad. God can answer this prayer through us-we can be the means for bringing people into His Kingdom as we share the Good News that Jesus saves.
"Thy Kingdom come" is an ethical prayer. When John the Baptist announced that "the Kingdom of God was at hand" he called people to repent. If we want to see God’s Kingdom evident in our lives, then we will want to live accordingly. We are confronted with a choice-to live according to Christian virtue or to follow the values of our culture. Paul describes "the Kingdom of God…as righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." By asking for the Kingdom, we’re asking God to make us holy. If the Kingdom is within us, this means we’re children of the King. We can’t pray "Thy Kingdom come" if we’re living like orphans. We can’t honestly pray for His rule over others unless want Him to rule us. "Thy Kingdom come" means we are under the Lordship of Christ.
"Thy Kingdom come" is a prophetic prayer. Believers see farther on their knees than philosophers on their tiptoes. History is headed to a climax, a Kingdom-conclusion. We place our trust in divine providence. One day Jesus will return. No one knows exactly how or when this will play out-much has been written about Biblical prophecy and the Second Coming. Good Christians differ on how things may unfold. One thing we can know for sure-God is in control of history. In the meantime, we’re to be watchful and spiritually prepared, and occupied with fulfilling the Great Commission to disciple all nations. This petition is much like the final, concluding words of the Bible: "Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).
"Thy Kingdom come" is a protest prayer. 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.
"Thy Kingdom come" is also a warfare prayer, a battle cry. How come everyone is not bowing before the hallowed Name of God? Because there is another kingdom, the kingdom of darkness. People are enticed and enslaved by sin-this is the very essence of the human predicament. Our desire as Christians is for God to be honored and revered, but we realize that there is enemy opposition to God’s Kingdom. We are engaged in spiritual warfare and we’re praying for victory. Are we prayer warriors? Paul writes, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm" (Ephesians 6:12). God’s wrath is certain and His Truth is marching on!
"Thy Kingdom come" is a submissive prayer. The function of prayer is not to inform God of our plans but to call on Him to fulfil His plans-it’s not "my kingdom come." Some people are involved in personal "kingdom building." Proper prayer is that God’s kingdom be extended. How concerned are we with God’s plans? How concerned are we with the rule of God in our lives? Have we surrendered our plans and priorities to God? Are we trusting Him with our plans, or are we more concerned that God’s plans might interfere with ours? Jesus tells us to "seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness" (Mt 6:33).
"Thy Kingdom come" is a comforting prayer. 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). God will also protect His people; in Jeremiah God promises, "I will defend your cause" (51:36). When this Kingdom comes in its fullness we will be freed from all suffering and sorrow.
"Thy Kingdom come" is a unifying prayer. There are not many Kingdoms of God, only one. And all who trust in the Lord are one-there is not a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic or Congregational Kingdom. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. In this prayer we hope for the day when all divisions will be done away with, and we will all be members of this one Kingdom, praising God together. We anticipate this with confidence; in spite of divisions within the Church we are encouraged, knowing that believers from all churches are praying this prayer.
"Thy Kingdom come" is an identifying prayer. As Christians, we hold dual citizenship. Paul states, "our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil 3:20). We are governed by human law, but also by Biblical truth. We are loyal to our nation, but we recognize that we belong to God’s Kingdom. Nations may rise and fall, but we are part of a holy, perfect Kingdom that will last forever, Whose Architect is the Lord God Almighty. We have an inheritance secured for us by the sacrifice of Christ. Paul explains that God "has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col. 1:13-14). When we pray "Thy Kingdom come" we identify ourselves as subjects of the King of kings.
"Thy Kingdom come" is a realistic prayer. Some people view faith and prayer as some sort of emotional escape from reality. Karl Marx called religion the "opiate of the masses". Yet when we pray, it is not to escape reality, but to find it. The problem is, what we see around us is not true reality. We are journeying to the Kingdom, our true home, and this world is but a shadow of the reality that awaits us. Faith is not a leap into the dark, but a leap into the light. We belong to God’s Kingdom, not the "shadowlands" of this world. Gordon Hugenberger (of Park St Church, Boston) calls this petition a "request for eternity to break into the present."
Conclusion: We obtain this Kingdom by trusting Christ as our King, by receiving Him as our Lord. Then whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer we indicate our desire for the dominion of God and the success of the Gospel. We have a Kingdom worth praying for! One day, yet future, the forces of evil will be finally routed by the host of heaven. In the meantime, we pray, "Thy Kingdom come."