These posts are summaries of the messages on Sunday and are put here mainly for the benefit of our regulars who either missed the service, or would appreciate the chance to review the big ideas.
'When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come..." '
Nothing is more important for your part in advancing the kingdom than that you learn how to pray this prayer. Why? Because prayer comes first. We co-labour with God by prayer. This is clear from Paul’s prayer life: Romans 1.9-10, Ephesians 1.15-16, Colossians 1.9, 2 Thessalonians 1.11, 2 Timothy 1.3.
If we are to be those ‘forceful men’ Jesus spoke of who advance the kingdom by force (Matthew 11.12), then there is nothing more important than learning how to pray ‘Your kingdom come’.
What are we praying for?
We’re essentially praying for three things when we pray ‘Your kingdom come’.
First, we’re praying for God to act in blessing and judging; blessing God’s people and destroying sin and sinners. This kind of language grates against modern ears, but since a king’s job is to ensure justice in his kingdom by rewarding the good and punishing the bad (Romans 13.3-4) then it follows that that is also how God rules his kingdom. The positive side of this is a prayer for God to empower his people with a greater measure of his Spirit, since we are God’s agents or ambassadors on earth. The negative side of this is that God should further justice on the earth by chasing out the darkness.
Second, we’re praying for God to move on a personal and a cosmic level. To pray ‘Your kingdom come’ is to pray first and foremost for yourself, that you would live as an expression of God’s kingdom rule. You’re praying for God to fill you and kill you: fill you with his Spirit and kill your flesh as you learn deeper submission to him. But then the scope of the prayer is truly cosmic; you are praying for the world. It seems to me, though, that praying for the world becomes easier when our hearts are moved to deeper holiness.
Third, we’re praying for the present and the future. We live in the overlap of different ages. Like two tectonic plates sliding in overlapping friction, the old world is slowly and imperceptibly, yet most certainly giving way to the new world as Christ’s kingdom grows. While this is mostly a discreet process (like the leaven in the batch of dough) it is also sometimes violent and dramatic as revival or persecution break out like earthquakes marking the collision of the two ages. And so, as we pray ‘Your kingdom come’, we keep one eye on the present and one on the future. We know that right now Christ is continually coming as 2000 years of his power show. But we also keep one eye on the future and pray for his kingdom to come in fullness, when he returns in the final overthrow.
How can we pray such a prayer?
This is not an easy prayer to pray because our hearts are rarely engaged with God’s plans in a way that matches the scale, beauty, and power of them. Most of the time I’m concerned with relatively small and petty things and my heart is too shrunken to fully comprehend a prayer like this. It seems to me that we need three things in order to pray this way.
First, we need a desire for God’s rule and reign to be extended. Do you want God to rule in your own heart? It is deeply hypocritical to pray for his kingdom to come while we nurture sin. Do you want God to rule in the world? Do you desire heaven? Do you love God’s ways? This is a ‘renewal of the mind’ sort of thing.
Second, we need a belief that it’s God’s purpose to bring his kingdom. You can’t pray this if you’re a pessimist about the future of the world. There is a Biblical optimism and hope that ought to be foundational to our understanding of the world and of the future, and that ought to fuel our prayers. We actually believe with confidence that God is going to do this. I get this optimism from passages like Isaiah 2 and Revelation 19.
Third, we need faith that our prayers make a difference. If you think you’re too small to contribute (in prayer) to the coming of Christ’s kingdom on earth then you won’t pray. This prayer has the biggest scope of all the phrases in the Lord’s Prayer; it requires the deepest faith that prayer works! And so, in order to pray such an enormous prayer you need a Biblical understanding of the power of prayer. In the Bible we see that the course of cities and nations can be altered by one man’s intercession. We see this with the prayers of Abraham and Moses. But you might think ‘they’re special’. But James takes care to point out that our prayers can work in the same way that Elijah’s did because he was a man ‘just like us’ (James 5.16-18). The same is true of every man (but Jesus) in the Bible; their prayers worked by the same faith ours do.
This is your greatest work as a Christian, to pray this prayer. And pray it you must.