Your Kingdom Come
When Jesus gave his model prayer (Matt 6:9-13; Lk 11:2-4), he taught his disciples to ask that God’s kingdom would come. Just a few sentences later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33). Clearly, the kingdom of God is of utmost importance for the Christian. It should orient our daily lives. And praying for its coming every morning is an excellent way to be shaped by the priority of God’s kingdom.
But what are we really praying for when we pray “your kingdom come”? What does that mean? What would it look like for God’s kingdom to “come” today?
The Accomplishment of God’s Will
Our current series on the kingdom of God has hopefully shed some light on this question. We understand that God’s kingdom is not entirely future so that the request ought not be merely a prayer for the second coming of Jesus. Jesus has already come, and as the king of the kingdom of God, he has already inaugurated the kingdom of God on earth in his first coming (Matt 4:23-24). Because he is not dead but rather lives as the resurrected and exalted Lord, it would be a mistake to think that the kingdom he came to establish has been defeated and awaits his second coming. Thus, we should expect to see God’s kingdom come not only when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom, in a very real sense, has already come!
So what, then, are we asking when we ask for God’s kingdom to come? Matthew’s account of the Lord’s prayer points the way when he follows this petition with the request that God’s “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are praying for God’s will to be done. And this is something we can not only ask for, but also expect to be answered day by day. In our church catechism (Q67), we find a three-fold way to pray for God’s kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done.
The Destruction of Satan’s Kingdom
First, “we ask that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed.” Because God’s kingdom has come, we should pray for this expectantly. The Gospels make clear that the coming of Jesus and the inauguration of his kingdom meant that Satan was stripped of his power; this is one of the primary implications of God’s kingdom being established already on earth. “The reason the Son of God appeared,” writes John, “was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8). Hebrews 2:14 says that “through death” Jesus destroyed “the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” Through Christ, “we are more than conquerors” (Rom 8:37), and we should pray every day for God to tear down the expressions of Satan’s kingdom that we will inevitably confront.
The Advancement of Grace
Second, in praying for God’s kingdom to come, we ask “that the kingdom of grace” would advance “with ourselves and others brought into it.” Disciples of Jesus understand that though we’ve been made citizens of God’s kingdom already by the grace of justification, we are also being made fit for that kingdom (Lk 9:62) by the same saving grace of sanctification. So with the day set before us, we can pray for God’s kingdom to come and expect that God will, by grace, bring us more and more into conformity to the image of Christ himself. Here we might also pray for others, believers and non-believers alike, to be won to God and his grace in Christ.
The Glory of the Kingdom
Finally, when we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom, it is right for us to pray “that the kingdom of glory may come quickly.” Indeed our “blessed hope,” says Paul, is “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit 2:13). Christians sometimes lose sight of what ought to be our greatest desire of all, to see the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covering the earth like the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14). We are not there yet, but one day we will be. One day “this Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11), and that is a day every Christian ought to be looking forward to.
It is right for us to look forward to the return of Christ, to pray that he will return soon. That is surely part of what we mean when we pray for God’s kingdom to come. We cannot know how wonderful that day will be for those who love his appearing (1 Cor 2:9), so we pray that we might find out soon enough.
But at the same time, recognizing that God’s kingdom is already present, we must not lose our sense of expectation for how God’s kingdom might “come” in the various activities and interactions we experience day by day. As Gerald Bray writes in The Kingdom of God (p. 216), we must not lose our sense that the kingdom of God is “above and beyond us and that we have not yet begun to know it as it really is.”
We won’t know it fully until Christ comes again. But because he has already come, and because his kingdom is already here, Christians have the great privilege of praying for and expecting more evidences of God’s kingdom coming in the ordinary activities of their daily lives.