I've been preaching through The Lord's Prayer lately, and I'm to the part where Jesus tells his disciples to pray, "Thy Kingdom come." That's a HUGE prayer. Most of the time we pray things like, "God, please help me stay calm with my children", or "Help me do the right thing when the annoying person in my life starts to grate on my nerves." Those situations are certainly prayer worthy, but Jesus, in a strikingly simple phrase, tells his disciples to leave the small stuff at the door and ask for the biggest, hairyest, most audacious request in the universe. And just think about the way He told them to pray.
He didn't say, "When you pray, say this: 'Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. Please come and get us and take us to your far away kingdom.'" Nope, He said, "Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come." We could properly translate it "Come, Your kingdom." It literally means, "God, I want you to bring your kingdom to me. I want the purpose, meaning and goal of history to be a reality in the here and now." We have the tendency of thinking that God wants to establish His kingdom somewhere else, but, according to the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, He wants His kingdom to come... Here.
So what does that look like, and how does it play out in our lives? Well, I think there are two aspects to this phrase that must be identified. First of all, I believe this phrase has tremendous future implications. One day in the future, God will fully establish a kingdom on earth, and it will be awesome! I can't wait!! As Frederick Beuchner writes, "The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.” I know I am! I am longing for the future kingdom of God, where all things will be made new, and the lion and the lamb will peacefully coexist.
But the second aspect of this phrase pertains to the present, and that's the sense, it seems to me, in which Jesus is instructing his disciples to pray. If he were instructing them in the future sense of the kingdom, he would have told them to pray, "Take us to Thy kingdom." Instead, he is teaching them (and us) that the present sense of the kingdom is to become a reality in us. The kingdom is to "come". A future kingdom will one day be established, but in the meantime, God is establishing a present kingdom in the hearts of his people. N.T. Wright summarizes this beautifully when he writes:
“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. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”
So, the next time you pray, "Thy Kingdom come", don't glaze over and lose yourself in pie in the sky dreams of heaven. Instead, know that when you utter that phrase you are literally asking God to build His kingdom in you. You are not sitting in a bubble bath exhaustedly proclaiming, "Calgon, take me away!" You are conversely going on the offensive as a freedom fighter against the vile aspects of the kingdom of darkness. You are proclaiming, "Come, kingdom of God, in every aspect of my life so that as I live out my kingdom citizenry, the goodness of God might shine bright in a dark world."
Now, that's a BIG prayer!
You can listen to Part 1 of my sermon on "Thy Kingdom Come" by clicking here.