This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ [Matthew 6:9-10 (NIV)]
Remember that the same Christ who tells us to say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” had first given us this petition, “Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” Let not your prayers be all concerning your own sins, your own wants, your own imperfections, your own trials, but let them climb the starry ladder, and get up to Christ Himself, and then, as you draw nigh to the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, offer this prayer continually, “Lord, extend the kingdom of Thy dear Son.” [Charles Spurgeon]
In Matthew 6, we find Jesus teaching us how to pray. There couldn’t be a better teacher—this is God giving us a guideline for how to talk with Him! Even so, it wasn’t until I read these words by Charles Spurgeon that I truly gave serious thought to the second petition in what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Specifically, what does “Your kingdom come” really mean? The Kingdom of God is referred to over seventy times in just the New Testament and, since it immediately follows praising God’s name on Jesus’ prayer list, it must be rather important.
Jesus’ life, death and resurrection opened the doors to God’s Kingdom. Yet, it is only when Jesus comes again at the end of the age that God’s Kingdom will reign with power and authority. While our petition for His coming kingdom is for Christ’s return in the near future, it is much more than that. It is a petition for evangelism and the winning of souls right now. We pray that the gospel message will be preached to and accepted by all. We pray that the whole world will be made Christ’s Kingdom and filled with His glory. Although God’s Kingdom will not reign until the second coming of Christ, we can experience His kingdom in some way when we ask God to rule our own lives. That leads to the “Your will be done” part when we ask God to lead us into obedience and enable us to do what is pleasing to Him.
After reading Spurgeon’s words, I recognized I have never given that first sentence of the Lord’s Prayer the thought it deserves. Although my lips spoke the words, I barely understood them. In my own prayers, I haven’t prayed for the coming of God’s Kingdom when Jesus will return as the conquering King. Although I pray for pastors, missions and missionaries, the expansion of God’s Kingdom here and now has never been on the top of my prayer list. I tend to quickly move from praise and thanks into the sort of petitions found later in the Lord’s Prayer—necessities, forgiveness, and deliverance from evil. If the coming of His Kingdom is God’s priority, perhaps it should be ours as well. Moreover, perhaps we should prove the truth of our prayers by putting our words into Kingdom-promoting action.
We therefore pray that God would exert his power, both by the Word and by the Spirit, that the whole world may willingly submit to him. [John Calvin]