In the Lord’s Prayer, our Lord clearly instructs us to pray: “Thy kingdom come.” In Matthew 6:33 He also gave us the astounding instruction to prioritise the kingdom of God above all else! “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Now before we can pray for the kingdom or seek it, we need to actually know what it is. So let me ask you to pause and consider for a moment. Before we go on, why not try and give your own answer? What is the kingdom of God?
Let’s face it, the kingdom of God is not the easiest idea to define. Probably many Christians would not be able to give a clear explanation. With what space we have here in this week’s meditation, I’d like to take a moment to consider this question, and then unfold what it practically means to pray that His kingdom would come.
The word “kingdom” in the original language of Scripture has two possible meanings: (1) the act of ruling; and (2) the territory ruled by a king. I want to put to you that the first meaning is the primary way in which we should understand the kingdom of God. With that in mind, here’s my definition: The kingdom of God is Christ’s redemptive reign, increasingly realized in the lives of His people until, in the fullness of time at Christ’s return, it will cover all the earth as the waters cover the seas.
I go for the first meaning over the second, because in Scripture we see that the kingdom of God is not primarily about God ruling over a land area. In Luke 17:20-21, for example, Jesus described the kingdom as being first an inner spiritual reality of the heart. According to Mark 9:47, entering the kingdom also runs parallel with the idea of being saved – another heart- centred aspect of the kingdom. Matthew 28:18-20 gives us a crowning and definitive definition of the kingdom as well. Christ’s message was a declaration of the kingdom (Mt 3:2; 4:17), and here at the pinnacle of the gospel is the final announcement that Christ reigns. Not that He has a kingdom land area in the world, but that He reigns. The kingdom of God is Christ’s redemptive reign, increasingly realized in the lives of His disciples until at last it will cover all the earth as the waters cover the seas.
Now to say that Christ’s redemptive rule is primarily a spiritual reality is by no means to say that it doesn’t cover the physical realm. Our homes should be little kingdom realms, for example, as should our churches. Ultimately, and in the fullness of time, even the very nations themselves will come under Christ’s kingdom rule. The New Heavens and the New Earth will be the physical realm in which His reign is realized, and it will be a total reign without even a square inch of land ruled by another.
So we’ve got some basic theological groundwork as to what the kingdom is. Moving forward, we need to then think about and put into practice our own praying for the coming of the kingdom. Here are three central applications as to how we should pray that His kingdom would come:
1. We must pray fervently and regularly for the success of the gospel. The gospel is the means by which Christ brings our hearts into submission to Himself. Indeed, in Matthew 4:23 we learn that the gospel is the message whereby the kingdom is ushered in – for it is “the gospel of the kingdom.” Both Matthew 18:3-8, and John 3 show that receiving salvation is directly parallel to entering the kingdom. As we pray for the conversion of the lost, then, and as we pray for the confirmation and growth of true faith within the church, we are indeed praying that His kingdom may come. We must, therefore, regularly be at prayer for the lost, and for the confirmation of and growth in the faith among Christians. Incidentally, this prayer should be coupled with our every effort to disciple believers and the lost through the gospel, that’s what it means to seek first the kingdom. This is a topic for another time though!
2. As we pray about the various other matters in our lives, we pray for them in terms of how they can further Christ’s reign. We saw this with sickness last week, as we might pray that our sicknesses would strengthen us in faith, and provide opportunity to share our faith (for example). But this kind of approach in prayer applies to everything. As to our vocations, we might ask the Lord for wisdom and insight that we may see how better to use our gifts and vocations to further the advance and realise the kingdom. We might pray that our families would be places where Christ richly dwells among us, and therefore His kingdom rule is clearly manifested in our hearts and lives. We might pray for our parenting efforts, that our children may be raised up to be faithful citizens and servants of Christ in His kingdom. The petition that His kingdom would come is as big as our whole lives (and bigger). To use a simple metaphor, we need kingdom goggles in our eyes so that we can see and pray for everything in a kingdom perspective.
3. We can pray that God would fill our hearts with a grand vision of and love for the King in His kingdom. As we rely on God, praying that His kingdom would come, one of the most powerful pro-kingdom forces will be a sincere, deep, and powerful vision of the kingdom. And central in this vision will be the King Himself, in all His beauty (see Psalm 45). The heartbeat of personal spiritual growth and of evangelism, then, is a heart captured by the majesty of the King enthroned at the right hand of God the Father. One of the best and most important things we can pray for, then, is that God would work such a love for Christ in our hearts – by His Spirit – that we would live as flaming stars in this world for Him and His cause.
With these things in mind, let us be constantly and always at prayer, praying indeed that His kingdom would come, and knowing that in the fullness of time it surely and increasingly will.