A Dangerous Prayer
Posted by Ash Carter, 22 Mar 2018
We continue our Lent series of blogposts with the next section of the Lord's Prayer.
“Your Kingdom Come” (Matt 6:10; Luke 11:2)
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus goes on to command us to “seek first his kingdom”. As we have seen, the whole Sermon on the Mount is intended to teach us what being kingdom people means. So it should come as little surprise to us that Jesus, having rightly begun with the hallowing of God himself, should then turn his attention to what God is primarily doing in the world. He is bringing his kingdom.
A Kingdom needs a King
The word ‘kingdom’ is meaningless if there is no king. There are plenty of alternative political systems, and Jesus could have talked about God’s rule as a democracy if he had wanted to do so. But God is interested in establishing an absolute monarchy. Indeed, establishing his King in Zion is an act of aggression (Psalm 2:7). He places his King on his throne against the nations who conspire to break off God’s chains, to dismiss his rule (Psalm 2:1-3). In other words, the coming of the kingdom is going to, finally, bring an end to all rebellion, all sin.
At the same time, the King is the one through whom God has promised to fulfil all of his promises. When great King David’s greater Son arrived, he would establish a kingdom of blessing and glory forever (2 Samuel 7).
Where is the kingdom?
We might well ask where, then, is the kingdom. After all, Jesus has come as the King but the nations of the earth still stand in opposition to Christ. This should not alarm us. Jesus declared that, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Jesus came the first time, not to establish a political nation within this world, but to save a people from it for the kingdom that is to come.
In other words, the fullness of the kingdom, its greatest expression is still future, when the New Heavens and the New Earth come down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:2). We might call that the glorified kingdom, where it is seen in all its true beauty.
But the kingdom is not absent today. The kingdom of Jesus is found wherever the King is acknowledged. Wherever God turns human hearts from creaturely loves for money, sex, power, fame or any combination of these and other idols, towards the only true King, there is the kingdom found. This is not necessarily obvious to see. Two people may walk down the street side by side, one belonging to the kingdom of this world in rebellion against God, and the other in Jesus’ kingdom. We are not in the glorified kingdom yet.
Rather, wherever we find Christians, there is the kingdom of grace. It is the community of believers, the Church. It is the place where Christ rules by his Word.
What are we really praying?
When we pray those three little words, “Your kingdom come”, we are praying very great things. We are praying for extraordinary miracles.
To begin with, we are praying for conversions. We are praying that God would overrule in the hearts of rebels so that they would have a new heart, a new spirit, a new principle of life (Ezekiel 36:26-27). A new rule. That they would turn from their rebellion and come under the rule of Christ. It is the prayer that we should pray for our family, friends, neighbours and, indeed, enemies.
More than that, we are praying for global conversions. Jesus sent the Church, after all, to make disciples of all nations because Jesus is the King of all kings and the Lord of the nations (Matthew 28:18-19). It is the prayer that we should pray for our church’s mission partners, and for those parts of the world where the gospel is least known, as well as for our local mission.
Secondly, it is a prayer for the return of Christ. It is the prayer of John in Revelation 22:20, at the very end of the Bible, when Jesus tells John that he is coming soon. John replies, “Come, Lord Jesus.” The full expression of the Kingdom of Jesus, the suppression of all enmity, and the glorification of his people will not happen until Jesus returns. To pray for his kingdom to come is to pray for the end of this world.
It is a prayer according to God’s priorities. It is a prayer for the extension of the church to every part of every community around the world, as we wait with eager expectation for the final coming of the Kingdom. It is a prayer that therefore also implies our intention. To be kingdom people, under the rule of Christ, and to have his priorities, and to pray for their flourishing, is also to offer ourselves in his service. It is a dangerous prayer. To pray “Your kingdom come” is to be willing to go. It is to ask Jesus to extend his rule in the world as we offer ourselves as those who will take that saving gospel to our part of the world. Perhaps even to the furthest reaches of the world.
If we pray this seriously, we can expect God to do extraordinary things. He might even choose to do them through us.
Questions for reflection
1. What expectations do you have about how God could answer this prayer?
2. What might it mean for you to be willing to be used by God to fulfil this prayer?
3. Think of ways you can pray for God’s kingdom to come around the whole world.
Our Father in Heaven,
You have established King Jesus in the New Zion, but his rule is contested here on Earth, and many millions languish for lack of a Saviour. Please bring your Kingdom in all its fullness. We long for the end of all rebellion so turn hearts to Christ in every corner of the world, that your kingdom may be made of those from every tribe, tongue and nation. And heavenly father, I offer you my services, such as they are, that you might bless them in extending Christ’s rule.
In his name, and for your glory, Amen.
Ash Carter is the Assistant Minister at Christ Church, Earlsfield, and the Honorary Treasurer of Church Society.
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