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Praying Like Jesus: Your Kingdom Come

June 22, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 11:2-4 (NRSV)

“Father, hallowed be your name.
+++Your kingdom come.
+++Give us each day our daily bread.
+++And forgive us our sins,
++++++for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
+++And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Focus

Jesus taught us to pray “thy kingdom come.” When we do this, we are asking for God to come fully in just the right time in the future and reign over all the earth. But we are also praying for God to reign right now on earth, in every life, home, family, workplace, neighborhood, church, and city. If we pray “thy kingdom come” and mean it, we are also asking God to rule more completely in our lives, using us for his royal purposes.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

Every now and then you’ll hear the phrase “kingdom come” in pop culture. The bad guys in the movies will threaten to blow the good guys to “kingdom come.” Or someone with tons of homework might say, “I’m going to be working till kingdom come.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the colloquial use of “kingdom come” goes back to the eighteenth century, where the phrase referred to the afterlife, either Heaven or Hell. It could also signify a time far out in the future, which explains the “till kingdom come” usage. What is the origin of the phrase “kingdom come”? According to the OED, it derives from the Lord’s Prayer, from the line, “thy kingdom come.”

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray “thy kingdom come,” was he also thinking about the afterlife, about Heaven, in particular? Or was Jesus referring to a time in the distant future? And if either of these are true, what sense does it make to pray for the kingdom to come, rather than for us to go to the kingdom, either in the sky or in the future? How could the kingdom of God come now?

As you might imagine, the answers to these questions could require far more words than would fit in this devotion. In fact, I’ve written a concise but comprehensive article on this very subject, which you can read on the De Pree Center website: Jesus and the Kingdom of God: What You Need to Know. I’ll try to summarize the main points here.

Whenever you read the phrase “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” in the Gospels, you’d do well to replace the word “kingdom” with the words “reign” or “rule.” When Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God, he was not referring to the place where God is king so much as the actual reign, rule, or authority of God. Wherever and whenever God is exercising his sovereignty, that’s the kingdom of God. So, though the reign of God is closely related to the church, it’s not the same as the church. And though the reign of God exists in Heaven, it is not limited to Heaven. That’s why Jesus can teach us to pray, “thy kingdom come.” We are asking for God to rule now, on earth, in our lives, in our churches, in our cities, and throughout the world.

Now, to be sure, the kingdom of God has a future dimension. Jesus knew that at some time in the future God would fully restore heaven and earth, setting all things free from the bondage of sin, and ruling unopposed over all creation. Thus, Jesus often talked about the coming of the kingdom as something in the future. So, for example, at the Last Supper Jesus said, “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

Yet Jesus also talked about the kingdom of God as something rapidly approaching or even currently present. So, for example, he proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1:15). And he also said, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (Matt 12:28).

Theologians use the phrase “Already and not yet” to talk about the way in which the reign of God is something out there in the future and right here in the present. In particular, when Jesus was doing his messianic work, God was reigning in and through him. Those in his presence were experiencing first-hand the kingdom of God. Thus, he could say to the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:20-21). The kingdom of God was among the Pharisees because they were in the presence of Jesus, hearing the good news of the kingdom and observing the power of the kingdom in the miraculous works of Jesus.

So then, what does it mean for us to pray “thy kingdom come”? Yes, we are asking for the future reign of God to come to earth, to transform all things, to bring healing, justice, and multifaceted peace. But we are also asking God to reign right now, in our personal lives, families, workplaces, neighborhoods, businesses, churches, cities, and throughout the world. In Matthew’s longer version of Jesus’s prayer, we ask “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth it is in heaven.” We could add, “thy kingdom come now and in this place; thy will be done right here in every dimension of earthly life, as it is in heaven.”

Though praying for the coming of God’s kingdom has to do with the whole cosmos, it is a request that has a very personal dimension. If I pray “thy kingdom come” and really mean it, then, among other things, I am asking God to reign fully in my life today. I am submitting to God’s kingly rule. I am pledging myself to God’s purposes and glory. I am saying, in effect, “Let me be about your business today, my King. May I live today fully for the praise of your glory.”

Reflect

Before you read today’s devotion, what was your sense of the meaning of the phrase, “thy kingdom come”?

Given that the kingdom of God has both future and present dimensions, how do you make sense of this? Can you think of other situations in life that have an “already and not yet” reality? (I offer some options in my article, Jesus and the Kingdom of God: What You Need to Know, in case you’re interested.)

In what ways is God ruling over your life right now? Are there areas of your life that you have yet to surrender to his reign?

If God were to be reigning in and through you each day, in your ordinary actions, what difference might this make?

Act

Be intentional about offering yourself as God’s subject when you pray “thy kingdom come.” Make yourself available to God and his will for you today.

Pray

Father, hallowed be your name.
+++Your kingdom come.
+++Give us each day our daily bread.
+++And forgive us our sins,
++++++for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
+++And do not bring us to the time of trial. Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Kingdom of Heaven Has Come Near (Matthew)


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