Praying the Saviour's Way (III)
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by Timothy Cross
Thy kingdom come (Matthew 6:10).
In Psalm 103:19 we read ‘The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.’ The absolute sovereignty of God – that is, His divine rule over and sovereign superintendence of all things – is a basic, biblical fundamental. God’s absolute kingship is part of His very God-ness. This being so, why does the Saviour instruct His disciples to pray to God ‘Thy kingdom come’? The answer to this question may be gained from the exact nature of the kingdom to which the Saviour was referring here.
The Present Kingdom of Grace
A kingdom is a sphere in which a particular people are ruled by a particular king. In this second petition of the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, the Lord Jesus is referring to God’s kingdom of grace in both its present and future facets. God’s kingdom of grace is constituted of the redeemed. Christians have been subdued by God’s saving power and gladly love and obey God in return. Christians – in distinction from others – are members of God’s kingdom. They are His divine subjects and recipients of His sovereign, saving goodness.
We enter God’s kingdom of grace when we are born again by God’s Spirit. The indispensability of this divine regeneration may be gleaned from the Saviour’s statement to Nicodemus: ‘Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born anew (from above), he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3). Sadly, before the moment of our new birth, we are actually the subjects of Satan – even if we did not know or admit it. Salvation entails a transfer of allegiance and a change of kingdom, all effected by God’s grace and the working of His Holy Spirit. Hence Paul could explain to the Colossian Christian that God the Father ‘has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son’ (Colossians 1:13).
So when the Saviour instructed us to pray to God ‘Thy kingdom come’, He was encouraging us to pray for the proclamation of the gospel – that God would, through this means, draw in His elect, extend His kingdom of grace and build the church of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth. When we pray that God would prosper the preaching of the gospel therefore – whether through the local church, open air mission, Christian radio or overseas missionary endeavour – we can safely say that we are praying the way the Saviour would have us pray. The gospel is ‘the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith’ (Romans 1:16). Hence Paul’s request to the Thessalonians ‘Brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you’ (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
The Promised Kingdom of Glory
The Bible envisages a time when the prayer ‘Thy kingdom come’ will be answered fully. God’s kingdom of grace has both a present and a promised aspect to it. His kingdom will come in all its power and fullness when Christ comes again in glory. The salvation which Christians presently – but imperfectly – enjoy will then be fully consummated, and the cry will go out ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever’ (Revelation 11:15). Those who believe in Jesus now will dwell in His eternal kingdom of glory one day. Christians are promised new bodies to inhabit a renewed earth, in which every last trace of the fall into sin will have been eradicated. ‘According to His promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’ (2 Peter 3:13). This kingdom will be glorious because the Lord Jesus will reign over it fully, and it will contain no dissenting citizens or rebellious subjects. Satan will not be able to harass us there, as he will have been consigned to the eternal flames. Being fully delivered from both sin within and the dangerous consequences of sin without, we will be able to serve God as we ought, unhindered and un-handicapped from all that prevents our doing so in the present. Our fellowship with God will be greater than we have ever known, and we will be able to fulfil finally our chief end of glorifying God and enjoying Him for ever. When we pray ‘Thy kingdom come’ therefore, we are praying with great anticipation and expectation – ‘earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God’ (2 Peter 3:12). We are praying that God would hasten the coming of His kingdom in all its fullness, when His eternal purposes of grace and glory will be fully and finally complete.
With the coming of the glorious kingdom of heaven in mind, we can understand how the cry of Christians throughout the ages has always been ‘Maranatha. Our Lord come!’ (1 Corinthians 16:22). The penultimate verse of the whole Bible closes with the cry: ‘Amen. Come Lord Jesus!’ (Revelation 22:20). For when Christ comes again, the prayer ‘Thy kingdom come’ will be answered fully, and the petition made blessedly redundant.
So the Saviour exhorts us to pray ‘Thy kingdom come.’ In summary:-
In the second petition (which is Thy kingdom come) we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it and kept in it; and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened (Shorter Catechism).