When asked by his disciples how to pray, Jesus taught them a model prayer: Our Father in the heavens. Hallowed by your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven... But what does it actually mean for us to pray for God’s kingdom to come?
Last week, we discovered that the good news Jesus preached was bigger than simply “how to get into heaven when you die.” His news was that God’s kingdom is near.
One’s kingdom is the range within which what one wants or says goes. In God’s kingdom, everything exists in absolute harmony with what God wants. Made in God’s, we were made to have dominion over God’s creation. But we were also made to live as kings who are subject to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Sin means that we don’t want to bow to God, leaving us as enemies of God’s kingdom. But without God, things just don’t work out. It’s like trying to run the photosynthesis of the planet off a 12volt battery. My kingdom inevitably crumbles – perhaps spectacularly, perhaps with a whimper as death mockingly withdraws any illusion of control I might think I have.
Into this world of rebel kingdoms, God sent his Son. He came to announce that God’s kingdom – which he had never abdicated from! – was near, was open. He came to offer us entry back into the kingdom of God even now. By his death and his resurrection our rebellion is forgiven. But the kingdom he offers is more than a “pre-paid funeral” scheme. Jesus invites us into the kingdom of God – the life of God! – here and now.
So what does it mean to pray for God’s kingdom to come? The Contemporary English Version of the Lord’s prayer is quite helpful. It says, Come and set up your kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven. To ask God to make his kingdom come is to ask that this world in which we find ourselves – including our lives – will return to operating according to God’s wishes.
Last week, we finished with Jesus’ instruction to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Jesus said that if we did that, we wouldn’t have to worry – that God would take care of all of our needs. But what does it mean?
To seek God’s kingdom first is to pray the start of the Lord’s prayer and actually mean it! Not just in terms of assent, but deep down. So often, if we’re honest, we harbour enclaves where we reject God’s will for our sinful will.
We need to understand that the kingdom we are seeking wants to be found. In fact, the King comes seeking us. He comes offering us life to the full. He comes to call us. If God didn’t want to be found, there is no way that we could ever find him! We’d have hints from creation that he was there (Romans 1), but wouldn’t ever be able to know God as a person, or his character, or his love for us – nor how that shapes his will and reign.
The other day, some friends recommended a couple of shows they thought Taryn and I should watch on Netflix. But they didn’t just say, “watch this”. We spent a long time talking about why they loved those shows so much. They wanted to motivate us that watching the shows would be a good thing to do.
In the same way, if we are to seek God’s kingdom, we need to understand why it’s worth seeking. And to understand that, we need to understand who God is. We need to focus our attention, our gaze, our time, our energy on getting to know God. And he wants to be known. He has never abandoned creation. Ultimately, God sent Jesus to us, while we were still sinners. Seeking his kingdom means, necessarily, seeking Jesus – God’s King. In Jesus, we most clearly see who God is, and why we would ever want to seek his kingdom. Not only does he introduce us to the King who’s will it is we are to seek, he also shows us in his actions what that will looks like in practice. (The whole Bible, in fact, does this). The question is this: is the life that Jesus lived – the joy and love and passion that he showed, his heart for the broken – is this something intoxicating? We will never seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness first if we don’t first fall in love with Jesus – with God. We’ll never seek it if our hearts don’t yearn even a little bit for something of what Jesus shows and promises.
Seeking God’s kingdom starts with a growing vision of God. Oh, may we be ever wanting to know God better. But may we also go further. May we choose to live as if God is king. One of those shows our friends tried to encourage to watch. I don’t really want to watch it. I have no intent. I might understand how brilliant it is – but without an intent to actually switch it on, I never will watch it. We need to have the intention to trust Jesus – to trust God – with the moment-to-moment bits of our lives. To seek the kingdom first is to live like Jesus – trusting that God is for us at every moment. It’s deciding to do what he says. It’s deciding to follow him.
May a desire to seek God’s kingdom grow in us. May we choose, intend, to live according to the King’s wishes moment by moment. Do we do that perfectly? By no means, yet. Sin lurks in our bodies, in our minds, and in our wills. But God gives us the capacity to choose to want him. In fact, he is at work in us to will and to act according to his purposes. (Phil 2:13) But he does give us means by which we can seek to align our wills with his. What are some of the means by which we can become people who increasingly naturally seek the kingdom of God first?