For much of my Christian life, I failed to connect the dots. I couldn’t bridge the gap between what I knew God had done in my heart and how that truth applies to the world around me. Is following Jesus just a small, subjective feeling? Did the Spirit’s work in changing my heart mean that his work was only for my heart? These questions perplexed me for quite some time. I never received peace until I dug into the scriptures to explore the kingdom of God.
Jesus teaches us to start our prayers by remembering we belong to God’s family—the family that God has rescued and is gathering together from all nations.
Central to the gospel announcement are the words of Jesus himself: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15). Our Lord saw his vocation as Israel’s Messiah as genuinely good news—and it had everything to do with God’s Kingdom coming to bear on this earth.
The Kingdom of God
The Kingdom announcement was about God’s rule being established in time and on earth. The prophets of old had warned of this great day (e.g., Dan 7:13–14), and Jesus declared without hesitation that the day was “now.” “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt 12:28).
The ministry of Jesus consisted of both demonstration and proclamation. He showed and taught the ways of the Kingdom. He healed both external wounds and internal injuries. The Kingdom of God was an all-encompassing reality—a new world order underneath the lordship of Christ Jesus.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray for this fact to “come.” Incidentally, it was coming. Had Christ died for sinners? Not yet. Was the tomb empty? Not quite. But the Kingdom was breaking in, and the disciples were to ask God to increase the temperature.
Notwithstanding the disciples’ current struggle with unbelief, Jesus assured them that their prayers would not go unheard. If they prayed like this, then the Father would hear their cry.
Praying for the Kingdom
What does it mean for us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come? To start, we must keep in mind that prayer is God’s means. It is no accident that Jesus here taught his disciples to pray and not how to organize a three-point sermon. The preaching would come later when the Spirit would descend and give them authority and power.
What they needed now was to learn in Christ’s school of prayer. They needed communion with God. As Jesus would later pray in Gethsemane, that they also may be in us
Praying to “our Father” that the Kingdom would “come” is simply another way of communing with God underneath his sovereign authority and plan. Even though the disciples would have to walk through countless trials—including the death of their teacher—they were to stick closely to God in prayer, believing that, in doing so, the world would be changed.
This second petition covers everything from eschatology to missiology and ecclesiology to piety. I want to focus in on just three aspects of this second petition.
Three Key Elements of the Lord’s Prayer
1. We pray that sin would be eradicated.
Because “all mankind” is “under the dominion of sin and Satan,” we pray for the Kingdom of God to come and deal with the big problem of sin. Because the Kingdom was inaugurated, we must not forget how it was done.
Christ’s substitutionary death was an end to sin. The Lamb of God came to take away the sins of the world, and he intends to do just that. Praying for the Kingdom to come is to pray that Christ’s sovereign rule would wipe out our lustful thoughts and irritable attitudes.
We don’t want God’s moral law to be trampled; we want it to be honored! We want sin to be eradicated, and we look forward to the day when it will be.
2. We pray that Satan would be snuffed out.
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). The Bible makes several things clear about Satan and his demise.
- He has been disarmed, defeated, and triumphed over (Col 2:15; Rev 12:7ff; Mk 3:27).
- He is “fallen” (Lk 10:18) and was “thrown” down out of heaven (Rev 12:9).
- For the early Christians, he was crushed under their feet (Rom 16:20).
- He has no authority over Christians (Col 1:13).
- Jesus tied him up, binding him so that the nations could no longer be deceived (Matt 12:29; Mk 3:27; Lk 11:20; Rev 20).
- Satan has been “judged” (Jn 16:11) and cast out (Jn 12:31).
- He can’t touch a Christian (1 Jn 5:18).
- All his works have been destroyed (1 Jn 3:8).
- Satan has nothing (Jn 14:30), and he flees when resisted (Jas 4:7).
- He is alive in the world, but he is a defeated enemy moping around in his bitterness.
Praying for the Kingdom to come means that evil and Satan her leader must go.
3. We pray that Christ’s glory would cover the earth.
Because the Kingdom has come and it intends to grow in history (Dan 2; Matt 13; Isa 9:7), we pray for its expansion in every neighborhood and every home. “For the earth will be filled with knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14).
The glory of God is the supremacy of his personhood; we want desperately for his holiness, love, grace, wrath, and mercy to be acknowledged by all men, women, and children everywhere. The impetus for the missional church is this glory.
When we consider the task of making, maturing, and multiplying disciples, sometimes we fail to see (like I did!) how the Kingdom connects to real life. At a basic level, we know that disciples are made and brought into the Kingdom because the Spirit changes a person’s heart through our preaching of the gospel message (Rom. 10:14–17).
We usually understand this regarding evangelism and discipleship—both are necessary correlated. When we consider maturing disciples, we understand that the power to make and grow disciples rests in the power of the gospel.
We make a disciple by the power of the gospel, and we grow a disciple by the same thing. The trouble comes in on this last part: How do we multiply disciples, and how does it connect to this second petition?
When we consider the reality of the Kingdom that has come and pray for its effects to grow, we need to keep in mind that a significant part of that growing comes from the Church. In other words, the Church of Jesus is a colony of heaven; our citizenship is held in the heavenly file room while our practical passports are held at the local assemblies.
Baptized disciples who partake of the Lord’s Supper under the leadership of qualified elders and listen to the preaching of the Word of God each Lord’s day are ambassadors of this Kingdom. The signposts of heaven are people.
Pieces of the Kingdom
If we intend to plant churches, grow missional communities, and send out missionaries around the globe, we’re going to need to keep in mind that God has ordained these means to achieve his Kingdom ends. All those late-night counseling meetings, all those coffee conversations, those men’s groups, ladies’ book studies, missional community gatherings, fight clubs, and church planting efforts are all pieces of the great Kingdom puzzle.
To connect the dots between what God has given you and what God intends to do through you, we must realize that the dots are already connected.
Everything we do is motivated and fueled by God’s Kingdom work. Usually, we divorce our multiplication efforts from the Kingdom—and sometimes for good reason. It often just doesn’t look like the Kingdom. But perhaps we aren’t looking at it with the right glasses? Perhaps the invitation of the Kingdom is an invitation into the small stuff that doesn’t look like much.
When we catechize our children, go to work and do a good job, interact on social media in an honorable way, or even change a diaper, all of it falls under the lordship of Christ.Since the entire world belongs to him
Since the entire world belongs to him in principle and is commissioned to multiply disciples who think, speak, act, and toil like Jesus, we are now free to find all our work, all our missional community efforts—all of life—as honorable work for the Kingdom.Since we are sent into the world that belongs to King Jesus, even the small stuff matters.
Since we are sent into the world that belongs to King Jesus, even the small stuff matters.
Rev. Jason M. Garwood (M.Div., Th.D.) serves as Lead Pastor of Colwood Church in Caro, MI, and author of Be Holy and The Fight for Joy. Jason and his wife Mary have three children, Elijah, Avery and Nathan. He blogs at www.jasongarwood.com. Connect with him on Twitter: @jasongarwood.