Reflection by Pastor Shawn Bawulski
“When you pray ‘your kingdom come’ in the Lord’s Prayer, what do you pray for?”
A while back I was in a discussion with another Christian about justice, the Kingdom of God, and the gospel. In the course of the conversation, he tossed out a question: “When you pray ‘your kingdom come’ in the Lord’s Prayer, what are you praying for?”
It’s a good question. Here’s an attempt at an answer.
First, I pray against myself. That might sound strange: we ask people to pray for us frequently, but I don’t ever remember anyone asking me to pray against them. But there’s an important sense that when we affirm “your kingdom come”, we are negating everything incompatible with that. With those words we deny a kingdom of our own making—a ‘kingdom’ of narcissism and comfort and ego-stroking and selfishness and self-determination. I’m unable to avoid the conclusion that, left to myself, ‘my kingdom come’ would be ugly, to say the least. If I took the doctrine of sin as seriously as I should, I would be praying against myself even more often than I do.
Second, when I pray for God’s kingdom to come, I am in part praying for humans to fulfill the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28) as they should. This involves building roads, growing vegetables, developing fair zoning laws, writing poetry, selling bicycles, manufacturing hybrid cars, mapping the human brain, and much more. As divine representatives and vice-regents on the earth, we administer the kingdom of God.
Third, when I pray “your kingdom come”, I pray about the gospel mission of putting the Kingdom of God into action towards a fallen, broken world. The good news of the gospel is that in Jesus Christ's life, death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Spirit, God reconciles broken people and a broken world. He is victorious over sin, suffering, injustice, and death. His kingdom prevails. It has prevailed, and it will prevail. This gospel mission involves proclaiming Christ crucified and resurrected. It involves sinners coming to a repentance and faith that leads to discipleship. It also involves loving our neighbors—and thus putting the Kingdom into action—by pursuing justice in our communities, offices, governments, banks, laws, businesses, and other institutions, systems, and structures.
This third point deserves a bit more explanation. In this age the Kingdom has an ‘already/not yet’ tension, and the Christian living between the two is given the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) to go make disciples and the Great commandment (Matt. 22:37-38) to love God and neighbor. These are inseparable; these are interdependent aspects of the gospel! True justification doesn't exist without real concern for justice (especially regarding the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable- see, for example, James 1:27-2:26).
When I pray “your kingdom come”, sometimes I have specifics in mind—either a person by name, or a particular point of justice. But sometimes I don’t quite know specifics, and so “your kingdom come” can be more open-ended. And it needs to be, because the Kingdom is bigger and deeper than we tend to imagine.