“Your Kingdom Come”Categories: Bulletin Articles, M. W. Bassford
Like many who were raised by Christian parents, I can remember being taught as a child that Christians today weren’t supposed to pray the prayer of Matthew 6:9-13, variously known as the Model Prayer (to brethren) and the Lord’s Prayer (to everyone else). In support of this claim, my teachers made two main arguments.
The first was that the entire context of Matthew 6:5-15 is a warning against vain repetition, and repeating the words of the Lord over and over again is likely to reproduce the same problem He was warning against. I think that’s legitimate. We’re supposed to pray from the heart rather than defaulting to the easy minimum of rote repetition and prayer clichés.
The second, though, insisted that the Lord’s Prayer was no longer appropriate because it contained the words “Your kingdom come.” According to this way of thinking, the kingdom of God came with power on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, so we should not expect further comings of the kingdom now.
I suspect that this argument goes back to the premillennial controversy of a century ago. At that time, premillennialists argued (as they do now) that the millennium would begin with the beginning of Jesus’ reign as King in Jerusalem. In response, brethren pointed out that Jesus is reigning as King now (see Colossians 1:13), so it is hardly reasonable to expect His coronation to take place in the future too! Through the years, this argument became separated from its context and mutated into a belief in the once-and-only-once coming of the kingdom on Pentecost.
However, this understanding fails to take into account the varied nature of the Scriptural witness about God’s kingdom. At times, Jesus speaks of the kingdom as having already come during the time of His ministry (Luke 11:20). At others, He anticipates a distant event that only some of His followers would remain alive to see (Matthew 16:28). At still others, He foretells a coming of the kingdom that wouldn’t be accompanied by outward signs at all (Luke 17:20-21). None of these things line up with the events of Pentecost.
Instead, we must understand the coming of God’s kingdom as something that happens not once, but multiply. It occurs whenever God asserts His dominion and His sovereignty is revealed. Thus, it is equally legitimate to speak of the kingdom coming when Jesus casts out a demon, when the Holy Spirit falls upon the apostles on Pentecost, when the Jewish nation is judged for rejecting the Messiah in 70 AD, and even when a penitent sinner first submits to Jesus. All those things proclaim God as King.
Today, unless Christians are interested in entreating God to rise up and judge the nations (which seems like a perilous thing to do!), it is this latter sense that most concerns us. In Matthew 13:33, Jesus compares the kingdom to leaven that is kneaded into bread dough. It works invisibly, yet it transforms its environment. So too, we ought to pray for the gospel to work in the hearts of those around us, until a change that we cannot see produces a life of obedience to Christ. May Your kingdom come in this way, O God, until no hearts remain that have not yet received it!