‘Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon.’ Luke 11:2
The first priority when we pray is the name of the Father, just as it is to be the first priority in our lives as believers. The second priority is the Kingdom. But what is God’s kingdom? And why do we need to pray for it?
We are not used to kings and kingdoms in our modern world. But for thousands of years that was the dominant form of government in the world. Ancient Israel did not have a king, but the Israelites saw the kingdoms around them and wanted to be like them so asked God for a king. He responded to the request, and Saul became the first king of Israel. However, the story of the kings of Israel was not always a pleasant one, because human kings have their failings. You get the feeling that God would have preferred a different system, but he worked with the system that his people chose.
Nowadays we have another system of government which we call democracy, in which kings do not gain their power by appointment or conquest, but by the will of the majority. It is predominantly a Western phenomenon, and looks somewhat different in non-Western societies, though they pay lip service to democracy. The West often sees its role as spreading democracy to the rest of the world, much as the British once saw their role as to spread civilisation. Democracy has great merits and has served the world well for hundreds of years now. But cracks are beginning to show and sometimes one wonders how much longer it will survive. It is good to remember that though there are many aspects of democracy that are deeply Christian, it is not an inherently biblical concept. It is not God’s ultimate plan for the world, any more than the kings of Israel were his ultimate plan. It has its pros and cons, of which we need to be aware, in order to avoid its pitfalls.
So what sort of world does God want? It is expressed in the terminology of kingship and kingdom, rather than in terms of majority rules. But the king that the Bible envisions is God, and the kingdom is a society ordered and governed according to his laws, not the will of the people. Christians believe that these laws are eternal and recorded in the Bible. This is not a popular idea these days. We prefer to choose ourselves how we will live, and who we will submit to, to make our own rules for society, rather than submitting to a God who has ordained laws which at times go very much against our own desires and plans.
When we pray, “May your Kingdom come soon,” we are consciously praying for a world where God is given the highest place, and we are subordinate to him. We are seeking to see established a society governed by the laws of God, and a world reflecting and displaying the wonder of his creative power. In other versions of the Lord’s prayer, recorded in other gospels, the words are added: “Your will be done on earth as in heaven.” Heaven is another name for the Kingdom of God, the place and people where God is king. But what is his will? Is it not simply the kind of world that he intended from the beginning, where people live in harmony with God and each other, and the creation? This is so different from the world we see today, which is a world dominated by our own desire to be kings, and to see the creation subjugated to our own plans and ambitions. Not God’s.
In praying for this kingdom, our minds are led to wonder what God’s kingdom will look like in our own lives, but also in the world. The kingdom of God assumes high priority in our thoughts, in our words and actions. We find ourselves praying that God’s rule would be evident in our own lives, the way we think, the way we speak, our relationships, our employment, our homes, our leisure, the society we live in, the environment we call home. We find ourselves praying that the kingdom of God would be extended, through people like us telling others who don’t know God about him and his kingdom. We find ourselves becoming engaged in society in such a way that we can promote the values of the Kingdom. We find ourselves drawn to the Bible to grow in understanding of what the Kingdom really looks like, and what God’s will for us and the world really is.
First, God’s name. Second God’s kingdom. Let these be the highest priorities in our lives, and the things we pray for every day. Let them become the focus of our passion and our energy. To see God’s kingdom come.