In the Bible Study that I lead each Sunday we’re studying the book “The Prayer That Turns The World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto For Revolution” by R. Albert Mohler. Here is a little bit of the introduction to the book:
“The Lord’s Prayer is the most powerful prayer in the Bible, taught by Jesus to those closest to him. We desperately need to relearn its power and practice.
The opening words of the Lord’s Prayer have become so familiar that we often speak them without a thought, sometimes without any awareness that we are speaking at all. But to the disciples who first heard these words from Jesus, the prayer was a thunderbolt, a radical new way to pray that changed them and the course of history.
Far from a safe series of comforting words, the Lord’s Prayer makes extraordinary claims, topples every earthly power, and announces God’s reign over all things in heaven and on earth.”
A few weeks ago the study centered on the second request of the model prayer which was asking God to bring His kingdom and His will to the earth (the first request was asking God to “hallow”, or “make His name”, holy. (See The Prayer That Turned The World Upside Down - Session 4 - Your Kingdom Come). During our study we were able to come up with, what I think, is an excellent description of God’s kingdom in the earth today, and what it means for “His will to be done”.
What Is God’s Kingdom And What Does It Mean To Pray For Its Arrival?
First let’s look at the answer Jesus gave to the Pharisees when they asked Him when the kingdom of God would come.
Luke 17:20-21 NKJV Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Jesus’ answer was that the kingdom of God was not coming in the manner they were expecting. The kingdom would not come with spectacle or splendor; there would be no great and magnificent leader who came defeating the Romans; This kingdom would come silently and unseen,
In fact, Jesus says, the kingdom had already come and was right under their noses. Of course, He was not saying that the kingdom of God was in them, they actually opposed Jesus and had no real relationship with God. They would later plot His execution.
A better translation would be “in your midst” or “among you.” Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He brought the kingdom of God to earth. Jesus’ presence in their midst gave them a taste of the kingdom life, as attested by the miracles that He performed and the relationship of love that He developed with and taught to those who believed and followed Him.
The kingdom of God is not something that is part of the political systems of this world. No government on earth truly represents God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God must be understood as something that is already here on earth but not yet fully present. Our hope is not that the governments of this world will transform into the kingdom of God, but that the kingdom of God will come from heaven to earth in power and glory. In other words, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated but not yet consummated.
This kingdom arrived with the coming of Christ.
Matthew 3:1-3 (NKJV)1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.' "
Christians are part of that kingdom.
God’s kingdom is essentially his reign over his people for their good and his glory. God’s reign is not just his absolute sovereignty; is also a redemptive reign that transforms hearts and creates obedience.
It does not come through moral reform and social justice, which is a good thing but can lead to a very liberal view of lifestyle and sin. It does not come through political processes either which can also be good but taken to legalistic extermes. The Bible teaches that God’s kingdom only comes as God’s people preach God’s Word, which, coupled with God’s Spirit, produces life and obedience.
We don’t see the full expression of God’s kingdom today but Christians are citizens of that kingdom.
Colossians 1:13-14 (NKJV)13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
The full expression of the kingdom will come with the return of Christ to the earth.
Revelation 11:15 (NKJV) Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!"
How Does God’s Will Get Done In His Kingdom?
Let’s first look at the definition of God’s will referenced by Jesus in His model prayer.
The “will of God” can be used in two different ways. First, Scripture can speak of God’s will of decree, or what we could call God’s sovereign will. When Scripture speaks of God’s will in this sense, it refers to his absolute, sovereign rule over all things.
Psalms 115:3 NKJV But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Second, Scripture uses the phrase “will of God” to refer to God’s commandments or His revealed will. The revealed will of God is what He expects of us. The Ten Commandments, for instance, are an excellent example of God’s revealed will. The call to repent and believe the gospel would be yet another example of God’s revealed will.
Acts 17:30-31 NKJV Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Jesus is not talking about God’s sovereign will because that is already set both in heaven and already on earth. Jesus is clearly referring to God’s revealed will. He is asking the Father to reshape the hearts of every people so that He obeyed and glorified. When we accept the gospel message and begin to obey God from the heart mankind will obey God on earth just as the angels do in heaven. Our will is no longer the main thing but God’s will becomes the thing that drives.us. We no longer want to make God do our will (which is practicing magic), but to bring our will into line with His (which is what it means to practice true religion).
It’s Really God’s Agenda
For the kingdom of God to come means that all other kingdoms (including our own!) must fade into oblivion. By praying “your kingdom come,” Jesus Teaches us that we are ultimately meant to value God’s agenda, not our own.
God's kingdom is not something that we can make happen. We can't do it through humanitarian efforts and good works. We can't do it pushing a particular political party or a particular government with the kingdom. Christians too often fall prey to the temptation that we can bring about the kingdom of God by political force or some other sociological means. But God's kingdom is not of this world. As Jesus teaches us in this prayer, we are dependent on God and God alone to bring the kingdom to every heart and every corner of the earth. We cannot manufacture God’s kingdom by our own efforts. Instead, we are called to be faithful in the Great Commission, trusting that God by his sovereign, supernatural grace will spread his redemptive reign to every tribe, tongue, and nation.
So what are we asking when we say “your kingdom come, your will be done”? We are asking for something wonderful and something dangerous all at the same time.