Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
So much has been written about God as King and His kingdom, and necessarily so. What does Jesus mean by this line of the prayer? And how might we live differently as this becomes our prayer?
When the kingdom comes, the King is crowned. There can be no kingdom come without her rightful King, the Messiah Jesus. The prayer is partially answered by Jesus’ own presence. God has always been King, and yet He has allowed usurpers to rule.
The prophets had longed for the day when God would reign. Ezekiel said that the Lord himself would come to shepherd Israel. Zechariah had said that God would come, and all his saints with him. Malachi had said that the Lord would suddenly come to his temple in judgment. Isaiah had said there would be a highway in the desert, every valley would be exalted and every hill be made low for the coming of the Lord. And all flesh would see the glory of God.
In Jesus, all of these prophets’ words and hopes came true. N.T. Wright says, “Jesus took the three parts of Isaiah’s kingdom-message and set about implementing them. Release for captive Israel; the defeat of evil; and the return of Yahweh to Zion.”
When we pray, we say, “Yes, Lord. Come as King in glory and judgment and peace.”
We pray not just that it would come, but that we would be willing to receive it. Just as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were blind to seeing the kingdom right in their midst, we recognize with humility that we, too, may be blind. And yet our heart’s desire is to receive the kingdom. We spend more time trying build or expand the kingdom when what Jesus really wants is for us to receive it like a child and not hinder others from coming to Him as children, too.
Heaven is the place where God’s will is already done perfectly. Earth is our arena, where our wills are done as we choose. One day, the two spaces will meet. The New Jerusalem will come down from heaven to earth, and God will recreate a new heavens and a new earth. This prayer will be unnecessary on that day. We will be a part of it coming to completion. This part of the Lord’s Prayer anticipates the joining of heaven and earth, of life in the holy city, where God’s kingdom is no longer at odds with the kingdom of this world.
One thing I like to do when I pray this is to imagine what that day will look like, to thank God for its promised arrival, and to pray that we’d see glimpses of that right now.
Doing God’s will is just as important as praying for it. The prayer is meant to change us as much as anything. How could you pray this repeatedly and not begin to think, dream, and do God’s will? Jesus doesn’t have us pray to discern God’s will, just that it would be done. And we spend so much time in the discernment that we miss out on the doing (though I am a huge advocate of discernment). In the gospels, there are a couple of times where Jesus hints at what God’s will is: Matthew 18:14 and John 6:38-40. In both places, Jesus talks about not losing those God has given Him, that none would perish, but would be raised to eternal life. Chew on that a bit. What if our prayers for God’s will to be done led us every time to people who are far from Him and places where His will is far from being done?