The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book and training series "Prayer School" For more information or to book a Prayer School training seminar write to the Matthew 5:5 Society here and subscribe to the blog for regular updates and release dates as they become available.
Prayer School Part 4 – The Kingdom
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven. [Matthew 6:10]
There are very few true monarchies left in the world. Even Great Britain with it’s royal house of Windsor is no longer a kingdom in the historical sense. Queen Elizabeth II has no real power, except as a tourist attraction.
But even thinking of monarchies in the European context as we in the west are tempted to do is inaccurate. When Jesus speaks of a kingdom the concentration of power that would have entailed to his followers is unprecedented in modern history. While the monarchies of Europe, had counsels of nobleman and commoners, which could influence the king, the Roman monarchy in Jesus day and the Babylonians before them, were ruled by a very tight circle wielding supreme power over every aspect of human life. And no one was more powerful than the king.
At the time when Jesus first introduced the concept of God’s Kingdom to his followers, executive power was so heavily concentrated in the will of one person that the Babylonian Emperor was considered a god in his own right. He even had priests administering sacrifices to him. The Romans were only slightly less arrogant when they bestowed upon Caesar the title “Son of the gods”. Clearly kingship in Jesus day was a far bigger deal than even the kings of the middles ages enjoyed.
When Jesus instructed his followers to pray for God’s kingdom to come it would have brought them all the way back to the first commandment. “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me.” [Exodus 20:2].
Who has supreme power? Not Caesar, God. Who’s will should you seek after? God’s. And most importantly, where is God’s kingdom?
Many Christians over the ages have gotten caught up on that last point. While Jesus appears to be saying that God’s kingdom is in heaven, i.e. somewhere else, what he is really doing is telling his followers to ask God to bring His kingdom to earth, here and know. Elsewhere Jesus is asked by some of his followers to show them the kingdom so that they may go and get it, his response was that the kingdom is not something to be attained rather it is “within your midst”. [Luke 17:21].
Therefore, the Kingdom of God is best understood as an interactive community of believers working together to bring about God’s will on earth, here and now. When we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” etc, we are really praying that the community of believers comes together and works to bring the kingdom, God’s domain, into our immediate context.
So it is at this point in the prayer we pause again and ask God to bring us all together and bless our work in his name. We pray specifically for the work and mission of our churches, and our ministries. We pray that we can impact the lives of our neighbors, that we can serve the poor, protect the weak and influence the decisions made by our political leaders. We pray for the victims of war and natural disasters and we pray that God would raise up and send out workers to complete the real world and mundane tasks that are entailed.
That last point is critical. It’s not enough to pray that the work gets done. We must also be willing to be part of God’s holy work force. Otherwise we are just providing lip service and adding hypocrisy to an already desperate situation. Richard Sterns, president of World Vision USA once said that his prayer was to become the hands and feet of God, to go were he was needed and complete the work that was set out before him.
“Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Pause now and ask God to bless our work, bring about change in the world, help the victims of war, poverty and natural disasters and show us the work he has for us to do to make it all happen.