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A continuous, ceaseless advent, inexhaustible and unrelenting--So may your kingdom be, O Lord.
Our Father in heaven, thy name be revered, thy Reign begin, thy will be done on earth as in heaven!
Give us to-day our bread for the morrow, and forgive us our debts as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. --translation by James Moffatt
Let me not only pray "Thy kingdom come," but do whatever one man can to let thy kingdom come through me. --Walter Bowie
May all mankind, receiving thee, O Christ, for their king, truly believing in thy name, be filled with righteousness, peace and joy, with holiness and happiness; till they are removed hence into thy kingdom of glory, to reign with thee for ever and ever. --John Wesley
Thy Kingdom Come
Prayer is a journey from self to God, and from earth to the glories of heaven. It's also a two-way street. Prayer opens the door to the possibility of God's kingdom coming among us. Not once or twice, but whenever by faith we hold the door open. The four-week period prior to Christmas day is called the season of Advent. Yet the coming of the kingdom of heaven is a perpetual advent. The Immanuel of the yuletide carol means "God with us," a truth that is just as relevant today and any day as it was on that silent night so long ago.
The kingdom of heaven did not come by guns and violence, but in the form of a humble baby in a stable manger. Jesus compared God's kingdom to a seed in the field or yeast in bread dough. Not invading from without, but expanding from within. Sometimes flourishing, sometimes stunted; it all depends on growing conditions. Not a physical kingdom, but of the spirit. It leaps across every human boundary, and like the wind, is seen only in it effects.
There's an interesting sequence to the Lord's Prayer. After the emphasis on the need for the hallowing of God's name, we ask that Name to come and hallow the ground on which we stand! Amid the disrespect and sinfulness of our private and public lives, amid the chaos and fearful uncertainties that surround us daily, we long for the harmony and goodwill of heaven. So we pray that the glorious light of God's kingdom will blaze its way into the darkness of our world and change our discord into peace, at home, in the workplace and spread outward into business, politics and onto the international scene.
What words can we use to understand this kingdom? We could start with the grace and forgiveness of our God who is always willing to begin anew with us and thereby taught us to do the same in our relationships. We could think in terms of humility, goodwill toward all mankind, courage, faith, hope, gratitude, compassion, child-like trust in the providence of our loving heavenly Father, meekness, mercy, personal integrity, self-sacrifice and all those other qualities embodied in Jesus and his teachings. The apostle Paul composed a short list he called the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, tolerance and self-control.
Depending on your life experiences, the words in the above paragraph may sound real and familiar to you, or they may seem as foreign as an impossible dream. But here's the tricky part. One word is always associated with the coming of the kingdom--CHANGE! It's a word we love for others, but hate for ourselves. Both John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed the same message: "Change your hearts and lives because the kingdom of heaven is near." Most translations of the Bible call it repentance. It means to turn around and change directions, to lift our eyes from self and turn toward our Father in heaven.
Each of us, individually, must stop doing wrong things and turn from our destructive ways. It's not my brother, nor my sister, but it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of grace. Before I confess the sins of others and preach to them, I must confess my own sins. Through repentance I bend my knees and bow to the authority and supremacy of God's higher authority, and acknowledge that God's way works better than mine. "Thy kingdom come" means, "Father, rule in my life."
What is right for us individually, is right for us collectively also. Families, municipal communities and communities of faith, governments, interest groups, organizations great and small--Thy kingdom come, in and through us all. Like the seed in the field, and the leaven in the dough, so the kingdom of heaven permeates throughout and grows to produce much fruit. Wherever God reigns, there is compassion, much sharing, and joy. Everything that is not of God, ends.
Just as God has prepared a way for us to come to him, so we, if we choose to do so, can prepare a way for God to come to us. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, used the image of preparing a highway for our God. Build it with joy and anticipation; and the kingdom of heaven will come to you, and through you, to the world.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: State one area of your life where your word is, or you wish it were, the law.
What images of kings and kingdoms do you have? How is the kingdom of heaven different from kingdoms in this world? By what means does God's kingdom advance or decline?
In "the land of the free and the home of the brave", we prefer independence and democracy. We decide our own fate, make our own rules and do our own thing. How does our penchant for self-rule influence our thinking about the term, "the kingdom of heaven"? State one good reason why we should surrender our desires to God's law of peace and goodwill for all? Do you submit to God's way in some areas, but retain control of others?
There's a song (written by Geo Matteson) in the Methodist Hymnal which reads: "Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free. Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be. I sink in life's alarms when by myself I stand; Imprison me within thine arms, and strong shall be my hand." Three more verses express similar paradoxes. What does the message of this song say to you, and about you?
Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686. He spoke of the kingdom of God on earth as the kingdom of grace, and the future promise of heaven as the kingdom of glory. He wrote, "At Athens there were two temples, a temple of virtue and a temple of honor; and there was no going into the temple of honor, but through the temple of virtue; so the kingdoms of grace and glory are so closely joined together, that we cannot go into the kingdom of glory but through the kingdom of grace." What do these thoughts add to our prayer, "Thy kingdom come."? If we cannot learn to live in peace on earth, is it reasonable to expect we will live together peacefully in heaven?Ponder/React to this--Jesus told us to change now, not wait till we get to heaven.
The purpose of Jesus' ministry on earth was to bring on the reign of God. How did Jesus go about doing this?When Jesus departed, he commanded his disciples to continue his work. What gifts and abilities has God given you to use in bringing the light and life of God's kingdom into your everyday routines? How do you contribute to this goal locally, nationally or internationally?
What can you do to prepare a road for God to come and rule among us?