This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come…”
The Kingdom of God
“The kingdom of God” is the foundational doctrine of Christ’s entire message. As a Jew preaching to predominately Jewish audiences, the concept of God’s kingdom—i.e., restoration of Israel through His Chosen One, the Messiah—held particular resonance and urgency. Their national history was stained with captivity, invasions, and subjugation by outside forces that honored neither their culture nor their faith. At the time of Jesus’s ministry, Rome bridled them with tight reins in the latest of what looked to be an endless series of indignities and abuses. They begged God for relief and raised dirges of despair to their temple rafters. “How long will the enemy mock you, O God?” they sang. “Will the foe revile your name forever?” (Psalm 74.10) So, when Christ preached the kingdom of God, His countrymen listened with great interest. What He said about it, though, offers terrific news for us all.
Luke captures a pivotal moment in Jesus’s “kingdom” ministry. The Pharisees try to needle Him into predicting when God’s kingdom would come. They hope to lure Him into Messianic claims and then challenge His authority based on His failure to deliver Israel from Roman rule. The taunt is too bold and bald to fall for, however. In response, Jesus exposes their pettiness and conclusively redefines what “the kingdom of God” means. “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,” He answers, “nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17.20-21)
The kingdom is in us—what can that mean? Now it gets exciting. Jesus typically discussed God’s kingdom in parables, sometimes spinning several versions of one story. In Mark 4, for instance, He tells three “seed” stories. A farmer scatters seeds in various places but only those planted in good ground produce. Another farmer sows seed in rich soil and it grows by itself. In the third story, a miniscule mustard seed flourishes into the tallest plant in the garden. God’s kingdom is the seed. We are the soil. We invite God into our lives, His kingdom takes root, and it thrives in us.
When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” what we’re really saying is, “We’re yours.” We yield to His purpose, asking Him to use us as good ground for His kingdom. As its roots deepen and it matures, His kingdom begins bearing fruit. It enriches our hearts, strengthens our spirits, and replenishes our minds. When His kingdom comes, everything about us grows. Being green is what God’s kingdom is all about.
God plants His kingdom in us and we grow as it grows.
(Tomorrow: Your Will Be Done)