This article is part of our weekly series, “Our Life’s Comfort: One Year of Being Shaped by the Scriptures.” Read more from the series here.
(123) Q. What does the second petition mean?
A. “Your kingdom come” means; Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you. Preserve and increase your church. Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy Word. Do all this until your kingdom fully comes, when you will be all in all.
My prayers are often too small. Maybe yours are too. I tend to pray more locally than globally. My prayer themes are more physical than spiritual. I need the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer to cosmically expand my prayer focus.
Jesus teaches us to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom. The word itself contrasts the localized and individualized. In its narrower sense, God’s kingdom is the community of redeemed people, the church. The new birth transfers sinners from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Col 1:13). “Your kingdom come” teaches us to pray for the church and the spiritual vibrancy of its members. But God’s kingdom is bigger than the church. There is a sense in which “the kingdom of God is all inclusive.”[i] When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we pray for the advance of everything that God is doing.
The second petition can be broken down into four specific requests.
“Rule us by your Word and Spirit.”
When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we pray for a divine work that’s much bigger than us. But this work also includes us. Jesus and other Scripture writers connect the concepts of kingdom and personal piety. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and other matters will fall into place (Matt. 6:33)
For God’s kingdom to come in our lives, we need to be changed. King Jesus will have his law and gospel permeate every area of our lives. Christians must submit more and more to Christ’s rule. We must learn to want what God wants and do what he commands. In the second petition, we pray that God’s will would prevail over ours. We pray that we would give up every desire that conflicts with God’s desire.
And this is just what the world needs. “If all those who are now citizens of the Kingdom would actually obey its laws in every domain of life, the world would be so different that it would hardly be recognized.”[ii] The second petition should be prayed with an attitude of radical submission.
“Preserve and increase your church.”
While God’s kingdom is larger than the church, the church is the “most important, and only divinely instituted, external organization of the kingdom.”[iii] Therefore, kingdom prayers are church prayers. We ask God to “[d]o good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem” (Ps. 51:18).
We pray for the preservation of the church because it’s constantly attacked. We pray for persecuted Christians. We pray for the church to survive and thrive in hostile territories. We pray that the church everywhere would remain devoted to God’s word, God-honoring worship, diligent shepherding, faithful outreach, and church discipline.
We pray also for the increase of the church because church growth glorifies God. We pray for God to expand his church and raise up new harvesters to reach unreached people. And we pray for the increase of our local church. We ask for generous hearts and evangelistic actions. We pray that we would welcome into our lives those whom God leads to our congregation. We pray that God would bless our preaching so that sinners would find refuge in Jesus.
“Destroy the devil’s work.”
Satan is called the “prince of the power of the air” and the ruler of this world (John 11:31, 14:30, 16:11). But he is an illegitimate ruler—a usurper, liar, and thief. Jesus came to destroy Satan’s works (1 John 3:8). He truly triumphed over spiritual rulers and authorities at the cross (Col. 2:15). But his work is not finished. The kingdom comes as the devil’s rule over people is cancelled and evil is overcome by good.
God continues to destroy Satan’s work through our prayers. We must wrestle in prayer against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12). We pray that God’s enemies would “come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26). We pray that in baptism new converts would renounce the devil and all his works. We pray that believers would have “the courage to fight against and overcome sin, the devil, and his whole dominion.”[iv] We pray that God would renew in his children “whatsoever hath been decayed by the fraud and malice of the devil.”[v] We pray for the fulfillment of Romans 16:20, for the God of peace to soon crush Satan under our feet. We learn from the imprecatory psalms to both resist taking personal vengeance and refuse to stay silent in the face of spiritual perversity.
Become “all in all.”
We believe that God is the great King. He “shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). He has already taken his “great power and begun to reign.” But his reign is not yet universally recognized. Christ has not yet returned to complete his work. The kingdom of God is both present and future. Essentially the future kingdom will consist, like that of the present, in the rule of God established and acknowledged in the hearts of men. But at the glorious coming of Jesus Christ this establishment and acknowledgment will be perfected, the hidden forces of the kingdom will stand revealed, and the spiritual rule of Christ will find its consummation in a visible and majestic reign.”[vi] One day, Christ will be all in all. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet … When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:25, 28)
So we should pray for the arrival of the day when God’s kingdom will come in perfection. We should pray like this: Grant that we “may proceed more and more every day in true piety, till at length we are gathered into thy heavenly kingdom, and enjoy the inheritance promised and obtained for us by the same Christ our Lord.”[vii]
From birth we all begin building a kingdom. We crave reverence and we work to acquire what we need to attain it. The new birth changes our affections and makes us interested in God’s kingdom. This prayer turns our hearts to the beauty of what God is building. We acknowledge God’s lordship over us and submit to his rule in our lives, remembering that what we now want he is pleased to give.
[i] Fred Klooster, Our Only Comfort, 2.1097.
[ii] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 408.
[iii] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 409.
[v] Book of Common Prayer (REC), “Collect for the Visitation of the Sick,” 506.
[vi] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 409 (cf. 568).
[vii] From a prayer by John Calvin in his Commentaries on the First Twenty Chapters of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 335.