The first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are all interconnected. Wherever the name of our Father is sanctified, the kingdom has come, and wherever the kingdom is found, the Father’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. There is a natural progression in the petitions. Each one flows from the other and into the other.
In the first petition, the supplicants acknowledge their posture as sinners before the holy God whose name they sanctify. It is a plea for holiness, which God responds to in their forgiveness and justification. With God’s gracious response to the First Petition, he also begins to answer the Second Petition before it is even made. For wherever sinners are forgiven, the kingdom of God has come to them. This gives way to the Third Petition: “Your will be done,” which the Father responds that his will is for none “to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).
Further, all three petitions are in the imperative. Six of the seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer are in the imperative. The imperative is a verb tense that in non-grammar terms simply means a plea that won’t take “no” for an answer. It is a persistent supplication that won’t let go of the Object of its plea. Not only is it an imperative, but it is also emphatic, for the first word of the sentence in Greek is the verb: “Come! the kingdom of You.” Usually, in Greek, the first word in a sentence is there for emphasis. There is also a sense of urgency in the plea: “Your kingdom must come to me a sinner right now.” “I can no longer tolerate living under the kingdoms of this world.”
The phrase “Your kingdom come” expresses a total repudiation of any earthly kingdom to fill the longing of the human heart for love, forgiveness, affirmation, and other gifts we vainly seek in the many kingdoms which surround us. It is with a sense of utter loathing for this world’s failed attempts to satisfy us that we cry out: “Your kingdom come!” And yet, even as we sigh for the coming of the kingdom, we feel the tendrils of the flesh pulling us back to the fascinations of this world, calling out its seductive song, “This kingdom of the flesh is all you’ve got, better learn to love it.” But even more so, and because of this conspiracy of the flesh against us, we insist on the imperative, “Your kingdom come.” Further, the word of the kingdom urges us on, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20). Our fathers in the faith also longed for “a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Heb 11:16).
The phrase “Your kingdom come” expresses a total repudiation of any earthly kingdom to fill the longing of the human heart for love, forgiveness, affirmation, and other gifts we vainly seek in the many kingdoms which surround us.
The Second Petition also announces the gospel, for we pray “Your kingdom come.” It is the kingdom that comes to us. We do not come into the kingdom. The Lord didn’t put on our lips the prayer, “Help us to make it to the kingdom.” Rather, we pray to be overtaken and overwhelmed by the kingdom of God. Thus, in the prayer we eschew all human effort, all good works, as ladder rungs into the kingdom. The kingdom comes down to us as the ladder in Jacob’s dream. Much like a helicopter rescue ladder is sent down into the dark stormy waters to bring the drowning up into safety. Those who are basically “dead in the water” have no strength left to climb up the ladder and into the safety of the chopper. So in the gospel, Christ comes down to bring us up to him. But instead of a ladder, he comes on the cross. Only his perfect sacrifice of love, counted as mine by the Father’s word that cannot lie, brings me into the kingdom.
The Second Petition also digs into our sinful nature and exposes it as utterly self-seeking and self-serving. “Your kingdom come” exposes our perverse and ceaseless efforts to set up our own kingdoms on this earth. Our own hearts often revel in the perverse whisper, “My own kingdom come.” The inclination of our sinful hearts is to establish our own fiefdoms in the family, workplace, church, society. In these small kingdoms, we become adept at manipulating, controlling, conspiring against all within our circle to become part of our kingdom and make us more powerful – more kingly - over others. But the Lord snatches away from us those destructive efforts by putting on our tongues the prayer, “Your kingdom come.”
The kingdom of God has a proper name, and his name is Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man. When the kingdoms of this earth exposed their total moral collapse in doing God’s will, the Father placed his kingdom as a small cell in that highly favored virgin Mary. When Jesus was born, the kingdom of God was born in its entire grandeur, strength, beauty, love, purity, holiness, mercy, and grace. In the incarnate Christ, the Father introduced a human being in whom the kingdom of God is fully established, from eternity to eternity. “And the Word became flesh – [read and the Kingdom became flesh] – and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In other words, if we may coin such a term, the incarnate Christ “kingdomnized” himself and became God’s kingdom among humanity. He became the living kingdom of God and drew us unto himself, who is the Kingdom, all the while we remain in this world awaiting all the gifts the King has for his subjects, including a new heaven and a new earth. Of himself, he said, “The kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21).
Martin Luther certainly had in mind that indeed Christ himself in all his abundance is the kingdom when he commented on this petition.
From this you perceive that we pray here not for a crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good, but for an eternal inestimable treasure and everything that God Himself possesses; which is far too great for any human heart to think of desiring if He had not Himself commanded us to pray for the same. But because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more and more abundantly than anyone can comprehend, —like an eternal, unfailing fountain, which, the more it pours forth and overflows, the more it continues to give, — and He desires nothing more earnestly of us than that we ask much and great things of Him, and again is angry if we do not ask and pray confidently (LC.III.55-56).
Petitioning such large wealth, as the gift of Christ is given only through the gift of faith. For
faith itself is the common language of this kingdom. Faith transcends alphabets, grammars, syntax, even sounds of any language. Faith is the unspoken language of the petition, created by the prayer itself, and by which the petition ascends to the One who is the kingdom. Thus, whoever by faith dwells in him, dwells in the kingdom of God. He who has the Son has the kingdom.
“Our Father who are in heaven…Your kingdom come!”