What are we really saying when we pray, “Thy kingdom come?”
It will help us to begin thinking about this question by remembering what a kingdom is. A kingdom is a realm where a king is the ruler. So, God’s kingdom is where He is ruling; where He is in charge.
But, what is God’s kingdom? There are several ways we can look at it. We can certainly think of God’s kingdom as the place where He is already ruling perfectly: Heaven. We could also think of His kingdom as the age to come, when He returns to earth with power and glory, to rule and reign. Both of those focus on a time and place beyond us, where God rules. However, there is a third place where God’s kingdom can exist that is much more personal, and should be coming right now. This third place is in our very lives. When we are living as we should, God is ruling our life, and His kingdom comes in our life and impacts everyone around us!
So, when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are not just looking forward to experiencing His kingdom in heaven, where He rules perfectly, or referencing His return to rule the earth. Both of those aspects of God’s kingdom are real and important. Besides those, however, we are also asking that He enable us to live our life in such a way that He rules over it, changing us and blessing those around us through His kingdom, come, in our life..
On the phrase “Thy kingdom come:” “This line is not merely an observation that Christ will return, but is another call to action: when we say Thy Kingdom come, we are inviting the Kingdom in! Our native Greek speakers recognize this immediately, and had to explain to the English speakers that this is an invitation, like ‘Come, dear Kingdom!’ We are inviting the Lord to reign over us, asking to be made His servants. We invite servitude, that we might carry the Kingdom in our hearts. More than recognizing that the Kingdom will be here eventually, we are asking to become a part of the Kingdom today.” ~ https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/raisingsaints/teaching-lords-prayer/
“To pray that this kingdom [God’s kingdom] comes continually and eternally into being is no small matter… as we know from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, our entry into this kingdom is dearly purchased and radically achieved… Citizenship in this kingdom supercedes all others.” Fr. Apostolos, http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/rain/the_lords_prayer_part_two
“We want to be part of that kingdom of God’s friends on earth. When we receive Holy Communion and participate in the other sacraments, it shows that we love and accept God as our king. It shows we want to try to live according to His law.” ~ “The Lord’s Prayer,” “Little Falcons,” issue #39, available at http://www.littlefalcons.net/pdf/2014_Backissues.pdf
“Indeed, what are we praying for when we pronounce these absolutely unique words, ‘Thy kingdom come?’ Above all, of course, we pray that this encounter may take place now, here, and today, in the present circumstances… Furthermore, we desire that the whole world, which so evidently lies in evil and longing, in fear and in striving, would see and receive this light… We pray also that God would help us not to betray this kingdom… and that finally, this kingdom of God would come in power, as Christ says.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” pp. 40-41
“In a sense it isn’t even a prayer, rather it is the heartbeat of anyone who has at least once in his life seen, felt, loved the light and joy of God’s kingdom and who knows that it is the beginning, the content, and the fulfillment of everything which lives.” ~ Alexander Schmemann, “Our Father,” pp. 41-42
Idea: Read this parable about God’s kingdom (http://www.kidssundayschool.com/478/gradeschool/at-the-carnival.php) with elementary-aged children. Together discuss the parable, and how it compares to God’s kingdom. In what ways does the parable explain the Kingdom well? How does it fall short?
Older children can look up the following parables that Jesus told. Each parable talks about God’s kingdom. As you read each one, discuss what Jesus was teaching about God’s kingdom, through the parable. Here are the parables, with a somewhat descriptive name and where they are found in the Gospels: The Hidden Treasure (Matt. 13:44); The Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13: 45-46); Household Treasures (Matt. 13:52); Leaven/Yeast (Matt. 13:33 and Luke 13:18-19); Scattered Seed That Grows (Mark 4:26-29); The Fishing Net (Matthew 13:47-50).