The Lord’s prayer is one of the most commonly recited passages in Scripture. The “model prayer’s” implications are vast yet under explored when addressing today’s most vexing challenges. In this prayer, the Lord demonstrates how human wants and needs are condensed into a few succinct petitions that encompass the expanse of every human desire. The prayer is commonly divided into halves and the first set of petitions revolve around a single theme—the kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is a central concept in Matthew’s gospel and is featured in Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6. God’s kingdom is commonly misunderstood because it has a present and future reality. This is often referred to as the “already/not yet tension”—God’s kingdom has already been inaugurated in the resurrection of Christ but is not yet consummated with the earthly establishment of the kingdom. Jesus’ petition anticipates a time when evil is no longer and all of creation will gladly submit to the rule and reign of our risen Lord.
Today, God’s people express a longing for the day when God’s reign—that is perfectly experienced in his throne room—extends to the earth. Believers wait with glad anticipation of Revelation 11:15 fulfillment that declares “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Following Christ’s example, as Christians pray for God’s kingdom to come, this is not the passive acceptance of God’s ways, but a sacred commitment as a Christ-follower to work out God’s purposes, to the best of our ability, in the present.
God’s kingdom is filled with the attributes of our Lord. God’s peace, goodness, justice, grace, mercy, love, and holiness characterizes heavenly existence—and through his people’s efforts, the present age. As Christ’s followers who live between his first and second coming, we have experienced the restorative power of the resurrection in redemption of our souls at salvation, but we look forward to experiencing the fullness of God’s kingdom both now and forevermore.
Until the Kingdom is here in its fullness, God’s people live in this world as ambassadors for the kingdom as fallen creation awaits redemption. Christians are inspired to work for individual and social manifestations of God’s will that promises that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). In addition, the kingdom announces the end of loneliness, insignificance, insecurity, political strife, wars, and division of any kind. The groans for God’s will to be done are everywhere, in individuals, homes, and society. The redeemed in Christ respond to the brokenness around us in light of God’s restorative mission for all of creation.
Among the sinful wounds that Christians apply the balm of the gospel to, longstanding racial strife in America (and around the world) needs continuous tending. Despite a consensus that disdains racism, its enduring legacy continues to breed polarization because our culture emboldens the offended to permanently be on the offensive, and the perceived offenders to be perpetually accused of being racist. The kingdom of God is a positive motivating force to move God’s people toward demonstrating the reconciling power the gospel in our midst—in contrast with a myriad of secular narratives that lack and essential redemptive impetus.
As you shape your classroom or lead your school, may the petition “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” be yet another way to discuss the Christian’s role in God’s redemptive plan and how it applies to mending relationships that our society is content to leave broken.
Dr. Strickland, Executive Director of UnifiEd, is an educator who hails from a long line of teachers. He has taken up the family trade as the Co-Founder & President of The Strickland Institute, Assistant Professor of Systematic and Contextual Theology at Southeastern Seminary, Assistant Research Fellow at the Kirby Laing Centre in Cambridge (UK). He holds a PhD in theology from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. In addition to being a published author, he is a consultant, university lecturer, conference speaker, and itinerant minister. Dr. Strickland is married and has four children one of whom is awaiting them in glory.