Why did Jesus Christ teach us to pray for the Kingdom?
Andrea Bocelli did it. So did Gladys Knight, Perry Como and even the Beach Boys. Each sang the words of Matthew 6:9-13, commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Even without the music, these verses are more familiar than almost any other passage in Scripture, but few of us ever really stop to mull over what they mean. When we do, we might find ourselves wrestling with questions. I know I did when I was young in the faith.
What struck me then was the statement Christ made just prior to giving us these famous words. In warning His disciples not to use “vain repetitions” (verse 7), He tells them that the “Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (verse 8).
If God already knows, then why do we need to pray? And why in the world do we need to pray for the Kingdom (verse 10)? Isn’t it presumptuous of us to advise God, saying, in essence, “Have You seen how bad things are down here? Shouldn’t You send Christ soon?”
A personal investment
The initial answers to my questions came from an unexpected source—the business world. During the past half century, leadership models have been evolving. Simply barking out commands and expecting employees to pursue company goals no longer accomplishes much.
Managers now seek to instill within their employees a passion for corporate objectives. Leading employees to “take ownership” of the company’s philosophy and perspective means bringing them to view those goals as personal.
When we spend time praying for the Kingdom of God, we begin to take ownership. Not only that, we also begin to grow as Christians.Think of it this way. Do people renting cars or houses treat them with the same care that owners would? Unfortunately, most renters don’t. The same holds true for just about everything in life. When someone is “personally invested,” that individual takes greater interest, cares more and works harder.
When we spend time praying for the Kingdom of God, we begin to take ownership. Not only that, we also begin to grow as Christians.
Praying for the Kingdom
When I first began to pray for the Kingdom, my thoughts were not yet what they should have been. To put it bluntly, foremost in my mind was my desire to be in God’s Kingdom. That hope is not wrong, of course, but it is not enough. It is, however, common among spiritual babes.
In fact, new Christians are much like babies, consumed by their own needs and fears. Babies cannot change their own diapers or go to the kitchen to fix a snack. What they can do is cry to let their parents know they want to be changed, or to be fed, or to be held. The baby does not consider that crying at 2 a.m. means another restless night for Mommy and Daddy.
Unlike human parents, God does not need sleep. He never tires of our prayers, but He wants more from us because He wants more for us. He wants us to love our brothers and sisters, and that means considering their needs and fears. That means we should be doing what we can to help them, including praying for their needs. The No. 1 need for the vast majority of humanity right now is the return of Christ to save the world from self-destruction and to set up the Kingdom of God.
Sighing and crying
Ezekiel, a young man from the priestly line of Zadok, was still too young to serve in the temple when he was taken captive to Babylon. While living in this strange land during some of the most difficult years for his people, Ezekiel began his role as a prophet, first warning of impending destruction and then holding out hope for restoration.
In one striking vision, God Himself directed Ezekiel’s attention to the idolatrous practices pervasive throughout the land and even in the temple complex (Ezekiel 8). In the next chapter, God commanded an angel to “put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it” (Ezekiel 9:4). Then God charged six angels to go through the land, killing anyone without that mark (verses 5-6).
It wasn’t good enough for the people in question to avoid pagan practices themselves. They had to feel enough anguish to sigh and to cry. They had to lament the pain the people of Judah and Jerusalem were bringing on themselves.
In the same way, we should pray for the Kingdom not merely for our own sake, but for the sake of all mankind.
When we look around at this world, we see people lost and suffering, fearful and hurting. Hope is in short supply, and people are desperate for some good news. If we count ourselves among those blessed to understand the gospel (or “good news”), we should hunger for the Kingdom on behalf of a hopeless humanity.
But even this is not enough!
As a hen gathers her chicks
Consider Jesus’ example. He said something remarkable immediately after rebuking the scribes and Pharisees. As He presented each of seven major grievances (Matthew 23), Christ exclaimed, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” The reproach ends with verse 36. From this long passage alone we might assume that Jesus held nothing but contempt in His heart for the scribes and Pharisees, but we would be wrong. Verse 37 sheds light on His true feelings:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Even in rebuking these religious leaders, Jesus never stopped loving them. We do not think the same way God does, so we sometimes fail to understand that God yearns for the Kingdom. And this recognition leads us to our most important reason to pray for the Kingdom—it is God’s great desire to dwell with us!
Praying for the Kingdom to come is an investment of our time and our lives, and that investment actually transforms our hearts and minds. We are not convincing God of something He needs to do, but rather learning to see and hope and dream for what is best for the world and, especially, for what is God’s will and God’s great desire!
Delve deeper by downloading our free booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.