The Second Petition
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”- Romans 14:17
Following the request for God’s name to be hallowed, we are told in the Lord’s Prayer to pray for His kingdom to come (Luke 11:2). Question and answer 123 of the Heidelberg Catechism take up this petition, exploring what we mean when we say in prayer: “Your kingdom come.”
The first thing we should note about the catechism’s exposition of this petition is that it does not say we are still waiting for God to become King. In other words, the catechism does not put off the Lord’s sovereign rule to some future day. This is entirely appropriate, for Scripture is clear that God is King and reigns over all (Ps. 97:1; Isa. 52:7; Rev. 19:6). So, in the sense that the Lord is sovereign over the affairs of the universe, we do not need to pray that some things presently outside of His control will now come under His authority. To pray for such a thing would be ridiculous, for God is in control over everything that happens—no exceptions (Eph. 1:11). Defined as the outworking of His foreordination of all things, His kingdom is already here.
On the other hand, Scripture also uses the designation kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven to refer to that special place of blessing where people willingly and eagerly submit themselves to His rule (Matt. 8:11; 20:1–16; Mark 10:13–16; John 3:1–15). In God’s kingdom of all creation, the demons, men and women in Adam, and the Devil resist His righteousness and rise up in protest at every turn. In the kingdom of heaven, men and women in Christ, as well as angels, bend the knee to their Lord and Creator. This kingdom is present in part today, but it will be here in its fullness only at the return of our Savior.
Therefore, the Heidelberg Catechism tells us that to pray for the kingdom of God to come is to pray for our submission to God’s Spirit through His Word (Q&A 123). This must be so, for if the kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, as today’s passage indicates (Rom. 14:17), that kingdom can come only as we follow His Word. In praying for the kingdom to come, we are asking the Lord to make our hearts ever more submissive to His will and to transform His church so that she would submit to the authority of her Husband.
Today, God’s special kingdom of blessing is manifested primarily in the church. It is through the ministry of Word and sacrament that we learn what it means to bow the knee to Christ as Lord. Furthermore, it is through the church’s ministry that we receive the blessings of sanctification and Christian growth, for the Spirit works through other believers to conform us to the Son. Let us further the kingdom through active service in our local churches.
Passages for Further Study