At the very heart of the Lord’s Prayer is the petition, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Like so many other familiar passages of Scripture, I fear that there are myriads of truths that fail to be apprehended due to our contemptible satisfaction of superficial understanding. Such has been the case for me regarding these petitions of our Lord.
One of the remarkable things I’ve been learning lately is how the gospel interconnects kingdom come and the Father’s will being done on earth. The gospel intertwines this petition precisely because the response these realties demand are that of repentance and faith.
Whenever Jesus preaches about the kingdom, the action invariable associated with it is to repent. The arrival of His kingdom means the removal of your kingdom. The arrival of His reign means the surrender of your rights. His position on the throne of your life necessitates the crushing of all idols and rivals to Him as Lord and King. With the inauguration of the kingdom in the life of a believer, there is a corresponding denunciation of the kingdom we had built with ourselves at the center. Simply put, when the King is present, our rights are absent. We repent. We look away from ourselves. We turn from our rebellious, treasonous ways. We renounce all our self-righteous deeds. We gladly submit and surrender our lives to His sweet sovereignty as the one who alone has the right to govern our lives.
But what about doing the will of the Father? Jesus’ strongest words could be found in relation to the Father’s will (a) not being done as well as (b) being done by His disciples. But if we are going to look at one place where Jesus makes the will of the Father explicitly clear, we must turn to John 6:40. Jesus says, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life.” Simple enough. The will of the Father is that we look to Jesus with faith. Jesus came into the world that we might behold Him as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. The essence of the gospel message is that we look away from ourselves (repentance) and look to Jesus (faith) with confidence that He alone is well-pleasing in the Father’s sight. The more we set our gaze upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, the greater our stride will be in obedience to the Father’s will.
So when you are praying the Lord’s prayer, and in particular the petition about kingdom come and will being done, you are praying that you might grow in your repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. As Luther stated in his first thesis, “When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said ‘Repent’, He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. And likewise, we, with unveiled face, continually behold the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ, are being transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another, and that by His Spirit who it at work to magnify the Son by setting our gaze upon Him in faith and renovating our lives in repentance.
Jesus knew that the ongoing work of repentance and faith would be of such necessity that he taught us to pray about it. His kingdom come is not a theoretical idea. It’s in my next thought, desire, or deed. The Father’s will being done is not a checklist of moral demands or religious accomplishments. It’s laying hold of Jesus by faith, like John the Baptist, who said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”