“The Lord’s Prayer” is familiar to many, but how many who repeat it understand what they are actually praying? The prayer may be found in two different New Testament passages. Both accounts need to be compared if we seek a proper understanding of it.
Jesus never intended for people to mindlessly repeat this prayer over and over, as some do. More than being a specific prayer to be repeated word for word, this so-called “Lord’s Prayer” was meant to be an outline, and was given in response to a request from one of Jesus’ disciples. “Now it came to pass… that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1).
What followed was Jesus’ response to that request. “So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say…’” (Luke 11:2). If we only had this one account, we might assume that He wants us to memorize and repeat these exact words, as a child might pray before going to bed, “Now I lay me down to sleep….” My sister and I memorized a prayer of thanks that we, as children, mindlessly recited before eating dinner. But is this what Jesus meant for us to do?
Matthew’s account adds a slightly different nuance to the subject, telling us that He instructed, “In this manner, therefore, pray…” (Matthew 6:9). This was preceded by an important caution: “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do” (v. 7). Memorization is good and has an important purpose. But, as I mentioned at the beginning of chapter six in our booklet John 3:16—Hidden Truths of the Golden Verse, the problem with memorization is that, once we learn the words, we often fail to consider what they mean.
While the entire prayer outline is important, I want to focus on three words. How many understand what they are praying when they utter the words, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2, King James Version)? What is this kingdom, and when does it come? This information is mostly hidden from modern mainstream Christianity. Some think the kingdom is set up in their hearts. Others think it is the church. Still others think it is heaven. Which is true? According to the Bible, none of these!
Jesus’ message from the very beginning was that of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14–15). Luke tells us of an occasion when, after preaching and healing on the Sabbath day and healing many more that evening, He rose the next day to depart to a quieter place, and then to move on. However, the crowds found Him and begged Him to stay. “But He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent’” (Luke 4:43). The Kingdom of God—sometimes called the “Kingdom of Heaven”—was the primary message Jesus proclaimed throughout His earthly ministry, and a careful reading of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) demonstrates this.
The Kingdom of God was the subject of many of Jesus’ parables, either directly stated as such (Mark 4:26–32; Luke 13:20–21) or clearly implied (Luke 14:15–24). Jesus’ listeners understood that His message was about a coming kingdom (Luke 19:11–27). They misunderstood the timing, but they understood that He taught there was a kingdom coming.
This magazine that you are reading—and our telecast, which is aired on hundreds of stations around the world—is called Tomorrow’s World for a reason. We are not talking about a humanly devised world of ever-increasing technological developments, but about a world in which human nature will be changed. Space does not allow for a full explanation, but consider that this is what the New Covenant mentioned in the Bible is all about. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them” (Hebrews 8:10–11). We are talking about the return of Jesus Christ to this earth to take over its rulership and bring workable solutions to mankind’s problems. And He will have the power to bring that about.
The prophet Zechariah tells of a future time when Jerusalem will be surrounded by enemies, and a strong hand will save the inhabitants of the city (Zechariah 12, 14). This is when Jesus Christ will return as “King over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:9). This is when King David will be resurrected to rule over all the tribes of Israel under Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23–24; 37:24–25). This is when Christ’s twelve apostles will assist King David by each ruling over one of the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). This coming Kingdom of God is what Jesus preached for three-and-a-half years prior to His death by crucifixion!
Is this the message people think of when they pray, “Thy kingdom come”? Do they truly mean, “I pray for your kingdom to come to this earth, and soon?” Is this the message you think of when you read or speak those words? Jesus said He would come again and set up a kingdom on this earth. Do you believe that? I hope so, because He commands us to believe it: “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14–15).
Jesus is the King of the kingdom and He was at hand to represent it, but notice that it was not for that time. “Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately” (Luke 19:11).
The coming of that kingdom does not depend on whether we believe it or not, but there is very good news for those who do believe. The parable Jesus spoke in Luke 19 shows that there is an incredible reward for those who are Christ’s at His coming. Just as David and the apostles were promised positions of rulership, so are we. To the one who multiplies his mina ten-fold, He gives ten cities. To the one who multiplies it five-fold, He gives five cities. The minas here represent what we do with God’s calling, how much we grow and overcome. We are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8), but rewarded according to our works: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12).
Jesus is calling individuals who do not go with the flow of this world, who step out of their comfort zones, and, in faith, do the Work of God. These are the few chosen ones who act on what they know—not the many who are called but procrastinate and fail to act. Note this sober warning: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13–14).
God’s rule on earth is what every true believer ought to strive for, as Jesus instructed: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). And everyone who puts that goal first in his mind and heart will pray every day—in whatever words he is moved to use—for the very same thing Jesus said we should pray for: “Thy kingdom come”!