The Place of Prayer in the Kingdom of God

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Living in troubled times is very stressful. People say, “So many bad things are happening in the world! I am worried. But what can I do about it?” We can easily get discouraged or even depressed.

Even Christians often feel this way. We may be tempted to give up, or close our minds. We may think: There really is no hope for our world, for making it better. That’s up to God. We must just be faithful and wait. Jesus will return and make things right; rescue us out of the mess.

So we may put all our hope off for the next life, for an expected eternity in heaven. But that is not fully biblical. There is a better way. It is the way of the kingdom of God. Jesus said we should pray to our Father, “May your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as in heaven.”

Three things can happen when we pray for God’s kingdom to come now:

First, we focus on God and do what Jesus said we should do. Obedience. Faith. Hope. Jesus wouldn’t ask us to pray for his kingdom to come if he didn’t intend to answer our prayer. So we take courage and do what Jesus said—pray for the full, visible, present embodiment of God’s reign! We pray in hope based on Jesus’ words and his power.

Second, through prayer we plug into the full biblical promise of the kingdom of God. The Lord’s Prayer ends: “For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.” Not will be, but is. The kingdom is God’s, so in that sense it is now. For his own glory, God exercises his power to bring his kingdom to earth so that his will is done as fully here and now as eternally in heaven.

The Bible contains remarkable promises of the kingdom of God coming to earth in fullness. One of the most powerful is Isaiah 11, which promises Messiah’s coming:

With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth. . . . The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:4-9).

We may think such promises are spiritual only. But that’s not what the Bible says. John Wesley in his sermon “The New Creation” says such promises “may be literally as well as figuratively understood.”

We trust and hope for the kingdom in fullness, on earth as in heaven.

Third, if we pray earnestly for God’s kingdom to come here and now, God changes us and often changes circumstances. Faith and hope expand. We become agents of the change we want to see. People find Jesus as Savior. Christians work effectively for justice in the world, addressing issues like immigration, poverty, and environmental destruction.

The Spirit helps us use our gifts to do the works of the kingdom, the works Jesus began. We have different gifts, so we have differing roles. Praying in faith for God’s kingdom, we do the “good works which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” (Eph 2:10). What is the kingdom of God, after all? Jesus said it: God’s will done on earth as in heaven. Jesus says this should be our top priority! (Mt 6:33).

Individually, we don’t have the power to oust tyrants or set prisoners free. We can’t heal diseases or care for all who suffer. But we can pray. Kingdom-aimed prayer prompts us to be agents of God’s kingdom here and now—workers for justice, mercy, and truth in our daily lives, in shared Christian community, in our voting and civic engagement, in our care for others and for the earth.

The kingdom of God is already but not yet. Right now God is King. Jesus now reigns. But that reign is not yet fully seen or obeyed. Yet the Bible assures us he will “reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet”—even death itself (1 Cor 15:25-26).

How does this happen? It happens when we pray. My book Prayers for Ordinary Days includes many prayers focused on the kingdom of God and how to pray for its full coming. Such prayers help us be agents of the kingdom of God through prayer.

Get Howard Snyder’s latest book from our store here. Prayers for Ordinary Days is composed of 365 short prayers for both those forming a prayer habit and those inwardly set for prayer as a life attitude. Each daily prayer is accompanied by a Scripture verse, hymn excerpt, or quote that extends the spirit in which it might be offered by God. Over the course of a year, these humble prayers will elevate your vision and spur you on toward a deeper and more meaningful spiritual growth.

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International Representative, Manchester Wesley Research Centre in Manchester, England. Formerly professor of the history and theology of mission, Asbury Theological Seminary (1996-2006); Professor of Wesley Studies, Tyndale Seminary, Toronto, 2007-2012. Has taught and pastored in São Paulo, Brazil; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Snyder's main interest is in the power and relevance of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom for the world today and tomorrow. Works include The Problem of Wineskins, Community of the King, and most recently, Jesus and Pocahontas: Gospel, Mission, and National Myth.

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