A Laymen’s Commentary on the Large Catechism: Second Petition

This is part 19 of 26 in the series A Layman's Commentary on the Large Catechism

 

The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof,
    the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
    and established it upon the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false
    and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
    and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Lift up your heads, O gates!
    And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty,
    the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
    And lift them up, O ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory! Selah

(Psalm 24)

 

The Second Petition.

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean?–Answer.

The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.

How is this done?–Answer.

When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and yonder in eternity.

(Small Catechism)

 

Thy kingdom come. Thine let it be
In time and in eternity.
Let Thy good Spirit e’er be nigh
Our hearts with graces to supply.
Break Satan’s power, defeat his rage;
Preserve Thy Church from age to age.

(LSB 766)

 

The Second Petition.

Thy kingdom come.

49] As we prayed in the First Petition concerning the honor and name of God that He would prevent the world from adorning its lies and wickedness with it, but cause it to be esteemed sublime and holy both in doctrine and life, so that He may be praised and magnified in us, so here we pray that His kingdom also may come. 50] But just as the name of God is in itself holy, and we pray nevertheless that it be holy among us, so also His kingdom comes of itself, without our prayer, yet we pray nevertheless that it may come to us, that is, prevail among us and with us, so that we may be a part of those among whom His name is hallowed and His kingdom prospers.

51] But what is the kingdom of God? Answer: Nothing else than what we learned in the Creed, that God sent His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil, and to bring us to Himself, and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience, for which end He has also bestowed His Holy Ghost, who is to bring these things home to us by His holy Word, and to illumine and strengthen us in the faith by His power.

52] Therefore we pray here in the first place that this may become effective with us, and that His name be so praised through the holy Word of God and a Christian life that both we who have accepted it may abide and daily grow therein, and that it may gain approbation and adherence among other people and proceed with power throughout the world, that many may find entrance into the Kingdom of Grace, be made partakers of redemption, being led thereto by the Holy Ghost, in order that thus we may all together remain forever in the one kingdom now begun.

53] For the coming of God’s Kingdom to us occurs in two ways; first, here in time through the Word and faith; and secondly, in eternity forever through revelation. Now we pray for both these things, that it may come to those who are not yet in it, and, by daily increase, to us who have received the same, and hereafter in eternal life. 54] All this is nothing else than saying: Dear Father, we pray, give us first Thy Word, that the Gospel be preached properly throughout the world; and secondly, that it be received in faith, and work and live in us, so that through the Word and the power of the Holy Ghost Thy kingdom may prevail among us, and the kingdom of the devil be put down, that he may have no right or power over us, until at last it shall be utterly destroyed, and sin, death, and hell shall be exterminated, that we may live forever in perfect righteousness and blessedness.

55] From this you perceive that we pray here not for a crust of bread or a temporal, perishable good, but for an eternal inestimable treasure and everything that God Himself possesses; which is far too great for any human heart to think of desiring if He had not Himself commanded us to pray for the same. 56] But because He is God, He also claims the honor of giving much more and more abundantly than any one can comprehend,-like an eternal, unfailing fountain, which, the more it pours forth and overflows, the more it continues to give,-and He desires nothing more earnestly of us than that we ask much and great things of Him, and again is angry if we do not ask and pray confidently.

57] For just as when the richest and most mighty emperor would bid a poor beggar ask whatever he might desire, and were ready to give great imperial presents, and the fool would beg only for a dish of gruel, he would be rightly considered a rogue and a scoundrel, who treated the command of his imperial majesty as a jest and sport, and was not worthy of coming into his presence: so also it is a great reproach and dishonor to God if we, to whom He offers and pledges so many unspeakable treasures, despise the same, or have not the confidence to receive them, but scarcely venture to pray for a piece of bread.

58] All this is the fault of the shameful unbelief which does not look to God for as much good as will satisfy the stomach, much less expects without doubt such eternal treasures of God. Therefore we must strengthen ourselves against it, and let this be our first prayer; then, indeed, we shall have all else in abundance, as Christ teaches [ Matt. 6:33 ]: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. For how could He allow us to suffer want and to be straitened in temporal things when He promises that which is eternal and imperishable?

Just as God’s name is holy in and of itself, likewise God’s Kingdom comes in and of itself.  But we pray this prayer so that we may both recognize what God’s Kingdom is and ask that it may come among us also.  In reality, the previous two petitions were dealing with the first two commandments.  Likewise, this petition deals with the 3rd Commandment. God’s Kingdom came to us in Christ and still comes to us via the Church.  It will also come against on the Last Day (1 John 3:1-10).

We first pray that this is done for us now via Word and Sacrament.  Namely, the Church is God’s Kingdom here on Earth. We pray that the Kingdom goes forth to the world via the Church and all Christians.  After all, we are representatives of God’s kingdom, citizens there and ambassadors here. So we are part of the Kingdom of God already here on earth (2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, John 3:1-15, Colossians 1:9-14).

So God’s Kingdom comes truly comes in two ways.  The first is here in time through Word and faith (Matthew 13).  The second is when Christ comes again at His second coming to make His Kingdom fully manifest and finally cast out all evil from our midst (Luke 19:11-27, 1 Peter 1:3-12).

To sustain us to Christ’s second advent we pray that God’s Kingdom comes here on Earth.  That those who are in the Church are preserved and that those who are without it come to faith.  That Satan and his minions would be crushed. That the Lord would come speedily to end this veil of tears and usher in His true eternal and righteous reign (Romans 15:14-21, Luke 10:17-20, 11:14-23, Revelation 20:11-15).

We pray for all of this in this very simple phrase.  So much here is asked for that we shudder even to comprehend it.  Even so, we should pray for these things as He desires us to do (Hebrews 4:16).

For we are more than the beggar that Luther illustrates here.  We are God’s children. So let us be bold in our prayers. Our dear Father in heaven will give us what we ask.  He will most certainly come and usher us into the eternal Kingdom that He has prepared for all His elect princes and princesses.

1 O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel
Shall come to thee,
O Israel!

2 O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ord’rest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go. [Refrain]

3 O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the Law
In cloud and majesty and awe. [Refrain]

4 O come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree,
Free them from Satan’s tyranny
That trust Thy mighty pow’r to save,
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave. [Refrain]

5 O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery. [Refrain]

6 O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight. [Refrain]

7 O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace. [Refrain]

(LSB 357)

About Dr. Paul Edmon

Dr. Paul Edmon is from Seattle, Washington and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has his B.S. in Physics from the University of Washington in 2004 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Minnesota in 2010. He is professional staff at Harvard University and acts as liaison between Center for Astrophysics and Research Computing. A life long Lutheran, he is formerly a member of Messiah Lutheran Church in Seattle and University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis. He now attends First Lutheran Church (FLC) of Boston where he teaches Lutheran Essentials. He sings bass in the FLC choir and Canto Armonico. He was elected to the Concordia Seminary St. Louis Board of Regents in 2016. He is single and among his manifold interests are scotch, football, anime, board games, mythology, history, philosophy, and general nerdiness. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent Harvard University or Concordia Seminary. Twitter: @pauledmon

Comments

A Laymen’s Commentary on the Large Catechism: Second Petition — 5 Comments

  1. You quote Luther’s Small Catechism:
    “Thy kingdom come.
    What does this mean?–Answer.
    The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also.”

    Since I am not a Greek specialist, I would appreciate the help of anyone who reads this, who is one. As I understand it, in Greek, the verb ἐλθέτω in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:10/Lk 11:2) is an Active Aorist Imperative 3rd person singular of the Middle verb ἔρχομαι (= to come). It means “to come” only when used in the literal sense, of something that moves, as on legs. But when used metaphorically, it can mean many other things. In this case the sense is in all likelihood something like, “May Your Kingdom Prosper”, or “may Your Kingdom increase.” But it has nothing to say about the Kingdom coming to us, inasmuch as we are already in the Kingdom, Colossians 1: 13, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  2. @George A. Marquart #1

    My understanding is that we are in a period of “Already” but “Not Yet” in that yes, the kingdom has been initiated but is not yet seen in its full glory. Therefore, I do not think the translation “your kingdom come” is a bad translation, although it seems your suggestion may be just a legit.

  3. @Jason #2

    Dear Jason: In Colossians 1:13, the verb “transferred”, in Greek is ”μετεστησεν”, a verb in the aorist indicative, meaning that the significance of the action is that it happened. No “not yet” about it. John says it in different words in one of the readings for last Sunday, 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” To be a child of God means to be a member of God’s Kingdom.

    On the other hand, when we will be with the Lord in Paradise, will we be praying for His Kingdom to come to us?

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  4. @George A. Marquart #3

    First, the aorist does not always mean that something is a finished act or even that it happened in the past. It depends on the context. It may simply be undefined. I believe it can also be used to demonstrate a future event that is certain to occur. That being said, I agree with your assessment of Colossians 1:13, God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. It is finished. That is a present reality. But as you point out in 1 John 3:2 and can be demonstrated in Paul’s writings as well (Romans 8: 18-30 for example) is that we still wait the completion of God’s plan. So for example, you point out that John says we are his children now (Already), and what we will be has not yet appeared (Not Yet); but we know that when he appears we shall be like him (Not Yet), because we shall see him as he is… So kind of like the yeast that works its way all through the dough, we are experiencing the coming of the kingdom of heaven, but not all of it just yet or more likely we just don’t perceive it. All of that will come to its full fruition when Christ returns.

  5. @Jason #4
    Dear Jason: We are arguing about something that is as fundamental to our faith as the existence of God. You are right about everything you write. Nevertheless, because the Kingdom of God here on earth is not the Kingdom of Heaven, which our Lord has promised us after this life, that does not mean that we are not fully members of the Kingdom of God here on earth. If you look at the article about the Church in the Apology, you will find several references to the fact that “the Church is the Kingdom of God.” This is the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church, in which all the children of God are members now. This is the fellowship into which we are baptized. Moreover, we are not in this Kingdom with one foot, so that we have to pray to God to be fully in it, we are (and I add fully, as Luther added “sola” to Romans 3:28) fully God’s children now. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom, which our Lord preached while He walked on this earth.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

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