How to Pray for God’s Kingdom to Come and His Will to be Done so Earth will be Like Heaven
By Drs. John M. Frame and Steven L. Childers
In this Applied Theology series of courses and books, you’ll learn a Trinitarian theology of faith, hope, and love by understanding and applying to your life what the Bible teaches about: 1) Faith found in the Apostles’ Creed, 2) Hope found in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) Love found in the Ten Commandments. You’ll learn from God’s Word that:
A mind that is renewed by faith and a heart that is aflame with hope results in a life that honors God by loving him and others deeply and well.
In Theology of Hope Course Lesson 3, you’ll learn how, why, and what it means to pray for God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done so that earth will be more like heaven.
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Read Chapter 3 of the Theology of Hope: A Biblical Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer below.
Learning Tip: Don’t miss reading the “going deeper” footnotes!
Chapter 3: Praying for the Father’s Kingdom to Come and His Will to be Done
A Biblical Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer
Drs. John M. Frame and Steven L. Childers
The first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer are interconnected.
We can’t fully understand the meaning of the first petition “Hallowed be your name” apart from understanding the meaning of the second and third “Your kingdom come” and “Your will be done.” This is because the Father’s name is hallowed by the coming of his kingdom, and the way the Father’s kingdom comes is by his will being done on the earth.
The structure and word order of these three petitions in the original Greek text of the New Testament can also help us understand their meaning. The original text reads like this:
- Sanctify – your name (ἁγιασθήτω – τὸ ὄνομά σου)
- Cause to come – your kingdom (ἐλθέτω – ἡ βασιλεία σου)
- Bring about – your will (γενηθήτω – τὸ θέλημά σου)
Jesus teaches his followers to ask their Father in heaven to sanctify his name by “causing his kingdom to come” and by “bringing about his will” on earth as it is in heaven.
Your Kingdom Come
To understand the full meaning of the second petition, “Cause your kingdom to come!”, we need to understand who God is and what God does to cause his kingdom to come on earth through his creation, redemption, and restoration of all things lost in the Fall. This includes understanding the good news of God’s kingdom – that the Father’s creation, ruined by the Fall, is being redeemed by Christ and restored by the Holy Spirit into the Kingdom of God on earth.
The mostly Jewish audience that Jesus was teaching this prayer, was waiting for God’s promised king to come and deliver them from their oppression and suffering by defeating all their enemies and establishing his kingdom on the earth forever.
From the Old Testament Scriptures, they knew that God created the world to be an eternal, utopian, cosmic display of his glory, as he rules over everything as Lord. They also knew that God created humanity to reflect his glory as they find their joy in him and his mission to fill the earth and rule over it as Lord, so that the paradise of his perfect rule would extend on earth for eternity.
However, the Scriptures also taught that evil entered the story through Satan, who enticed humanity to sin. Paradise was lost. As a result, God allowed Satan to set up his kingdom in this fallen world and to rule over it. The Apostle John writes, “The whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Satan now declares himself to be Lord over all of God’s creation to rule over it for his evil purposes.
Therefore, in the first century, when Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming the good news that God’s kingdom is “at hand”, his Jewish listeners understood this to mean that God’s kingdom in heaven was finally returning to earth in a new way through him. Jesus’ miraculous signs and wonders were seen as magnificent displays of how God’s promised kingdom had already come to earth.
In Jesus’ day, the Jews were oppressed by the Roman government. They longed for their promised Messiah King to come, set up His kingdom, and save them from their oppression. So they were excited when Jesus began his public ministry calling them to “repent and believe in the good news” that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14b-15).
However, the Jews soon learned that the kingdom Jesus was inaugurating was not what they expected. The nature of his kingdom extended far beyond the boundaries of earthly Israel, for Jesus came to deliver people of all nations from their sinful rebellion against God.
The Scriptures teach that Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension demonstrate his victory as Lord over all the powers of evil, including his and our archenemies of the world, the sinful human nature, the devil, and death.
As our Redeemer King, Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we deserve to die for our sin. Through his death, Paul writes, “He disarmed all rulers and authorities putting them to open shame, by triumphing over them” (Col. 2:15). Then God raised Him from the dead, proclaiming his ultimate victory over evil and inaugurating his new Kingly rule on earth as Lord.
But Paul’s explanation of the gospel extends beyond Jesus death and resurrection in the past (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) to include Jesus’ present and future rule as the ascended King over all things by the Spirit. (1 Cor. 15:25-28)
When Jesus returns as King he will fill the earth with God’s glory by bringing everything on earth in subjection to the Father’s will, including death and Satan. Then as the obedient, incarnate Son, Jesus will deliver up to the Father the kingdom he established, including himself as its King so “that God may be all in all” – so that God the Father would be honored and glorified in everything. (1 Cor 15:28)
In the meantime, Jesus instructs his followers to long for and pray for the time when God will fulfill his promise to return the fullness of his kingdom on earth forever – by asking our Father in heaven to honor his name by causing his kingdom to come.
Your Will Be Done
In the third petition, Jesus instructs his followers to ask our Father in heaven to cause his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Again, this petition can only be fully understood by seeing its relationship to the two preceding. Therefore, Jesus is instructing his followers to ask their Father in heaven to honor his name and cause his kingdom to come – by causing his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
The Bible presents the unfolding mission of the Triune God as Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer of all things lost in humanity and creation because of the Fall as accomplishing the Father’s will. Although God the Son and God the Spirit are equal in power and authority with God the Father, the Bible presents the Son as carrying out the Father’s will and the Spirit empowering it. The Bible tells the story of the Triune God’s accomplishment of the Father’s will like this:
- God the Father establishes his good and perfect will by creating all things
- God the Son accomplishes the Father’s will by redeeming all things lost in the Fall
- God the Spirit applies the Father’s will by restoring all things lost in the Fall
In Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul refers to the Father’s will before creation (1-5), the Son’s accomplishment of his will in redemption (6-10), and the Spirit’s application of his will in sealing believers (11-14).
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). At the end of his life and ministry, Jesus prayed to the Father, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).
Jesus’ work, his mission, was to glorify the Father by causing his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. One of the reasons Jesus instructed his disciples to pray for the successful fulfillment of his mission was so that they would be swept up with him in his mission to accomplish the Father’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
The phrase “as it is in heaven” refers to the angelic beings in heaven who always obey God’s will perfectly – described in Psalm 103:21 as “all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will.” The perfect obedience of the angelic hosts to the Father’s will in heaven is the standard Jesus reveals for God’s new humanity of his followers on earth.
The original image of God in Adam and Eve displayed itself in their perfect obedience to God’s will. In the beginning they were, according to Augustine, “able not to sin.” So they flourished by finding true happiness in their relationship with God and each other, as they obeyed God perfectly carrying out his will on the earth.
Though Adam and Eve were created sinless, they were not in a state of unchangeable perfection. They were perfect but not complete because they had not yet fully developed as image bearers. They still needed to have their obedience to God’s will tested. (Gen. 2:17-18) Although they were “able not to sin”, they had not yet reached the state of being “not able to sin.” Bavinck describes it this way:
Adam thus stood not at the end but at the beginning of the road; his condition was a provisional and temporary one, which could not remain this way, and which had to pass over either into a state of higher glory or fall into sin and death.
It’s hard to imagine what the further history of the human race and creation would have been like if Adam and Eve had obeyed God’s will and passed over into a higher state of glory where they were no longer “able to sin.” It would have been an eternal utopia, an earth filled with humanity flourishing in their relationship with God and each other, as they carried out God’s will perfectly on the earth for eternity.
However, followers of Jesus will know what that will be like when he returns to bring the fullness of heaven back down to earth and restore fallen humanity and creation to God’s original design. In our new resurrected bodies, our souls will experience what Adam and Eve never experienced in the garden – the glorious state of not even being able to sin. When we’re in the new earth, we will perfectly obey God’s will just like the angels in heaven.
But what is the Father’s will?
God’s will is described two ways in Scripture. Theologians refer to these as “the two wills of God” – his decretive will and his preceptive will. God’s decretive will describes his sovereign and mysterious purposes at work in the world through which he ordains everything that comes to pass. God’s preceptive will describes God’s revealed moral instruction in the Bible that helps us know God’s heart and desires.
When we ask our Father in heaven to cause his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, we’re not asking him to change his “decretive will” by somehow causing his sovereign purposes to be in alignment with our desired purposes. Martin Luther writes, “The good and gracious will of God (God’s decretive will) is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done also among us.”
Instead, we’re asking our Father in heaven to align all our life purposes and desires with his “preceptive will” revealed in the Bible. Jesus reveals the Father’s will as God’s moral law found in the Bible, especially the Ten Commandments. Calvin describes the Ten Commandments as “the true and eternal rule of righteousness for all humanity and nations who wish to conform their lives to God’s will”.
Jesus teaches his followers to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). We seek first God’s kingdom when we seek first God’s righteousness revealed in God’s Word. That righteousness is what God wills to be realized on the earth as it is in heaven.
Conclusion: On Earth As It Is In Heaven
The final phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” should not be understood as limited to the third petition, but seen as the culmination of all three. This is why we are to pray that our Father’s name would be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven by causing his kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus teaches his followers to pray these petitions for the Father’s name, kingdom, and will first, before they pray for their daily bread, forgiveness, and deliverance from evil. Martin Luther shares the reason why. “If we are to be preserved and delivered from all evil, the name of God must be sanctified in us, his kingdom must be with us and his will be done among us.”
 The word γενηθήτω is the imperative form of γίνομαι translated “Let it come into being! Let it happen! Let it come about!”
 The Bible presents Jesus, the gospel, and the new community of Christ-followers, as being deeply rooted in this historic, Jewish context. This is why the message of the gospel is that Jesus came first as the promised Jewish Messiah, fulfilling God’s covenant promises to the Jews. When the Apostle Paul begins to explain the gospel to the mostly Gentile and Greek church in Rome, he writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16)
 To their amazement, the citizens of this new kingdom were no longer limited to the Jews but included Gentiles from all nations.
 Note the role of the Church in the Heidelberg Catechism. Lord’s Day 48, Question 123: “What is the second petition? Answer: Thy kingdom come”; that is, so govern us by Thy word and Spirit, that we submit ourselves to You always more and more; preserve and increase Thy Church; destroy the works of the devil, every power that exalts itself against You, and all wicked devices formed against Thy Holy Word, until the fullness of Thy kingdom come, wherein Thou shalt be all in all.”
 This third petition is not included in Luke’s record in Luke 11:2.
 Augustine’s On Correction and Grace, 33. In the original Latin, “posse non peccare.”
 Although they were able not to sin (posse non peccare), they had not yet reached the state of being not able to sin (non posse peccare).
 Bavinck, Dogmatick, 2:606
 Hoekema, Anthony A. Created in God’s Image. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1994.
 “Question: What is meant by “Your will be done?” Answer: The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done also among us. Question: How is this done? Answer: When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and purpose, which would not let us hallow God’s name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our own flesh; but strengthens and keeps us steadfast in His Word and in faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will.”, Martin Luther, The Book of Concord, The First Petition, p. 495
 Calvin’s Institutes 4.20.15
 Martin Luther, The Book of Concord, The Seventh and Last Petition, p. 508
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