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24 April 2018

Thy Kingdom Come 2018: a call to prayer and action

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, is urging Christians throughout the UK to join a global wave of prayer for people to come to know Jesus Christ. Known as Thy Kingdom Come, this extraordinary united petition to God will take place in the run-up to Pentecost Sunday, 10 to 20 May. In his interview with the Evangelical Alliance's editorial content manager, Naomi Osinnowo, the Archbishop tells readers what the campaign is about and why you should get involved.

When we pray 'thy kingdom come', what are we praying?

We have to start with the Father: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name". The glory of God is the first thing that God's children, who have been adopted by His grace in Christ, should desire; and it is the object of one of our Lord's own prayers: "Father, glorify your name" (John 12:28). It is the purpose for which the world was created. 

English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote so beautifully in 1877 in God's Grandeur: "The world is charged with the grandeur of God." It is also the end for which the saints are called and converted. It is the main thing we should seek: that "God in all things may be glorified" (1 Peter 4:11). It is only after recognising the glory of God our Father, that we can pray, with Jesus, 'thy kingdom come'.

It is as if, when we say, "our Father in heaven", we let Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit take us by the hand and lead us into our Father's home (John 14:2). By His Son, and His Spirit – the two hands of God – the Father embraces his prodigal children and draws them to Himself. As we pray we are drawn into the life of God, which is fullness of life, God's gift to us in Jesus.

Why is now a good time for Christians to think about the kingdom of God?

You ask why now is a good time for this. It's because there is no time like the present, and there is no point just praying about the past, or praying about some distant future. We want God to be glorified now. We want to see His kingdom in action now. We want to see His will done now. This means we must be ready to do it!

As we pray these three petitions: "Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done", we are praying that the entire world may discover God's true identity and dwell in His house. We give our life to God so that, through us, God can share this divine life with others. So, our purpose is to glorify God, to honour His name, to desire and delight in His kingdom, and always to be ready to do His will.

The Thy Kingdom Come campaign began as a challenge from yourself and the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2016 to Christians to pray for evangelism in this country. Why did you and Justin Welby feel it was an important call to make? In what climate was that request made? 

When I was doing my pilgrimage of prayer, witness, and blessing around the diocese of York in 2016, I became very aware, walking around meeting people and sharing Christ with them, that what God has to offer in Christ is an amazing and free gift, and it is within reach of everyone.

As I went about I spoke only really about one thing – the Lord's prayer – because I wanted people to know that sharing in the very life of God was something everyone could do. Praying 'thy kingdom come' means we are all sharing in Jesus' prayer to the Father for His world; it unites us in God's mission, and it raises our expectations.

This is what we need today. As Christians we have become too glum; it is time to become who we are by God's grace and live out the faith, hope and love that are God's gifts to us. 

Did you expect that request to grow into an international and ecumenical call to prayer? What are your thoughts or reflections on the growth of Thy Kingdom Come over the past couple of years?

It is wonderful how this call to prayer and action is being taken up not only here in this country but also around the world. This is a great encouragement to us to pray along with our brothers and sisters in Christ from other churches and denominations.

I am not surprised, though – after all, in Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus spoke about a tiny mustard seed growing and becoming a tree big enough for the birds of the air to nest in. In the kingdom of God, exponential growth is normal. We should expect it, and pray for it.

Can you share with us any encouraging testimonies that have been inspired by Thy Kingdom Come?

I just think of one of our churches nearby here, where it was the young people who took this up, and arranged a prayer room in the church hall to be open all week. There were a variety of imaginative prayer activities there: a prayer graffiti board, some craft activities, as well as other opportunities for people to share their prayers for friends and family. It was relatively easy to set up, and it was open to everyone. Then they all went to York Minster for the beacon service on Pentecost Sunday, which wonderfully drew everyone's prayers together.

This ordinary parish church has since sent young people to join in missions in five or more countries in four continents in the past year. I happen to think that all this prayer has something to do with this. None of this is rocket science; it is a matter of churches deciding what they can do, and setting out to do it.

What will you and your constituency be praying for during this time?

When I pray this, I am praying with all my brothers and sisters in Christ that God's power, wisdom, holiness, rule of justice and peace, be made known, honoured and glorified by all God's creatures. There is an evangelistic zeal to this.

We know, through Jesus Christ, God's name, God's kingdom and God's will. So, we should have a burning desire to make them known by our witness. As we honour and glorify our Father's identity, God's name, and do His will, we live the kingdom as ambassadors for Christ.

My hope is that praying 'thy kingdom come' will turn us all into people able to communicate the good news of Jesus in a way that brings healing, the assurance of forgiveness, and hope for the new life that is God's gift to us.

What are your top tips for those who will be participating in Thy Kingdom Come?

Just one: do it—pray. Pray as Jesus taught: "When you pray, say… 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come'…". When we pray, we must be ready to listen to God for guidance as to how we can help make this happen.

What's your hope for Thy Kingdom Come in the years to come?

I hope we will keep going with this special week leading up to Pentecost – at least until 2020. But after that, why not? It is my prayer in any case that we shall continue growing in confidence to share Christ; that we shall see the Holy Spirit bringing joy, healing, reconciliation, and hope to many, and bringing new life both to church and community, to the glory of God the Father.

Remember, whilst the big events are fantastic, Thy Kingdom Come is really about being part of a movement of prayer, so small is beautiful; for Jesus says: "Where two or three gather together in my name…".

What is the Christian community in York up to and what can our readers learn from these individuals and organisations?

Parishes up and down this diocese are arranging prayer walks, prayer stations, prayer meetings, and getting together to pray between the different churches.

In York Minster we are holding a beacon prayer event, with a particular focus on young people. The great thing about this is that there is no one single pattern, except for that which Jesus Himself has given us.

Everyone can join in. As for me, I try to pray the "our Father who art in heaven…" on the hour every hour – as far as possible. Will you join me?

Prayer tools

The Church of England has released new prayer resources and ideas to help churches, individuals, and families and young people pray during Thy Kingdom Come. Visit www.thykingdomcome.global/prayerresources to find out what's available. Many resources can be downloaded free of charge.  

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