Archbishop Eamon Martin and Archbishop Richard Clarke on ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ prayer initiative
A few years ago, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury initiated what he believed would be a relatively small-scale project, asking members of his own Christian tradition to pray “Thy Kingdom Come” with real effort and focus in the days between the Ascension and Pentecost. These days between Ascension and Pentecost mark a spiritual interlude between Jesus Christ leaving the earth in his physical body at Ascension, and the day when the Holy Spirit came in power on his disciples at Pentecost. And we are told in the Scriptures that the disciples spent these days in Jerusalem in constant prayer.
Praying “The Kingdom Come” can be a familiar phrase that trips off the tongue a little too easily, but it should never be such. “The Kingdom of God” can best be understood as being the realm of God, that place where God is in full control, where God is completely supreme in the hearts and minds of his people. Praying for God’s Kingdom to come is therefore not simply a prayer for the world (although it is that), but it is also a prayer for our own spiritual renewal and a prayer for the Holy Spirit of God to enter the lives of those we know and love in a new and powerful way.
We are asked in these days to make a specific effort within this prayer to “pray for five”. This means praying intentionally for five people, but not necessarily those we instinctively pray for on a regular basis. This “prayer for five” should be that God will bless the people for whom they have prayed and give them a deeper awareness of his infinite love for them. It is not a condescending or judgmental prayer, but a simple act of truly Christian love and friendship. We sometimes wonder what prayer is able to do. There was a lovely reflection on the matter by Archbishop William Temple, “When I pray, coincidences happen; when I don’t, they don’t!”.
By God’s grace, what began as a simple local call for prayer has spread across almost all the Christian traditions and across the world. Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby with other church leaders have asked Christian disciples throughout the world to be part of this focussed wave of prayer. We now join in this call to prayer, coupling it with our own shared prayer to God, “ Thy Kingdom Come”.
+Eamon, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore.
National Marian Shrine, Knock, Co Mayo
“I ask you to think of five people and pray that their lives may be touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and that the love of Christ may really take root in their hearts” – Archbishop Martin
In today’s Gospel Reading for the sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus promises His disciples that, after He has gone and returned to the Father, He will send them a gift, so that they do not feel like orphans and so that their hearts will not be troubled or afraid. That gift will be the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send to teach his people and to remind them of all that Jesus said and did when He was on earth.
At the final Mass of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin last August, Pope Francis remarked that it is “the Spirit of God, who constantly breathes new life into our world, into our hearts, into our families, into our homes and parishes.” He said that “each new day in the life of our families, and each new generation, brings the promise of a new Pentecost, a domestic Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the Paraclete, whom Jesus sends as our Advocate, our Consoler and indeed our Encourager.”
The promise of the Holy Spirit remains with us today. That is why, especially during these final days of the Easter season, and as we approach the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, we can pray earnestly and with all our hearts: “Come Holy Spirit”!
The beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit is perfect for these days: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth”.
Friends, reflect with me on the sheer joy and confidence of that prayer! We call on the Holy Spirit because we believe the Spirit can change us and change the world. The Spirit can renew the face of the earth. The Spirit can bring us new life, the Spirit can recreate in us what God wanted us to be in the first place! The Spirit can “rejuvenate” us – make us young again!
Out at the Synod for Youth which was held by Pope Francis in Rome of last October, I suggested that we do not speak enough in the Church about the power of the Holy Spirit. After all, it is Holy Spirit who “rejuvenates” the Church.
I said at the Synod that I’d like to hear more of the joyful language of the ‘new springtime’, the ‘new Pentecost’ which every Pope since the Second Vatican Council has called for. As Pope Saint Paul VI famously said, “The Church needs her eternal Pentecost; she needs fire in her hearts, words on her lips, a glance that is prophetic (General Audience 291172)”.
I am convinced that the Spirit is already actively at work preparing us for a new springtime of growth and abundance in faith.
How can we encourage people to be more alert and open to the Holy Spirit, calling us and “gifting” us for the service of the Gospel? Every day I pray for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. But I also pray that all our lay faithful, especially our young people, will find “new life in the Spirit” and realise more and more that we are all called personally by Baptism and Confirmation to be part of the “new springtime” for the faith. It is the Holy Spirit who can enable us to embrace our own unique role in the new evangelisation.
In encouraging you, then, to pray “ Come Holy Spirit” in these days before Pentecost, might I also suggest – as other Christian Church leaders around the world are doing during these days – that you might pray another three-word prayer, namely: Thy Kingdom Come.
Of course we pray those words many times every day in the Our Father, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, and afterwards as we continue, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.
When we pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, we imply that we want God’s will to be the motivation for everything we think, and say, and do, every day of our lives. The two prayers ‘Come Holy Spirit’, and ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, work perfectly together, because it is the Holy Spirit, working within us, who helps to establish God’s Kingdom here on earth – a Kingdom of Love, of Justice, of Peace – a Kingdom where patience, kindness, generosity and charity are alive and well, and where selfishness, anger, oppression and violence are shunned.
How I long for the New Pentecost, for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit to transform and renew the faith in Ireland and rejuvenate our Church!
Remember the Kingdom of God is present whenever Jesus Christ is present. Jesus Christ is “God-with-us” and if we accept Jesus in our hearts, then, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can truly become witnesses and workers for the Kingdom of God!
I join with Pope Francis and the Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and with my friend and brother Archbishop Richard Clarke – the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh – in encouraging you to pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ in the coming days around Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday.
In particular, we encourage you to choose five particular individuals and pray that they might make the best decision that anyone can ever make in their lives – to become followers of Jesus Christ. I ask you to think of five people – not necessarily five family members – five different people, and pray that their lives may be touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and that the love of Christ may really take root in their hearts.
People sometimes ask me what is the proper way to greet an archbishop. Well, the other day a little boy surprised me by holding up his hand and saying “High Five, Bishop”! The Holy Bible often speaks of believers ‘lifting up hands’ in prayer. So, in the final days leading to Pentecost, why not consider a different kind of ‘High five’? Why not lift up your hand in prayer to the Holy Spirit, praying for those five individuals to become true followers of Jesus Christ. Pray for them: ‘Come Holy Spirit’, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.