The Simple Prayer Our Songs Forgot

I recently compared two large selections of worship songs. The first was the most commonly sung congregational songs in the United States since the year 2000; the second was the most commonly published congregational songs from 1730–1850. Among many similarities, one difference was striking: Our churches no longer sing about Christ’s second coming as much as we used to.

Perhaps this makes some sense. Among other things, it can be embarrassing to Christians when people publically conjecture regarding the time of Christ’s return. Their speculation begins with certainty on a precise date, but ends with ridicule on the local news.

Jesus himself warned us against this type of conjecture (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). The apostle Paul warned that Christ’s return wasn’t a topic for speculation, but for preparation (Romans 13:11–12). But Paul also disapproved of a reactionary stance that minimized the believer’s longing for Christ’s second coming.

Encourage One Another

In his letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul instructs believers concerning the return of Christ, the resurrection of deceased believers, and the reunion of all believers with the King. He concludes, “Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Christians ought to encourage each other with words and songs about Christ’s return. One easy way to be encouraged by the reality of Christ’s return is found at the end of the Bible. It is a four-word prayer in Revelation 22:20 that ought to regularly be on the lips of every follower of Jesus — and a theme to restore to its rightful place in our corporate worship: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Our Final Hope

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” All believers ought to remember that the church’s final hope is a person. It is neither a political party nor is it a pragmatic paradigm. It is not a popular program. It’s a person. And what a person he is.

Jesus is the greatest person who has ever lived, because he is God himself who lived a perfect human life. He is the most powerful (Mark 4:41) and the wisest (John 7:46), and at the same time he is the happiest (John 15:11), and humblest (Isaiah 53:7) person who ever lived. Even on the cross, Augustine wrote, Jesus “endured death as a lamb; he devoured it as a lion.” Therefore, Christ’s prayer, and the ultimate goal of our lives, is to bask in his glorious presence:

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)

Our Risen Lord

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” All believers ought to remember that this person, Jesus Christ, is not like any other person that we know. He is the Lord.

His death displayed his sovereign rule. No one took his life from him, but he laid it down of his own accord (John 10:18). This means death has no dominion over him (Romans 6:9). In fact, through his death, he has disarmed all other rulers and authorities and put them to open shame by triumphing over them (Colossians 2:15). His resurrection established his authority over the universe (Matthew 28:18). How much more will his second coming display his sovereign rule.

Our Great Desire

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” All believers ought to remember that because Jesus is Lord, and not under our control, the timing and manner of his appearing cannot be our decision.

When he comes, he will come in his own time and in his own way. The Bible tells us that his coming will be accompanied. He will not be alone, for “the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him” (Matthew 25:31). Thus, for many, his coming will be dreadful. “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen” (Revelation 1:7).

For those of us who love him, though, his coming will be saving. “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). Thus, for his followers, his coming will be glorious. “Our blessed hope,” Paul writes, is “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Our Constant Prayer

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” The church prays because it is in need of her rescuing Savior. In praying for Christ’s return, believers recognize something quite apparent to God’s own perspective: The current fallen state of the world cannot be redeemed by additional human ingenuity or effort.

As we gather as Christ’s church in corporate worship, and as we live out our faith in our neighborhoods and schools and workplaces, let us lift our eyes and voice to the Lord — beyond the plane of our many hurdles and hopes — and pray for his return.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.