‘On earth as it is in heaven’
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Jesus gave his disciples a template for praying, and today hundreds of millions of people can recite that prayer pattern from memory. Many of those people actually have no place for God or Jesus in their daily lives. Many recite the words without thinking about what they actually are saying.
It’s a dangerous prayer. It claims that our values and desires are aligned with God’s. It commits us to doing our part in making God’s priorities a reality in our world. As one writer says, by praying these words, I am declaring my willingness to join God in making things “down here” more like the way they are “up there.”
“May your Kingdom come soon, may your will be done, here on earth, just as it is in heaven.”
Do we really mean that? How do we think it is going to happen? What do we think it will require of us personally?
If the prayer is to be anything more than empty words, we must understand what God’s Kingdom is about and what his will is – and what it would mean for both to be as much a reality on earth as they are in heaven.
God’s Kingdom is wherever God reigns. He is certainly King in heaven. One day, every knee on earth will bend to recognize him as King. God reigns on earth today in every heart, in every community, that gives him the respect he is due.
Everywhere God reigns, life is filled with shalom. Where God is not acknowledged as King, there is no shalom. God’s mission is to restore shalom, and his instrument for doing that is his people.
God’s Kingdom cannot be understood apart from the narrative of creation, rebellion, redemption, and restoration. You cannot understand God’s will apart from his determination to restore peace and justice, even at the cost of his own Son’s agonizing death. You cannot sincerely pray for God’s Kingdom to be as real here on earth as in heaven, apart from your own “whatever it takes” commitment to do your part.
We have to admit that God’s Kingdom will not come completely, his will won’t be done fully, until the day this old order is wiped away and a new heaven and new earth are revealed. But the Kingdom is not waiting for the end of time. God’s will must be done today.
One day Jesus was asked, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” He replied that the Kingdom isn’t something waiting to be ushered in with visible signs – “for the Kingdom of God is among you.”
If the Kingdom is already among us, then God stands ready to answer your “on earth as it is in heaven” prayer. He is waiting on you to do his will.
So what is God’s will? He wants everyone to experience metanoeo and live the full, free, and forever life he created us to enjoy. He has set aside specific individuals for you to love the way you love yourself and show them how to walk in God’s ways.
So where do you begin? What does that mean for you in practical terms? Well, how many different ways are people broken? How many ways are they oppressed and in captivity? How many ways do we not walk in God’s paths?
The question of how you do God’s will cannot be answered in general. You have to discover God’s specific plan for your life. You have to dig deep into a personal relationship with a specific “neighbor” – hear their story and understand the brokenness and captivity in that person’s life. You have to draw up a map that person can follow to freedom. The journey begins with new birth. It requires understanding how a person walks in God’s ways – in terms of spiritual disciplines, relationships, work, finances, etc. It demands personally investing in your neighbor to help them develop the skills and habits that enable abundant life.
A generic program – of the church or government – won’t do it. You can’t draw up a map, then hand it over and walk away. Even when a dead heart opens to new life, the process of learning to walk in God’s way is hard. We get tired and want to give up. In a moment of weakness, we listen once again to an attractive lie and we stumble. There are no easy answers. Often we naively think we are helping someone else, when we actually are doing more harm than good.
God’s call is clear. The needs are abundant. Your assignment is doable. God is ready to do something wonderful.
Are you up for the journey, whatever it takes?
Think about it
How does “doing justice” fit into God’s specific plans for your life?
What “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” do you need freedom from so you can help others find freedom?
A dream comes true: Feeding his family
Paulus Maharaj* had a dream. It was a dream that brought him up close and personal to one of the dirtiest, smelliest jobs in the world – raising pigs. The smells of rotten, day-old food and festering animal waste would turn even the strongest of stomachs. But for Paulus and a handful of rural Indian pastors, they are the smells of progress, smells that mean their families and communities can better support themselves. Click here to read more.
Next chapter: Now what?