An invitation: During the Season of Lent I will be blogging through The Lord’s Prayer as part of a prayer challenge I shared with our congregation. I pray these words of reflection will be an encouragement to those who read them. May we make our hearts ready for the days of Jesus’ passion.
According to author/pastor John Ortberg, we all have a kingdom. Our kingdom is simply “the range of our effective will.” This is to say, our kingdom is what we have influence over and what we control. It includes our body but extends well beyond it. Children are exercising the claims of their kingdom with early words like “no” and “mine”. And we really never move past this kind of behavior. Which is why this phrase of Jesus’ prayer – your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – is such an important one.
Jesus’ prayer, perhaps more appropriately called “The Disciples’ Prayer” comes in direct response to their request: “teach us how to pray”. Is it any wonder that the master, who preached and taught about the “kingdom of God” (or kingdom of heaven*) more than any other topic, would put language about the kingdom in his prayer guide? I think not. For Jesus, one begins to experience God’s kingdom by becoming a disciple – that is a follower of Jesus. But to truly dwell in the kingdom of God, as opposed to occasionally visiting, is to trade in your kingdom for God’s.
This is the first wording of the phrase: “your kingdom come”. To seek God’s kingdom is to look for, enter into, and live within the range of God’s effective will. It is to submit one’s personal will to the will of God. This is the next part of the phrase, “your will be done”. This is language of submission and surrender. Think of Jesus’ agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will but yours be done.” One does not come to this prayer lightly!
Our prayer phrase for this week concludes with the words “on earth as it is in heaven.” Ortberg says that most of us have inherited a version of faith that has put the emphasis on our “going to heaven” one day. But that is not what Jesus teaches us to pray for. He says we should pray for God’s heavenly kingdom to be known on earth. Salvation, in this way of thinking, is about getting heaven into you, not so much getting you into heaven.
God’s redemptive plan is concerned about the creation. Earth will one day be restored, as it says in Revelation with a “new heaven and earth”. I’m not so sure this means wiping out the current earth, so much as seeing that it is renewed and reclaimed. When we pray “on earth as it is in heaven” we are making ourselves aware of the redemption of the earth. We are praying for the reunification of God’s heavenly kingdom with God’s earthly kingdom.
Of course Jesus announced that the kingdom of God was present in him. So the process of that restoration has already begun. When we pray this week’s phrase, we are praying for the continuation of that process, and our part in it. It’s not a “beam me up Scotty” kind of prayer. It’s a bring the kingdom of heaven into the kingdoms of this world, beginning with my own, kind of prayer.
I invite you to sit with this phrase this week. Take it in sections and think about what it means for you to pray:
a) Your kingdom come
b) Your will be done
c) on earth as it is in heaven.
*Note: Matthew uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” in his gospel, likely from a Jewish deference to not saying the name “God”. But the terms “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” are in reference to one and the same kingdom.