“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” I have uttered those words probably hundreds of thousands of times. But a question has been nagging my mind recently about them. This is it: what do we actually mean when we pray those words?
I don’t know of a better explanation of the implications of praying for God’s Kingdom to become a reality in the world around us than how Chris Wright describes it in his book The Mission of God:
The reign of YHWH, when it would finally come, would mean justice for the oppressed and the overthrow of the wicked. It would bring true peace to the nations and the abolition of war, the means of war and training for war. It would put an end to poverty, war and need, and provide everyone with economic viability (under the metaphor “under his own vine and fig tree”). It would mean satisfying and fulfilling life for human families, safety for children, and fulfilment for the elderly, without danger for enemies and all of this within a renewed creation free from harm and threat. It would mean the inversion of the moral values that dominate the current world order, for in the kingdom of God the upside-down priorities of the Beatitudes operate and the Magnificat is not just wishful thinking. (p. 309)
So when we dare to pray those words as a believing community or as an individual believer we are asking for this God-intended future to invade our world here and now through us. We are asking God to use our individual lives and our communal life as the raw materials from which to create in our contemporary culture a multi-media demonstration of his alternative and inevitable future for humanity and creation, that is, his Kingdom. Praying those few simple words should mean that our contemporaries look at our lives and our communities as God’s people and they should see the values of God’s kingdom described by Chris Wright embodied and expressed in who we are and what we do. That makes these famous words not just a prayer of aspiration for God’s Kingdom but one of commitment to God’s mission in this world of seeing his Kingdom grow.
Michael Frost puts it like this in The Road to Missional:
If mission is alerting people to the reign of God in Christ, our mandate is to do whatever is required in the circumstances to both demonstrate and announce this Kingship. We feed the hungry because in the world to come there will be no such thing as starvation. We share Christ because in the world to come there will be no such thing as unbelief. Both are the fashioning of foretastes of that world to come, none more or less important than the other. (p.28)
I love that concept, that whenever we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are committing ourselves as Christ followers and churches to fashioning foretastes of the world to come in the here and now. Whenever we obey Jesus and those words pass our lips in prayer, amongst other things we are committing ourselves to being violence-rejecting, peace-promoting, justice-advocating poverty-alleviators, faith-creating evangelists and social action radicals who make war not on other human beings but on illness, hunger, and meaninglessness.
When I think about all of that and praying those words that Jesus taught I am intimidated and inspired in just about equal measure. One thing I know for sure: I better not pray those words if I don’t mean them.