I started truly practicing Christianity when I was 18 years old and enrolled in seminary at 22. Up until 2-3 years ago, if I would have taught a lecture on the Lord’s prayer or written a post about Jesus’ teaching to the disciples in Matthew 6, I would have taught much differently concerning the line, “on earth as it is in heaven”. My teaching would have probably sounded like this, “Our job as Christians is to pray that those on earth would desire heaven. We need to pray that we and those around use would become more eternity or heaven-minded. We need to pray for many to believe in Jesus so they can go to heaven because that is God’s will- more earthly souls in heaven.”
Do I still believe all those statements to be true? Yes, of course. We are to pray for an eternal desire over temporal ones. We are called to treasure the things that will last. Jesus, in the same chapter in Matthew, tells us to lay up treasures in heaven that neither moth or rust can destroy (Matthew 6:19-21). As Christians, are we to pray that many will believe in Jesus? Of course! All of heaven rejoices when one lost soul finds Jesus. (Luke 15:7). But, I no longer believe that those statements fully encompass what Jesus is teaching when he tells the disciples to pray- “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The ultimate goal of God’s kingdom doesn’t just culminate in all Christians going to a new heaven for eternity. The Bible is clear that at the end of time, all things will be restored, a new heaven AND a new earth will emerge. Everything bad and gross and wrong about our world will be erased and a new, restored world will emerge. Eternity isn’t just about heaven, it’s about the restoration of our current world.
So, when we pray, “on earth as it is in heaven”, we are praying to see glimpses of what is reality in heaven now on our earth that is not yet restored. We are praying that we could have a foretaste of the future restoration. We are praying for a leaking of heaven into earth. Even in the midst of al the bad and the gross and the corrupt, we pray for God’s will to be manifest and for touches of His grace to shine through the hard.
What might that look like, practically speaking? It looks like those who love Jesus investing their time, energy, money, etc. in bringing glimpses of heaven here on earth. It looks like those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus, manifesting the fruit of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control) in our lives so that maybe, just maybe, a few of the broken pieces in our world can be restored.
As we enter a new school year and a contentious political season, my prayer for myself and for my family, is that our lives would ooze or leak pieces of heaven into our communities, our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches and our jobs. None of us can singularly usher in the full restoration of our world (That’s God’s job.), but we can play our part. We can pray, “Father, on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.