God’s Kingdom - Here And Now

Making The Shift Field Guide, Introduction

“And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.”
-Matthew 6:7-13, Holy Bible

This short prayer is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. In fact, he warned against long prayers; at least the type designed to gain attention for ourselves from others besides God. Instead Jesus encourages brevity and simplicity. It’s like he’s saying, “Just get to the point without all the attention-seeking.”

Disciples of Jesus Christ have used this model for praying over centuries in every corner of our planet. The words are well-used, repeated so many times every day that none of us could keep count (only God knows and it’s not for our ears anyway).

But I wonder….I wonder about this phrase right in the middle of this model prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Wow. Does this mean what we think it might mean? In recent years, this Lord’s Prayer statement has gripped me, not letting me go. My relationship with it is fluid, shifting as I try wrapping my mind around it. In this one statement there are depths of spiritual insight into which only my big toe is immersed. Sophisticated scholars can provide deep theological truths regarding the Lord’s Prayer, yet I have only one primary insight to offer.

Remarkably, this prayer calls us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth.

Who can adequately describe God’s kingdom in all its rich diversity, depth, and power? The clues we find in scripture describe a kingdom of healing, restoration, reconciliation, peace, justice, mercy, love, hope, etc. Nearly everything good, blessed, healthy, and whole has its origin in God and God’s kingdom. The kingdom is about putting a world gone mad into its right mind. It’s about bringing goodness to our brokenness. It’s about a world worth inhabiting.

So, Jesus, in this model prayer, encourages us to pray this kingdom of God will happen here (on earth), just like it does there (in heaven). Given this, I’m thinking that Jesus himself believed God’s kingdom coming on earth like it is in heaven is actually a real possibility.

I can remember so many sermons and Bible study lessons wherein the preacher or teacher described this world’s ultimate destiny as a huge conflagration in one fiery ball. That doesn’t sound much like God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. So, was Jesus just teasing us? Did Jesus want to give us some hope to live by, even though he knew God would burn this planet in the end? Was this just a way to occupy disciples until God and the angels could come and rescue the saints before destroying the sinners?

Over time, through must perspective shifting, I’ve come to believe that Jesus intended to bring God’s kingdom to earth (and still does). His life, ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection were the inaugural acts in this kingdom drama. Now his followers (us) are called to collaborate with God’s mission of kingdom actualization. Just like it is in heaven…that’s the kind of world Jesus wants for this planet.

What audacity, what a dreamer, what a call…
Now, how much will be collaborate and partner with God around God’s mission to bring the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven?

From Introduction To Making The Shift Field Guide, from Pinnacle Leadership Press, Mid-January 2016, by Mark Tidsworth. Companion to Shift: Three Big Moves For The 21st Century Church, November 2015.