How many times have we prayed this prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10)?
Until recently, I’ve tended to understand these lines from the Lord’s Prayer to emphasize the setting up of God’s kingdom on earth sometime in the distant future; you know, when Jesus returns.
But I’ve come to understand that interpreting these lines as something to happen in the distant future violates the spirit of the rest of the prayer. For example, God’s name isn’t only to be hallowed sometime in the distant future. We’re not asking to be forgiven sometime in the distant future. We’re praying for our daily bread, for crying out loud, not for some provision in the distant future.
The model prayer Jesus taught His disciples is about our daily needs. When Jesus told His disciples to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” He was reminding them—and us—that we should pray for God’s will to be demonstrated in us every day, wherever we live, work, and interact with others.
It’s all too easy to live as if all the ills of the world—violence, greed, racism, economic and gender inequality, and religious bigotry—will be eliminated sometime in the distant future; you know, when Jesus comes again. And they certainly will be.
But just as we pray for our material, emotional, and spiritual needs on a daily basis, we have to pray that God will use us to advance His kingdom on a daily basis. That means more than just waiting for God to set up His eternal kingdom of glory; it means fighting back the forces of darkness in our own community every day.
In God’s heavenly kingdom racism will be absent. What are we doing now to erase the effects of racism in our communities? God’s heavenly kingdom will have no gender inequality. What are we doing now to make sure gender inequality is not tolerated in our social institutions? What are we doing to care for those who are marginalized, not just in our own community but around the world? What are we doing to ease tensions caused by religious bigotry?
Now, more than ever, we have options. Those of us who live in developed parts of the world can choose to consume products that are environmentally friendly, products that don’t profit from slave labor. We can ask politicians tough questions and refuse to be satisfied with their simple answers to complicated problems. We can side with those who are oppressed in their struggle against greed.
Thankfully, we can all look forward to a time when God’s perfect will is done in the entire universe. But until then we have to pray—and act—that God’s will is done in our lives and in our community. In the words of the prophet: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24).
Let’s pray that happens now, as well as later.