Sometimes a thing can become so familiar that it's impact becomes negligible. For many of us, we have heard "The Lord's Prayer" so many times in so many contexts that we can recite it in the same way we might ride a bike- so automated that our mind's energy can be used to think about something else. But this prayer is familiar because it is great. It is not some magic formula recited to appease the gods, but an invitation for God to work in our lives in powerful ways.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)
It can be easy to read "on earth" as a global (non-specific) target and not a personal one. While we certainly should pray for "the world", that's also a prayer that's not very dangerous. We have to learn to distinguish between what's within our control and what is not. "For the things that aren't in our control, we can of course still pray, "God, do your work." But for the things that are within our control and influence, the prayer becomes "God, do your work through us." I think the Lord's Prayer is more about the latter. It's an invitation to God to use us for His Kingdom even if it comes at our expense.
The phrase "on earth" could also be translated "in this land." As in "my community." In other words, "God, I want to see Your name be made great, Your will be done, and Your kingdom come here in my community. But I can only really control myself, so here is how I am willing to be a part of your movement. Here is how I want to live my life and how I want you to work in my life so I can bring your Kingdom, will, and beauty into my community."
There are three commands attached to the phrase "on earth as it is in heaven." So the prayer is really- "May your name be hallowed on earth as it is in heaven." "May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven." "May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Hallowed Be Your Name. The word hallowed means "greatly revered or respected." I like to think of this almost like a family name that carries weight and you want to honor it with the way you conduct your life. God, may your people here on earth represent the greatness of your name in the same way that the beings up there do. While it's easy to throw stones at the Church and say that historically we have blown it and made of a mess of God's reputation, the more helpful question might be- "Am I honoring the family name? What do people think about God when they experience me?"
Your Kingdom Come. When you think of the kingdom of God up there, what images come to mind? The Bible gives us a few ideas. Beauty. Joy. Peace. Restoration. Unity. Openness. Rest. Honesty. Purity. So the prayer becomes, "God, the way things look up there, use us to make that a reality down here." In our inner being, in our homes, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, in our cities. Wherever we have the ability to be of influence, God use us.
The first part of the Lord's Prayer is a plea for God to be active in our communities through us. The next part are the specific ways we are committed to seeing that happen. (Give us this day our daily bread... forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors... lead us not into temptation...) I'll unpack those more next week.