The second line of the Lord’s prayer is, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Or, in paraphrase, “Please send your Son soon to set the world to rights, so that we can live under your loving reign, with no more sin or suffering, and in the context of peace, justice, and unbroken love.” After having honored God’s name with the first line of the Lord’s prayer, we honor his intentions in the second line.
When we pray for God’s name to be honored, we are praying that God will honor his name by bringing the world under his loving rule, by setting the world straight so that his will is done on earth just like it already is done in heaven.
What does the Bible mean by “heaven”? The Bible uses the word heaven to refer to God’s space, the place where he resides temporarily and where his future purposes are waiting to be enacted. Earth, on the other hand, is our space. It is now infected by sin but in the future it will be cleansed of sin. God will renew and restore the Earth, bringing the holy city “down” from heaven to Earth, thus merging God’s space and our space.
When we pray for God’s will to be done, we should have dual foci: we are praying for his will to be done in our lives, personally, but also that it will be done in the world at large. We are praying for something to be actualized right now in our personal lives and for something to happen in the future life of the whole world.
How can God enact his will right now in our personal lives? By forgiving our sins and filling us with his Spirit in the here and now. He is ready to send us on “mission” to honor his name in front of the people he brings across our path. He has the power to make our lives medicinal for the people around us who are sick with sin.
In what ways will God enact his will right now in our public lives? He will help us resist the temptation toward political messianism, the enticement to place our trust in a given political ideology that will save us from our troubles. Indeed, each of the political ideologies that have arisen in the past several hundred years can function as a false religion in the lives of its adherents.
For example, socialism elevates “material equality,” to the level of a god, and generally offers social revolution as the path toward society’s salvation. Similarly, progressivism absolutizes “progress” to the level of a deity and offers social revolution as the medicine for our ills. Likewise conservatism often absolutizes “cultural heritage” as a god and offers cultural conservation as the balm for our wounds. In the other three modern ideologies—liberalism, nationalism, and libertarianism—we similarly see a tendency to elevate a pet idea to the level of a god.
By contrast, the Lord’s prayer reminds us that our only hope is for Christ to return and set the world to rights. While we are perfectly right to value a given aspect of God’s creation—material goods, social progress, or cultural conservation, for example—we are perfectly wrong to elevate it to the level deserved by God alone. Once we have made a “good” thing into a “god” thing, it becomes a false savior that confidently but unrealistically offers a salvation it cannot achieve. Functionally, therefore, it replaces the cosmic restoration our Father has promised.
Each day, therefore, we do well to rehearse the Lord’s prayer, including the second line, “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In so doing, we remind ourselves not to place our hope in anything or anybody other than God our Father.