Christianity 201

February 19, 2013

On Earth as it is in Heaven

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]  (NASB)

Nearly three years ago I barely scratched the surface of this phrase from The Lord’s Prayer (or more correctly, The Disciples Prayer)  in Matthew 6.   Today, in keeping with our motto — Digging a Little Deeper — I thought I would see what some commentaries have to say about this phrase, which is found in Matthew’s version of the prayer, but not Luke’s. Unfortunately, a few of them skipped over this particular clause entirely.

The International Bible Commentary points out that the phrase modifies all three of the previous petitions, the bringing about of God’s Kingdom, His will, and the hallowed-ness of His name.

The NIV Study Bible concurs with this, suggesting that the phrase might be repeated after each line:

  • May your name be holy 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.

The Evangelical Bible Commentary notes two things. First the phrase makes the petitions personal:

  • May your Kingdom come and your will be done by me, right now.

Second, it links the phrase to the familiar text in verse 33,

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. 

In other words

  • May your holiness and righteousness and your kingdom be the thing we seek (or long for) (or strive for) before anything else.

This would then link the line in the prayer to verse 33’s promise that

and all these things will be given unto you

(or ‘added unto you’ in the KJV, the things being the concerns we often are preoccupied in the ‘worry’ section in the Sermon on the Mount which precedes it.)

Matthew Henry enhances the text with these words:

“…that the earth will be made more like heaven by the observance of God’s will.”

And some of you know that in The Message Bible, Eugene Peterson takes this line from a prayer already known for its extreme concision — contrasted with those who pray long prayers thinking their “many words” will make their prayers more effective — and renders it even more concisely:

as above, so below

Scanning the Christian blogosphere, we see people taking this phrase as a springboard for everything from a glimpse of heaven, to a call to social action, to beginning from where we are and then moving out beyond, to the impossibility of doing anything without the Holy Spirit’s power.

The blog, Ragamuffin Ramblings quotes N. T. Wright:

We are to pray that God’s kingdom will come, and God’s will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven.” The life of heaven — the life of the realm where God is already king — is to become the life of the world, transforming the present “earth” into the place of beauty and delight that God always intended. And those who follow Jesus are to begin to live by this rule here and now. That’s the point of the Sermon on the Mount, and the beatitudes in particular. They are a summons to live in the present in the way that will make sense in God’s promised future; because the future has arrived in the present in Jesus of Nazareth. It may seem upside down, but we are called to believe, with great daring, that it is in fact the right way up.


In some unrelated online research a few days ago, I came across this rendering — not necessarily recommended — of the prayer found in a used bookstore from The New Zealand Prayer Book:

“Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever.

Amen”

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