No.4 Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We petition this every day but do we really want it? Can we really cope with the will of God interacting with every part of our life? Can we really allow God to be God in his and our world?
Those are really difficult questions which we should interact with as we pray the Lord's Prayer; I repeat PRAY the Lord's Prayer. I think that I can remember having to learn the Lord's Prayer very early in my primary school education. Things were very different in the 1950's and I might say that we were force-fed Christianity whether we liked it or not. We learnt the Lord's Prayer as a whole class activity by reciting it every day and there was a large poster with the words on the wall at the front of the classroom. It was learnt by children, some of whom could not even read, but it was a communal prayer and remains a communal prayer today. It can be said by us in private and should be, but it is a communal prayer.
Does this sound right to you?
Not the Lord's Prayer!
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 me this day my daily bread.
And forgive me my trespasses,
as I forgive those who trespass against me.
And lead me not into temptation;
but deliver me from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
I hope that you see the difference when we replace the us and our, with I, we and my. It makes it a totally different prayer. It might still be a prayer but it is not the Lord's Prayer. To put it in a Covid 19 setting – we should all be in it together. Perhaps the reason I am inclined to the catholic style of worship and theology, as opposed to the evangelical or charismatic styles, is their emphasis of an almost totally individual or personal relationship with Christ, rather than a kinship of the Spirit.
So! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. What is heaven like? When St. Peter has let us through the pearly gates do we float around for eternity in white nightshirts playing a harp? Perhaps not! (I hope not). But if God's will reigns in heaven, what would it be like on earth? Would we all be equal? Would there be no crime? Would we really love each other?. They are all marvellous ideals which as Christians we must all strive for, but all of them are costly and our human frailty exhibited in selfishness denies us the full fruits of the Kingdom. Jesus lived the Kingdom when he was in the world, but the world could not accept it and Jesus knew that it would inevitably lead to his crucifixion.
When Engels and Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848 it was meant to provide a utopian society for all people. Considering the horrendous conditions that so many ordinary people suffered in their work, life and death it was seen as the way forward, but human frailty meant that it could not work. This is so simply explained in George Orwell's “Animal Farm”, and is so marvellously summed up in that well known quotation, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. Over the years I have been slightly obsessed with reading utopian books, “Utopia” by Thomas More, “News From Nowhere” by William Morris and “Looking Backward 2000 – 1887” by Edward Bellamy to name but three, but they are all but dreams, ignoring human greed and our inability to live in true communal harmony.
When I was a theological student I had to do a 4 week placement in a parish in the Black Country. The incumbent was a rather bullying Team Rector who I found rather difficult to get on with, as did his team who worked with him. At Morning Prayer one day he stopped proceedings to chastise me for saying the prayers and not praying them. It was one of those slightly embarrassing moments for all concerned, but was in character for him. I thought I was doing OK, but he wanted to make a point at my expense. However, it did hit home and although I think I was just being made a scapegoat to show the Rector's power over a youngish ordinand, I have always tried very hard to pray the Lord's Prayer instead of just saying it.
We all fail and are unworthy of the Kingdom, but we must continually pray for it to come, and give thanks for the Grace of God that comforts and guides us through this sometimes difficult life.