“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10)
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
Who is in charge of your life?
If God is in charge of your life, then you want to participate in the advancement of God’s kingdom and to do his will. Jesus treats them as the same thing. Remember, Hebrew poetry does not rhyme; it doubles. The second phrase repeats the first, but in different words. The more subtle the doubling; the more beautiful the poetry.
To see this doubling, ask yourself a question: how do you know that you have entered a kingdom? A kingdom exists where the king’s edicts are obeyed. Jesus prays: “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” (Matt 6:10)
The third phase in the prayer reinforces the first two. Where does Jesus pray that God’s kingdom will be? Let it be a kingdom on earth as in heaven. Where does Jesus pray that God’s will be done? Let it be done on earth as in heaven. We aspire that earth be like heaven.
James, the brother of Jesus, echoes this distinction in his contrast between faith and action. He writes simply: “faith apart from works is dead” (Jas 2:26). Our faith may model heaven, but on earth our actions must reflect it.
Did you notice the subtle reminder of God’s creative power in Jesus’ prayer? Hint: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1) Earth is modeled after heaven in the creation order. It still would be but for the corruption of sin. In praying the Lord’s Prayer, we are petitioning God to restore creation and are, in effect, participating in its re-creation.
A Hebrew doublet sometimes takes the form of a negative contrast. In Psalm 1, for example, we read: “for the LORD knows the way of the righteous [will prosper], but the way of the wicked will perish [not prosper].” (Ps 1:6) One is a blessing of the law followed; the other is a curse of the law broken. The logic of the pattern invites us to fill in any missing pieces.
In Jesus’ prayer, two negative contrasts are implicit. It is your kingdom come; not my kingdom come. It is your will be done; not my will be done. Submission implies choosing God over self.