We call it, “The Lord’s Prayer.” This particular part, about the Father’s kingdom and will coming and being done on earth as it is in Heaven, is in Matthew but not in Luke. Yet the words have settled into our collective consciences. We have memorized the longer version in Matthew. We have been praying these words since childhood. The words are recognizable, but their meaning, what we are indeed praying for, are as unrecognizable and far from us as we are from each other.
I didn’t always know what the Lord’s will was past the narrative of myself being saved and being in the Kingdom. I never imagined the Kingdom beyond it’s moral description. It would be good, safe; no more tears, death or sin. So when I prayed the Lord’s Prayer, I had only these things in mind. In short, I didn’t hear, or better, I didn’t listen, to the Lord’s own description of His Kingdom in Heaven.
Revelation 5:9–10 (NAS): 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. 10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
When I saw the vision of the Kingdom John was asked to record, I had to pick myself up, shake off my years of ethnic comfortable and resistance, and begin the long swim upstream. His will is to be glorified and worshipped by every tribe, tongue, people, and ethnic nation. That’s the description of those around the throne in Heaven. That’s the Lord’s own description of His will being done and His Kingdom in Heaven. And that’s what Jesus asked us to pray for when He said, “on earth as it is in Heaven.”
I understand just how hard this is. I planted an intentionally multiethnic church in one of the fastest growing and ethnically diverse cities in the country. And after 12 years of the most intense labor, loss and pain I have ever known, we did not survive. Yet I’ve watched other ethnically homogeneous churches begin, grow, and thrive in those twelve years. They’re not seeking to be ethnically segregated, they’re not against diversity in their churches, it just doesn’t happen; they’re just unintentional.
With our long, complicated history of racial and ethnic hostility, I understand why we would drift apart on Sunday mornings. When the dam of racial hostility broke last summer, I struggled terrible to believe we could ever worship together genuinely in community. And I dare say I struggled with my desire to. I’ve been deeply dismayed by pastors who agree with me about the description of the Kingdom, but who will only go as far as a symbolic pulpit swap, then knowing that things will go back to “normal,” simply allow them to. Pastors who count the cost and find it too high a price to pay.
But I know this calling demands courage, and the Lord’s Prayer has teeth now. It has a hold of me, and thankfully, it hasn’t let me go. I can’t shake free from the shameful image of Jesus’ Church being the last segregated institution in America, while being the lone institution praying, “on earth as it is in Heaven.” Yet I simply cannot turn from this high calling.
I’m not asking you to plant intentionally multiethnic churches. I’m not asking you to leave your ethnically homogeneous church. No, those are big steps. I am asking you to begin praying the Lord’s Prayer sincerely, knowing exactly what you’re asking. And begin preparing your hearts for His Kingdom to come in your church, as it is in Heaven. Because that day will come, and when it does, every knee will bow before the Son, to the glory of the Father. And we will, at last, worship together, displaying multicolored wisdom of God in Heavenly places through the church.