The first word in the Lord’s Prayer is “our”. “Our Father in heaven…” That is, the prayer is not about our individual piety, but piety expressed in community, towards others. We are not decrying individual piety. That is necessary. But it’s not enough. Our personal holiness is only the first step towards God’s purpose for us. It’s the community that God is looking to restore, because it’s the community that supports individuals and nurtures them towards their future growth. When community is beaten down, the weak and the young people suffer.
The first word of the prayer isn’t “My”, but “Our”. Not “My Father”, but “Our Father”. And this is how the prayer continues. “Give US this day our daily bread… Forgive US OUR trespasses… Lead US not into temptation… Deliver US from evil.” But what is the subject matter of the prayer? It is, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So this tells us straight away that a primary focus in God’s will being done and in his kingdom coming, is moving from “me” to “us”. This isn’t just true for me as an individual, but also for the church. The church doesn’t exist for itself, but for its neighbours, and for its enemies. It’s always “us”, not “us and them.”
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is the prayer the Lord gave us to pray. So then, this is central to God’s purposes for us as his followers. This is what the church is born for, and what its commission is. The purpose of Christ coming isn’t to take us to heaven, but for the will of God to be done upon earth. And that purpose will be fulfilled. This isn’t just a nice prayer. This is why Jesus came.
Just to say something here about “going to heaven when we die.” Many Christians believe that going to heaven is our eternal destiny. Others believe it is a temporary place, awaiting Christ’s second coming, when we return with him to the new earth. Others believe in soul sleep, saying we are asleep until the resurrection. Others believe that when we die we go straight to the resurrection, Narnia style: God’s times are not our times! We tend to interpret the scripture according to our view of the above. The Hebrew people didn’t speculate on these things. This certainly wasn’t the purpose of Jesus’ teachings. He wasn’t teaching about what happened to us after we die. He was teaching about living a new covenant life on earth, which begins in our communities today, and continues in the resurrection and new world. The hope of the Jewish people about the future was the resurrection. This was shown by Mary and Martha, when Lazarus died. This was expressed by Paul to the Thessalonian believers. It was at the resurrection that they would meet with their loved ones. They were to comfort each other with this sure hope.