2So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. (Luke 11:2 NKJV)
In Luke 11 Jesus answered the disciple’s burning request, “Lord, teach us to pray.” They perceived prayer to be the central activity to the life and ministry of Jesus and they wanted to enter into the kind of communion and ministry that they saw in the life of Jesus. Jesus gave them an outline for prayer, but that outline is more than an outline for prayer because Jesus knew that, if they prayed this prayer, their activity would ultimately come into agreement with this prayer.
Though Jesus’ outline for the model prayer is simple and relatively brief, in the opening sentences He gives one simple phrase that lays the foundation for how He expects the church to define her mission in this age:
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
This simple phrase is not only a mandate for prayer, it is a mandate for mission. It gives the church a precise focus for all of our labors. Our labor is to be directed towards this ultimate goal: that it would be done on the earth as it is done in heaven. This means we must understand, from the Scripture, how God’s will is executed in heaven and organize the church according to that pattern. This is the way the apostles understood the mission of the church and it is how we are to as well because it gives a clear ecclesiology, missiology, and eschatology.
A Clear Ecclesiology
When we get a glimpse into the activity of heaven, we see the leaders in one consistent posture of prayer, worship, and fascination with Jesus.
8The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” 9Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: 11“You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:8–11 NKJV)
8Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” 11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, (Revelation 5:8–11 NKJV)
The leadership of heaven is positioned before the throne in unceasing adoration and worship. Their primary focus is on the beauty of God and they respond to His beauty in extravagant adoration. This is the primary function of the leadership in heaven and it is a pattern for the leadership of the church on the earth. The book of Acts shows us that the apostles understood this and modeled the church according to this pattern. In Acts 6 and 13 we find the leaders of the church devoting themselves to corporate prayer, worship, and gazing on the beauty of Jesus in the Scripture. They understood the heavenly pattern and they structured their ecclesiology after it. Far from being a distraction from the mission of the church, it was actually the origin of the missionary activity recorded in the New Testament.
3Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; (Acts 6:3 NKJV)
2As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:2–3 NKJV)
A Clear Missiology
Understanding the activity of heaven also gives us a clear missiology.
9And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, (Revelation 5:9 NKJV)
9After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9–10 NKJV)
In heaven we see every tribe and tongue singing and crying out with a loud voice about the glory of the Lamb, and this is enough to set the missiology of the global church. We are to labor until every tribe and tongue is singing to the Lamb. Not only are they to be singing, note that it says they are “crying out with a loud voice.” In other words it is extravagant. It is noticeable. It rises about all other noise. It is loud. Every tribe and tongue is singing and crying out loudly before the throne in heaven and God intends it to be the same on earth. The fact that they are both singing and crying out indicates that they stand before the throne in a posture of worship and prayer, therefore we are to labor so that the nations sing and cry out to Him on earth just as extravagantly as they do in heaven.
A Clear Eschatology
Heaven also gives us a very clear eschatology. The answer to John’s deep grief over the condition of the cosmos in Revelation 5:4 was that the Lamb had overcome and that He would reign on the earth. Heaven is focused on a very clear eschatology: Jesus must reign on the earth among His people. This is the only hope of the heaven and it is the only hope of the church on earth.
4So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. 5But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:4–5 NKJV)
9And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” 11Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:9–12 NKJV)
It is not enough that Jesus reigns in heaven, He must reign on the earth. He is worthy to receive the governments of the earth. His people will reign with Him on the earth because He will reign on the earth. Our eschatology should be as simple as the eschatology of the elders and the living creatures: our great hope and burning desire is that the Lamb rule on the earth among His people.
There are a number of things that all compete for the focus and activity of the church, but, in His wisdom, Jesus gave us a simple way to determine what is primary and what is secondary. Before we attend to secondary matters, we are to structure the church to be in agreement with His longing that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. When we enter into this prayer, we find a clear ecclesiology, a clear missiology, and a clear eschatology. While only the return of Jesus can bring all the earth into the place where His will is done as it is in heaven, while we wait for the day of His appearing it is our commission to organize the church according to the heavenly pattern given to us.