At our local Nazarene church in Flint Michigan, we are constantly praying a slightly altered version of the prayer that the Lord taught us to pray. We pray that “God’s kingdom would come and His will be done in Flint as it is in heaven.” We believe that is a prayer that Jesus not only told us to pray, but a prayer that we should expect and want God to answer.
What would it look like if God actually answered that prayer? When “God’s kingdom comes and His will is done” then love for neighbor will be continually experienced. We will only have neighbors in heaven. No outsiders allowed. In Revelation 7, John gives us a glimpse into heaven when he talks of seeing “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9). I’m pretty sure that means there will be no barriers based on where one’s passport is issued, the color of one’s skin, one’s ancestry, or any of the other things that too often divide us. Jesus talks about heaven being like a great banquet, as such plenty not poverty will characterize the gathering of saints. Later the Revelator says it will be a place where ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). Healthy and happy will describe us. All of this happens, when God’s kingdom comes and his will is done.
Some look at our world and say, “We aren’t close to the Lord answering that prayer. There are problems and divisions like never before.” But like the people the Old Testament prophet Zechariah called us to be, I am a “prisoner of hope.” As such that doesn’t mean we have to put on “rose colored glasses,” instead you just need to look a little closer to see God’s work. I refuse to believe that God is done. He still wants to answer that prayer that Christians have been praying for 2,000 years. We have a long, long way to go, but I see evidence of his working.
Take my little tribe, the Church of the Nazarene, for example. When you looked at our leadership circles a few years ago, it looked like we were communicating that the kingdom of heaven would only be occupied by white haired, American men (and who mostly pastored a church in Olathe, Kansas). But now our six General Superintendents includes two from Africa, one from Guatemala and a woman. This summer in the USA/Canada region we have elected a Hispanic man, a man born in West Indies and a woman to the role of District Superintendent. All this to say, we are changing. We are looking more and more like heaven.
I know the change (the answer to the Lord’s prayer) is not happening as fast as some would prefer. I know we have a long, long way to go. I know our country is divided and sometimes those divisions are seen in the church. We still have problems. But I am a prisoner of hope and believe that God is at work both in my local church and in the larger global makeup of the Church of the Nazarene. So, I’m going to keep being a prisoner of hope and keep praying and keep expecting that God’s kingdom will come and his will done on earth, in Flint, in the Church of the Nazarene as it is in heaven. Won’t you join me in praying that prayer too.