The Roman Empire ruled the world during New Testament times. Whenever Rome conquered a nation, they superimposed their national boundary over the whole occupied territory. Unconcerned about pre-existing cultural patterns, Rome instituted its forms of law, religion, art, education, and culture—wanting the civilizations they conquered to be transformed by Roman ideals.
It was in this setting that Jesus proclaimed a magnificent reality about prayer: “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven’” (Matthew 6:9-10 ESV). In a time when National Israel seemed to be under the total control of the enemy, being forced to endure forms of government, entertainment, and economics steeped in paganism, Jesus taught that a certain manner of prayer could cause the Father’s kingdom and will to be on earth to the same degree as it is in Heaven.
Was Jesus saying that this type of prayer would cause a little trickle of Heaven on earth—only an occasional divine intervention?
No, in fact, the answer to that question reminds me of a story about a certain pastor who had multiple angelic visitations. During a two and a half year period, this pastor had over 20 angelic encounters—some of which included visits from the archangels Michael and Gabriel. Now, bear in mind, the pastor was no novice. He had been faithfully pastoring a church in his community for over 25 years.
When called on the carpet by an ecclesiastical board composed of the most respected pastors of his denomination, he was endeavoring, unsuccessfully, to persuade his colleagues that the angelic visitations were genuine. After all but one of the board members had shared their grave concerns about the validity of the angelic encounters, the last and, thankfully, most respected board member weighed in. He said, “Gentlemen, I recently decided to do a sermon series in my church on angels. The series, which I thought would last only a few weeks, ended up requiring several months because of the vast amount of scripture in the Bible regarding the subject of angels and their involvement with mankind. After everything I’ve learned and taught, I’m not concerned that this man is seeing angels so frequently. On the contrary, I’m concerned that we’re not.”
No, the type of prayer Jesus taught doesn’t cause an intermittent or occasional heavenly occurrence on earth. The word meaning in the text is much stronger than that. Strong’s Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Bible says that the word “on” in the phrase “on earth” means a “superimposition of time, place, order, etc. as a relation of distribution.”
Superimposing Heaven on Earth
To superimpose means to place or layer one thing upon another, often so that both things appear simultaneously, although one partially or fully obscures the other. Also, when something is superimposed, it’s added as a dominant feature; it’s not assimilated into the existing object or order.
Not unlike the Roman Empire superimposing its rule and culture everywhere they went, God wants to continually superimpose Heaven on earth. Although not using the same brutal methods, but through the agency of prayer, God wants Heaven’s atmosphere, Heaven’s way of doing things, Heaven’s culture, and Heaven itself to overlap earth and transform humanity.
No wonder the enemy fights prayer so hard. When was the last time the devil tempted you to pray—to be conscious of God’s life-giving presence and to enjoy warm and personal fellowship with your loving Father in Heaven? Never! Satan hates prayer because he knows it’s capable of superimposing Heaven on earth and conquering his earthly kingdoms.
In the King James Version, as well as in other Bible translations, the words “it is” in Matthew 6:10 are italicized. This indicates that they are not present in the original Greek text. A more accurate translation of the text would be, “on earth as in Heaven.”
Those five words, “on earth as in Heaven” overflow with profound realities—realties that challenge many common but erroneous ideas in the church. For example, many Christians think you have to die before you can experience Heaven. However, Jesus wants you to pray in such a manner that you experience Heaven now. To many, a chief aim of prayer is getting people to go to Heaven after they die—and we should pray for the lost—but to Jesus, a chief aim of prayer is getting Heaven to come to you before you die. This manner of prayer is actually one of the ways He helps you and others get to Heaven after death—by causing you to experience His goodness and love during your life on earth.
An Invitation to Heaven
Notice that the model of prayer Jesus taught begins with the words, “Our Father in Heaven.” This is not merely a title—notice it does not begin with the words, “Heavenly Father”—rather it is locative, stating, “Our Father in Heaven.” Why does Jesus’ model of prayer begin this way? Is it like an address number or postal code where if you get the numbers wrong, the letter won’t arrive? Or if you don’t say “in Heaven,” the prayer might not get there? No, it’s because the first words of this prayer are Jesus’ invitation to partake of Heaven before you say another word. It’s an invocation not only of the Father Himself, but of all that emanates from Him—of Heaven itself.
I like the Ben Campbell Johnson paraphrase of Matthew 6:9: “Father, you are the heart of Heaven.” After all, wherever the Father is, Heaven is. I wouldn’t want to go to Heaven if the Father wasn’t there, would you?
Jesus’ teaching on prayer is telling you that you don’t have to wait to die to go to Heaven—you can go right now—Heaven is wherever and whenever you fellowship with your Father. To me, it’s like I hear Jesus saying Matthew 6-9-10 this way: ‘Get into your Father. Wherever He is, Heaven is sure to be. Be with Him as your Father and enjoy Heaven while you’re with Him, and then His kingdom and His purposes will come to earth through your heavenly activity. And, as everything is in Heaven, where you are now taking pleasure in your Father, so it will be on earth.’ (My paraphrase.)
You see, this kind of praying isn’t praying from earth to Heaven. No, this kind of praying invokes your Father’s presence and, suddenly, because you’re together, you’re praying from Heaven to earth. Pentecostal pioneer Smith Wigglesworth said, “I never saw a man get anything from God who prayed on the earth… If you are living in the earth realm and expect things from Heaven, they will never come.”
“As in Heaven” not only indicates what is to be the outcome of your praying, but it also indicates that you’ve accessed Heaven’s realities while praying. That’s one reason why, at the beginning of the prayer, Jesus invited you to join your Father in Heaven. It’s so you could partake of Heaven in fellowship with your Father and then cause things to be “on earth as in Heaven.”
Tasting Heaven For Yourself
Let me try and illustrate it this way. I have been to over 25 nations and there is nowhere on this planet quite like New Orleans. It’s known for its rich history, many colorful traditions, and gourmet cuisine. One unique New Orleans delicacy is the Po-Boy sandwich. It’s said that the Po-Boy originated in New Orleans during a 1929 transit strike to feed striking streetcar conductors. A Po-Boy is made on fresh French bread, crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside, piled high with your choice of calorific toppings like roast beef and gravy, fried shrimp, fried oysters, fried soft-shell crab, roasted pork, etc.
My favorite Po-Boy is found Uptown on Magazine Street. It’s made on local Leidenheimer French bread, piled high with mounds of French fries, completely drenched with steaming roast beef gravy, and then dressed with Blue Plate mayo, pickles, tomato, and lettuce. The amazing layers, the textures, and all the flavors combined are like a great big Mardi Gras parade in my mouth! Can you sense my enthusiasm here? Why is my passion coming through? Because I’ve been there to experience it for myself—I’ve tasted an authentic Po-Boy and I sincerely want you to enjoy a legendary New Orleans Po-Boy for yourself.
Now, how could I pray with any sense of passion, authority, or conviction that you have a Po-Boy wherever you are, “as in” New Orleans, if I had never experienced a Po-Boy in New Orleans myself? It’s not possible—I would have to experience it before I could legitimately describe it, offer it, or try to distribute it to you. Remember the Strong’s definition of “on”? It’s superimposition for distribution.
Jesus made it possible for you to experience intimate and personal fellowship with the Father for yourself. He’s given you the capacity to taste Heaven on earth—to see it superimposed over your world. The Father and His love will transform you in His presence so that you can share His presence with others.
People transformed by Heaven can transform their homes and cities into places like Heaven. So, get into your Father’s presence and enjoy Heaven on earth.
Until next time, may you have more kingdom reality, the joy-life of fellowshipping in the family of God, and “MAS FUEGO!” (MORE FIRE!”)
Your Apostolic Revivalists & Equippers,
Nathanael & Michelle Wolf
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