What on earth

Alison-ChristianWhat on Earth?

Some years ago I had some friends who were quite a bit older than me. Although in many ways as English as they come in birth, upbringing and culture, they had found that the Hindu faith had spoken more to them as young people than the religion they experienced in 1930s and 40s Church of England services. We spoke often and at a depth which I found very enriching. We had much more in common than separated us and recognized in each other the same shared longings and desire for God. Although they largely read the great Hindu scriptures, they continued to read the Bible, too, and had a great attachment to the language of the services they were brought up within the Church of England; so they loved the 1662 Prayer Book. On one thing they were adamant. In the Lord’ Prayer, the wording should be,

Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done

In earth as it is in heaven.


“In” earth, not “on” earth.

As the years have gone by this translation has made more and more sense to me. Earth at the time of the 1662 Prayer Book did not simply mean our planet or the soil. Earth meant us human beings. It was a link with the idea of Adam being made from the dust of the earth; and with all we know now about the Big Bang and the way all matter is recycled over and over again, including the matter which makes up our bodies, it makes even more sense.

But even more importantly the whole prayer is slightly shifted when we use “in” instead of “on”. If we pray that God’s kingdom comes and his will is done on earth, it is out there: it is about justice, mercy and love, the kingdom values, happening in our world, yes, but out there. If we hold the older understanding in our minds, “in earth,” it becomes about us, you and me. May God’s kingdom come and his will be done in me. I then become responsible along with God, along with all others who pray the Lord’s Prayer for promulgating God’s Kingdom values and not just blaming the lack thereof on others, on the world out there.

It’s a small word shift, “on” or “in”, but it gives quite a lot of food for thought.