We call what you are talking about teshuvah/return and tikkun/repair. The two operate together: you return to God and repair the world with godliness: doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God and God’s creation (Micah 6:8). Some people are more prone to begin with teshuvah and the life of prayer, study, and contemplation that is the way of return. Others are more comfortable beginning with tikkun, becoming socially active and working for justice for both persons and planet. Wherever one starts, the other is always bound to kick in at some point. My understanding is that when one lives teshuvah and tikkun one lives in Malchut Shamayim, the kingdom of God.
Jesus’ reference to God’s kingdom is, itself, very Jewish. In the Talmud, tractate Berachot 40b (published centuries after Jesus, but containing the teachings of his rabbinic predecessors and colleagues) the rabbis taught that for a prayer to be valid it must mention both the Name of God and the Kingdom of God. In practice this has become the classic opening of almost every Jewish blessing: “Blessed are You, YHVH our God, King of the universe.”
Judaism speaks of two opposing kingdoms, Malchut Zadon, the kingdom of the proud, and Malchut Shamayim, the Kingdom of Heaven. Pride, along with anger, arrogance, greed, and ignorance, is what keeps God’s kingdom from manifesting on earth. The way we will know God’s kingdom has come is that justice and peace will reign around the globe. Because we believe only the Messiah (or messianic consciousness) can bring this global transformation, and because we believe that this will be a this-worldly socio-economic-political-spiritual transformation we believe that the Messiah has yet to come. When Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world,” (John 18:36) we Jews lose interest. This is where the kingdom is needed, not in some heavenly realm.
Judaism is a profoundly this-worldly faith. We have little to say about life after death, and pay scant attention to heaven and hell. We believe that behavior alone determines your fate after death, and that a person whose good deeds outweigh her bad deeds by even a feather’s weight will have a place in heaven. Our hope is articulated in Jeremiah 23:5: “The days are surely coming, says YHVH, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” The “land” refers not only Israel but the whole world.
I understand that for many Christians this Branch is Jesus, and that the Second Coming will accomplish what we Jews expect from the first. Numbers aside, the goal is the same: global peace and justice.
I am struck by Jesus’ prayer that “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What keeps God’s will from operating on earth? Again, I would point to pride, anger, arrogance, greed, and ignorance. If we want to see the Kingdom of God our prayers must be, to borrow from Rabbi Abraham Joshua, “subversive” and thus overthrow Malchut Zadon, the kingdom of pride. Unfortunately most of us are so invested in Malchut Zadon that we rarely if ever pray subversively. On the contrary, our prayers reinforce our own will and pretend that God wills what we desire.
True prayer is humbling, subversive, and transformative. It reveals the holiness at the heart of humanity and liberates us from fear that we might refashion the world in love. It manifests as teshuvah and tikkun; returning us to God that we might remake the world with godliness.