The Lord’s Prayer: Your Will Be Done Matthew 6:9-13
3/12/2019 4:10:06 AM
March 10, 2019
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Matthew 6:9-13
I saw a blog post this past week entitled “Why Doesn’t God Answer all My Prayers? Because some of them are stupid!” [Karl Vaters, Dec 27, 2017] The author goes on to articulate some of the stupid prayers we offer that God is not going to answer. Things like, “Let me win the lottery,” or “Bring back my cheating boyfriend,” (because God is saving you from them by having them leave!) or “Bless me even though I’ve ignored you for years,” or “Help me pass the test I didn’t study for.” Now, it’s ok to pray for help on a test, but you need to study for it! One for pastors he included was, “Give me a bigger ministry than the church down the street.”
I think Homer’s prayer in that clip would count as stupid! But to be honest, Homer’s prayer is a lot like many of our own prayers. Homer prays that since right now everything is perfect, please don’t change anything. He’s praying for a life of comfort and ease! He also prays that if God will do what Homer wants, give absolutely no sign. Homer is praying that his own will be done and he doesn’t actually want God to intervene. Homer’s not concerned with hallowing God’s name or God’s kingdom coming! He’s interested in getting God’s power to do Homer’s will- keep things exactly as they are.
But how many of us have done similar things? Give me a sign that’s unreasonable, bless me even though I’m living disobediently, make my life comfortable?
Often our prayers are for God to use his power as we would use it if it were our power. We want God to save us from the consequences of our own action or inaction. We want God to use his power to pave the way for our own worldly success or comfort. Even when we pray for “good” things, we often pray for our own purposes- comfort, ease, etc. Are we ever praying for obedience to do hard things? Do endure suffering well for God’s glory? But what if these hard things are God’s will for us?
We’re working through a series on the Lord’s Prayer. Today we examine the 3rd petition “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Please turn to Matthew 6:9-13.
What It Says
Remember, “on earth as it is in heaven” refers to all 3 petitions “hallowed be your name,” “your kingdom come” and “your will be done.” What does it mean to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven?
Both “God’s kingdom” and “God’s will” bring an epic scope and application to our prayer. [Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew Vol 1, p. 248] We are to pray for more than our own concerns, our own lives, our own needs. The foundation of our prayer is the epic scale of God’s glory in all of creation.
“On earth” broadens the horizon of our concern. It lifts our eyes from our own needs to the needs of all the earth. Maybe God’s will is being done in our town, but what about a neighbouring town? What about another country?
Similarly, “in heaven” reminds us that there IS an “exciting, invisible world at work in perfect obedience to God” where “his name is hallowed, his kingdom and his will are treated with the respect they deserve.” [Bruner, p. 248] Just as Jesus said the Kingdom or authority of God is banging on the door, here we pray that the reality of the heavenly realm would be revealed in the earthly realm.
Praying for God’s will to be done is praying for the Sermon on the Mount to be done. [Bruner, p. 247] Remember, in Matthew the context for the Lord’s Prayer is the Sermon on the Mount. That’s the famous sermon or teaching Jesus gave including such things as, “blessed are the poor,” “turn the other cheek,” “go the extra mile,” “love your enemy,” “give to the needy but not for your own glory,” etc. This is what God’s will looks like! Love God and love your neighbour!
God’s will is most clearly discerned in Scripture. The Sermon on the Mount is a good example, but there are many others. What God wants from us as described in Scripture is God’s will! Not all of Scripture is God’s
will. I teach a Bible survey course for the denomination’s Leadership and Pastoral Training Program. IN that course we talk about the principle of descriptive vs prescriptive passages of the Bible. Lot’s daughters committing incest with him in order to get pregnant and have sons to look after them when Lot dies is an example of a “descriptive” text. It describes what happened, not what should have happened.
However, there are many, many prescriptive passages that clarify God’s will for us in our lives, that we can then apply to individual situations. One such example in the Old Testament is Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you? Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord your God.” This is a clear description of God’s will for all people, not just Israel.
When we follow the model given by Jesus, it means we pray for God’s will in our own lives as well as around the globe. This is a prayer for obedience- our obedience to God as well as others to conform to what God has revealed in Scripture and how it applies to individual situations. That all people would act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord their God! (For instance.)
What It Means
The Lord’s Prayer is the foundational lesson for prayer for followers of Jesus. See where we began- Our Father in Heaven. We approach prayer as a child approaches his or her loving Dad. Then, we pray for his name or character to be set apart and held high, for his authority to come and his will to be done all on earth as in heaven. This is the foundation of our prayer life for a follower of Christ!
But what is God’s will about? What are we praying for precisely? What does it mean to pray for this?
God’s will reflects his character. [Millar Erickson, Christian Theology, p. 303] For instance, God cannot lie. God is not cruel or vindictive. God’s character doesn’t change, so his will is consistent. He doesn’t have mood swings.
Remember, our prayer started with “Our Father.” We are praying for the will of our heavenly, loving Dad to be carried out. Also, God’s name reflects his character too. So praying for his name to be hallowed, set apart and honoured, means his character to be revealed-God’s loving character is revealed in his will being carried out.
God’s will is always driven by his agape love. God doesn’t just show or experience love, he actually IS love- divine, self-giving love, primarily concerned with the well-being of others, in particular their spiritual well-being. So God’s will is always for the well-being of others, in particular their spiritual well-being, not necessarily their physical, financial, social well-being etc. Recall, God is our loving Father- he has our best interest at heart!
God’s will and character are most fully revealed in Jesus. His death and resurrection were self-giving and for the well-being of others! Our greatest barrier to seeing and doing God’s will is our fallenness in sin. Because, at the core of our being, we are in rebellion against God, his will is foreign to us, hidden from us and impossible for us to fully or perfectly carry out! Paul, in Romans 12 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Our minds must be transformed if we are to discern and go along with God’s will! Our minds are fallen, we just can’t fathom God’s will in all circumstances or obey it!
The primary thing God wills is that people trust Jesus. Because God is loving, and primarily concerned with our well-being, he came to earth as Jesus to die for our sin! His will is for us to be reconciled to him and that requires knowing and trusting Jesus. Our minds have to be transformed to know God’s will; our minds have to be transformed by the Holy Spirit to know and trust Jesus. At its heart, sin is about disobeying God’s will. That is our problem. So it makes sense that asking for God’s will is related to God’s solution to the problem of sin, of disobeying his will- Jesus Christ.
Everything else about obeying God’s will flows out of knowing and following Jesus! Loving our neighbours as ourselves and all that comes with that comes from our relationship with Jesus! Working for justice, helping the needy, visiting the sick, being honest, not gossiping, keeping your word, etc. are all ways we show our agape love for others. They’re all ways that being primarily concerned with the well-being of others plays out.
If this is what God’s will is, what does praying for God’s will NOT mean? God’s will is not about our comfort! That was Homer’s problem in his prayer- it was all about his comfort!
God’s primary concern is our well-being, in particular our spiritual well-being, which may actually mean
it’s God’s will for us to experience a lot of discomfort! Through discomfort God can refine our character, draw us closer to him, teach us empathy, show us his delivering power, etc!
God didn’t even spare Jesus from suffering and Jesus knew it. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ famous prayer was “please I’d like to avoid the cross, but not my will but your will be done!” Here in our text today is Jesus, earlier in his ministry, teaching us to pray what he later applied – “your will be done!”
God can redeem our discomfort for our good. Jesus’ prayer “your will be done” lead to the cross AND the resurrection! God redeemed the greatest suffering ever experienced and made something great out of it! God can take the discomfort he leads you through and redeem it, turning it into something great!
What are we to do with this? We’re looking at the Lords’ Prayer not just for the sake of theology, but in order to grow in our own understanding and practice of prayer. Jesus wants us to come to prayer as an adoring child comes to his or her loving Dad. With that affection, respect and love, we come to our Heavenly Father and seek that his will would be done in us and in the whole world around us!
When we pray, the scope of our prayer should be broad. This is what it means to pray “on earth as it is in Heaven!” Yes, our personal concerns matter! We will see that over the rest of the series on the Lord’s Prayer! But in the West our prayers are all too often self-centred. We seek God’s hand in our lives and our circumstances and forget everybody else’s lives and circumstances.
Praying for God’s will means taking Jesus seriously and taking people seriously. Jesus carried out God’s will perfectly. And we need to take that seriously! His whole life was about other people. We need to take that seriously too! And Jesus made his whole life about other people because he values people. We need to take that seriously too! We must take other people seriously, valuing them and extending love to them because that’s what Jesus taught and modelled.
If we are followers of Jesus, carrying out God’s will means obeying him and cooperating with him when it comes to loving others, including praying for them!
Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s will to be done as it is revealed in Scripture. It is in the Bible that we see Jesus loving others. It is in Scripture, when we read it well and intelligently, that we see what God’s will is for humanity! So that means we need to familiarize ourselves with Scripture if we want to be genuine in praying that God’s will be done. If we don’t read our Bibles, then our prayer for God’s will to be done is a prayer prayed in ignorance! Scripture reveals that God’s will is for us to know him, to know Jesus, for us to keep in step with the Spirit, to grow in maturity like the Fruit of the Spirit, etc.
Rarely does God have specific choices for us to make. People often ask me to help them discern God’s will for their lives. Maybe it’s about work, or a spouse, or another major decision. Let me say that in a majority of cases, discerning God’s will in these cases is not about picking a specific job, a specific spouse or a specific house. It’s about surrendering our will to God’s, making his glory our primary concern, considering the well-being of others in our decisions. Are we choosing a godly spouse? Are we seeking to honour God in our workplace? Are we buying a house that stretches our finances? Or one that we can afford so we can still be generous?
Following God’s will, obeying his will, is not like walking a tight-rope. It’s not that God has every single decision plotted out for us and our job is to discern which thing to choose out of every possibility and if we get one wrong we’re outside of God’s will! Thank God, because that would be nerve wracking! Rather, God’s will in most cases (not all, but most) is not specific to our choice, but specific to honouring him, being Christ-like, etc.
Take the example of marriage. If God has a single person “chosen” for us, then we have a 1 in 7 billion chance of getting it right! What if you marry the wrong one? Can you divorce them if you think you found the 1 in 7 billion right one? Of course not! Because God’s concern is that you marry a godly spouse and that you honour God in your marriage.
Similarly with work. God’s concern is not that you choose the exact job he had picked out for you (most of the time) but that you honour God in the workplace, that you treat clients like Jesus would treat them, that you have integrity at work and that work not become an idol, crowding out God, family, church, etc.
Does this mean we shouldn’t pray about these decisions? Of course not! Pray about them! But know what you’re praying for- how to be godly, how to honour God in the decision, how to make a decision that allows you to best serve the Kingdom of God. And at all times, when presented with choices, to thank God for providing
those choices for you!
Praying for God’s will to be done includes praying for justice, mercy, provision for the poor, wisdom for leaders, etc. We pray for these things because these things work for the well-being of others. We pray for these things because God desires them and Jesus models them. We pray for these things so that God’s name is glorified!
And as we pray for these things, we also commit ourselves to cooperating with God to bring them about. That means acting for justice ourselves, showing mercy ourselves, providing for the poor ourselves, sharing the Gospel with leaders, etc.
Praying for God’s will means surrendering our will. This is an act of submission, just as Jesus made his request, but said, “Not my will, but your will be done!” And then he cooperated with God’s will that was contrary to his own! It is an act of repentance for us to pray that God’s will be done. It is an act of obedience that we then need to carry through on. Praying the Lord’s Prayer means laying a foundation of coming to our loving Dad, and then making his priorities our priorities, submitting to his love and authority.
Let us stand and pray together the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. In Jesus name, amen!
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