Your Will Be Done
- Connect the coming of God's kingdom to God's will being done.
- Reflect on discerning and obeying the will of God.
- Offer the whole of our lives to God and God's will.
In the Lord's Prayer it seems that the petitions don't so much stand on their own as flow into each other. We have just asked for the coming of God's kingdom, and now we realize that God's reign means that God's will will be done everywhere.
When we speak of God's will, we need to be careful that we don't evoke an image of willfulness, or of God as a kind of divine dictator. It's not that we must always bow to God's iron will no matter how we think or feel. One of the meanings of the Greek word used here is "purpose." That helps us recognize that we're not just praying for God to get his way, but for God's purpose for the creation and for humankind to be fulfilled.
Elijah had been living his life dangerously, according to God's will, but now, after the stunning success on Mt. Carmel, Jezebel seemed to have gained the upper hand once more. Overwhelmed with despair, he wanted to just give up and die, feeling his life a failure. What he failed to see was that God's will and purpose run along a long arc, and he was hardly finished.
When we pray for God's will to be done, or for God's purpose to be fulfilled, we are signaling not that it's something we ourselves would not choose, but that God's will and purpose are precisely our own hope and desire. We want God's will to reign over all creation. We want God's loving and fulfilling purposes to be accomplished.
Jesus teaches us to pray for God's will to be done "on earth as it is in heaven." First, as we have seen, we are not talking about heaven as some remote place far away, but as that spiritual dimension of reality that may be closer than we think. Heaven is the "control tower" of the universe, the place or dimension where God reigns and his purposes shine.
We specifically ask that God's will or purpose be done on earth as well. This assumes, of course, that earth is in rebellion against heaven and resists God's kingdom rule. Given that fallen reality, we are praying for God to reclaim this world under his kingdom rule. We are asking that God's rule be more and more evident in our world.
But when we dig deep down, we realize that we are asking for ourselves to be more and more transformed so that our lives reflect God's purposes and our decisions reflect God's will. That sometimes can be a struggle for us; we still live under the shadow of the fall. Sometimes our will is at odds with God's will, and our purpose in life does not reflect God's purposes for humanity. So we are not just asking to recognize and glorify God's will and purposes, but for the Holy Spirit to bend our will toward God's will. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it bluntly: "to obey [God's] will without any back talk" (Q&A 124).
Jesus, our brother, also prayed this prayer and struggled with its implications when, in a night of fear and dread, he faced the reality of the cross and his will did not align with the will of the Father. "Take this cup from me," he prayed; "yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
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