Summary: Praying the Lord’s Prayer confronts the intersection of our praying and the Lord’s will.
Prayer and the Will of God
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
The second petition of the Lord’s Prayer (Thy Kingdom, Thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven) solves three big problems that many of us face in prayer. First, many folk are afraid to pray. ”What if I ask for the wrong thing? What if I do something stupid like in the legend of King Midas who asked that everything he touched turn to gold. Then he hugged his child and regretted his request.” Haven’t you heard someone say, “Be careful what you pray for; you might get it?” Many approach prayer as Aladdin’s lamp and the genie in the bottle. We get three wishes and three wishes only so we must save up our praying privilege until we really need it.
While some fear praying, others grow frustrated. We have been taught to believe in prayer. We have always been told that God answers our prayers. So we pray and when nothing happens immediately we are quick to conclude that somebody over promised us. Frustration sets in despite the fact that Jesus taught his disciples to “pray and not give up.” I personally believe that is the intent of the phrase from Paul about “pray without ceasing.” “Pray without ceasing” has less to do with praying all of the time than with never giving up on prayer.
The biggest problem with most people when it comes to prayer is neither fear nor frustration, but the simple failure to pray. We don’t pray because we don’t get it! It has not sunk into our thick skulls that God has actually made much of what he intends to do in this world dependent on our praying. He didn’t have to. He could have organized this universe in any way he saw fit, but He chose to order it around prayer—our seeking him and asking him to act. He has made prayer one of the great weapons in the arsenal of spiritual warfare. Consequently, the Enemy will work harder to keep us from praying than he will on any other tactic. Praying is simply hard spiritual work as those disciples learned in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked them to watch and pray for an hour. They slept. The task was bigger than their wills as it is with most of us.
If I were a betting man (and I am not—I am too Scottish and too cheap for that) I would wager that Satan has some of you in this room snookered. He has likely convinced a few that prayer is a waste of time. “God’s doesn’t want us to ask; he wants us to work.” That’s the motto. “We must work and answer our own prayers. Asking God is an easy way out for those unwilling to roll up their sleeves and work.” That is the bill of goods Satan has sold many believers in our world—believe it or not!
He is the father of lies. And that is one of his best. The fact is prayer IS work! It is hard work! It is just plain too hard for a lot of people. In fact, most grown men I know could do a lot of things for an hour—chop wood, dig ditches, pitch hay bales, even shop (you must admit that stretches credulity a bit) for an hour, but praying for an hour is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If anyone tries to convince you that praying is an easy way out, just ask him or her to join you for an hour. They will learn better—quickly.
Toward the end of his first letter, John brings the topic of prayer and the will of God together in a most powerful way. Did you catch this connection? “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15) John takes the fear out of praying. We can have confidence in approaching God. He removes the frustration factor. We know that he hears us. He provides a powerful incentive to prayer more and more aggressively. We know that we have what we asked of him. The key to all of this is found in the will of God, John says. If we ask anything according to his will!
Henry Ward Beecher, famous American preacher of another generation, wrote, “I used to think the Lord’s Prayer was a short prayer; but, as I live longer, and see more of life, I believe there is no such thing as getting through it. If a man, in praying that prayer, were to be stopped by every word until he had thoroughly prayed it, it would take him a lifetime.“ (Christian Reader, Vol. 34.)