Summary: Part 6 of a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer
Thy Will Be Done (Part 1)
Intro. – Many people wonder how God’s sovereignty can be related to praying for His will to be done. If He is sovereign, is not His will inevitably done? Does our will override His will when we pray earnestly and sincerely?
There are many things that seem to be a contradiction but what seems a hopeless contradiction to us is no dilemma to God.
It is absolutely clear from Scripture that God is sovereign and yet not only allows but commands that man exercise his own volition in certain areas. If man were not able to make his own choices, God’s commands would be futile and meaningless and His punishments cruel and unjust. If God did not act in response to prayer, Jesus’ teaching about prayer would also be futile and meaningless.
Our responsibility is not to solve the dilemma but to believe and act on God’s truths, whether some of them seem to conflict or not.
We are to accept every part of every truth in God’s Word, leaving the resolution of any seeming conflicts to Him.
When we pray Thy will be done, we are praying first of all that God’s will become our own will. Second, we are praying that His will prevail all over the earth as it [does] in heaven.
There are two approaches that I want to take in considering this aspect of the Lord’s Prayer. Let’s consider:
I. The Wrong Understanding of God’s Will
A. Many people, including many believers, wrongly understand this part of the Disciples’ Prayer.
1. Some see God’s sovereignty simply as the absolute imposition of a dictator’s will. The logical conclusion of most people who look at God in that way is that there is no point to prayer.
2. Other people are more charitable in their feelings about God. They pray for God’s will to be done simply because that is what the Lord tells them to do. They do not pray so much out of faith as out of capitulation. They do not try to put their wills into accord with the divine will, but rather shift their own wills into neutral, letting God’s will run its course.
B. Our own prayer lives often are weak because we do not pray expecting prayer to change anything.
1. It is easy for Christians to fall into praying that way. Even in the very early days of the church, when faith generally was strong and vital, prayer could be passive and unexpectant. A group of concerned disciples was praying in the house of Mary, John Mark’s mother, for the release of Peter from prison. While they were praying, Peter was freed by an angel and came to the house and knocked on the door. When a servant girl named Rhoda came to the door and recognized Peter’s voice, she rushed back inside to tell the others, forgetting to let Peter in. But the praying group did not believe her, and thought she had heard an angel. When Peter was finally admitted, “they saw him and were amazed” (Acts 12:16). They apparently had been praying for what they did not really believe would happen.
2. We pray out of a sense of duty and obligation, subconsciously thinking that God is going to do just as He wants to do anyway. That is why Jesus gave the parable of the importunate widow—who refused to accept the status quo and persisted in begging, despite receiving no response—for the very purpose of protecting us against that sort of passive and unspiritual resignation. “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
3. The very fact that Jesus tells us to pray Thy will be done on earth indicates that God’s will is not always done on earth. It is not inevitable. In fact, lack of faithful prayer inhibits His will being done. In God’s wise and gracious plan, prayer is essential to the proper working of His divine will on earth.
a. God is sovereign, but looking at God’s sovereignty thinking “What will be will be,” absolutely destroys faithful prayer and faithful obedience of every sort.
b. That is not the divine sovereignty the Bible teaches. It is not God’s will that people die, or why would Christ have come to destroy death? It is not God’s will that people go to hell, or why would His only Son have taken the penalty of sin upon Himself so that men might escape hell? It is not God’s will that people suffer untold sufferings or why would His only Son have taken the penalty of sickness on himself?
C. Other people look at prayer as a means of bending God’s will to their own.