Summary: Persistency in prayer keeps us from self-reliance.
"Thy Will Be Done,"
Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
"Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth"
When I was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, I often reported to V Corps Headquarters, which was located in the historic Abrams Bldg. To get upstairs there were two options-either take the stairs, or the Paternoster, a very unusual elevator. There were no doors, only an opening, and the elevator never stopped; it just slowly went up and down and you had to hop on. Many people took the stairs. The name Paternoster is Latin, translated "Our Father", another way of referring to the Lord’s Prayer. I could only surmise that if you took that elevator you did some praying!
It’s been pointed out that this is the Lord’s Prayer for His disciples, that Jesus never prayed this prayer. That’s true, however, the phrase we’re considering today He did pray, in the Garden of Gethsemene. There in agony anticipating the Cross our Lord prayed, "Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). He was submissive to the will of the Father. He knew the burden of unanswered prayer. In the school of Gethsemene we learn to distrust our own ideas of what is best for us. We learn to submit to God’s will. Earlier Jesus stated, "I have come down from heaven not to do My will but to do the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).
The fact that we begin in the Lord’s Prayer with hallowing God’s Name, then asking for His Kingdom rule in our lives, then for His will to be accomplished, shows that this is hardly a self-centered prayer. Yet we are prone to approach God with a self-serving attitude that says: "My will be done". The worst thing God could do at such a time might be to give us precisely what we want. Thankfully, God’s answers are wiser than our prayers. Prayer is not a tool for getting-it is a means of becoming what God has intended for us. It’s fine to let God know our needs, but then we trust Him to decide how to respond. The words "be done" could be translated "let it be." When we pray, do we understand that God has a will for our lives? We should seek God’s will daily. He will always give us enough light to take the next step. It’s not easy to pray this way-we’re used to having a vote in everything; we’re not used to surrendering our plans to God’s purpose.
Aladdan rubbed a lamp and a genie appeared, granting him three unconditional wishes. Sometimes we view God as a genie. God doesn’t always give us what we want-He does give us what we need. Our problem is, we can’t figure out how certain things can possibly be for our benefit-we get sick, get laid off, we have to move, we have trouble with a relationship-and we begin to think God is absent. How can this possibly be His will? We have to remind ourselves that His ways and thoughts are above ours. Praying "Thy will be done" means we don’t expect God to change His plans to accommodate our wishes. Sometimes we would be more honest to pray, "Thy will be done-so long as it coincides with mine"! We will do God’s will acceptably when we prefer His will.
The reason some people avoid consideration of God’s will is misguided thinking-they figure all God wants to do is make their lives miserable. They assume that God’s will is going to be harsh or difficult. I believe that God gives us a desire to live according to His will. We should feel like David who prayed, "I delight to do Your will O Lord." If there is no interest in doing God’s will, we might want to reevaluate whether we’re really believers. A true desire to pray "Thy will be done" is evidence that we are genuine Christians.
But let’s deal with this reluctance to submit to God. If you had children, and they told you one day that they’d made up their minds to obey you fully, would you figure, "Now I have a chance to make my children’s lives miserable"? The same is true with our heavenly Father. He does not wish to make us unhappy-He has what’s best for us in mind. Jesus comments on this in Matthew 7; He says, "If your child asks you for bread, would any of you give him a stone? Of course not!…so how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him." God does more for us than we can imagine; definitely more than we appreciate.
The Bible often counsels us to "wait on the Lord". We don’t like to be put "on hold." Part of trusting God is being willing to accept His timing. When in doubt, we patiently wait for His answer. It would be nice if learning God’s will could be a technique that could be taught; the problem is, grasping God’s will comes from studying the Scriptures and by communion with Him, from the intimacy of prayer. Faith means accepting the silence of God.