Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
For the last couple of weeks now, we’ve been digging into the Lord’s Prayer, trying to learn from Jesus how to pray. Not only is this prayer something we should be repeating, it’s something we should use as a model for all our prayers. First, we heard that we should pray to God as our Father. Whether your father was a good or a bad imitation, God is as all fathers should be. He is loving and caring, giving you what you need and what’s good for you even when you think otherwise. We pray that His name would be holy, in our own lives and in the world as a whole. We keep God’s name holy by remaining in the faith and by holding to Christ above all else. And others keep His name holy when we do our job and share our faith with them. We also pray God’s kingdom come. His kingdom is the life of faith based solely on Jesus life, death, and resurrection. In many ways, to pray this petition is a declaration of war. Even though God’s kingdom is not an earthly, geographical, or political kingdom, it is a threat against every nation on earth, including America. Jesus is King, not the government, ot politics, not some club or group or organization. To pray “Thy kingdom come” means for us to recognize this reality and to live it out in faith.
Today, Jesus continues His prayer for us. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We won’t be spending much time on the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven,” so I’ll give you just an informational note before we continue. Purely from a grammatical perspective, the phrase applies to the first three petitions. Hallowed be Thy name on earth as it is in heaven. Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. With that line, we recognize that what’s done on earth is not what’s being done around God’s throne and that needs to change. More precisely, our way of living and being and believing needs to change to match what goes on in the presence of God.
That being said, let’s get to the actual third petition, “Thy will be done.” If we didn’t understand the first petition, if the second petition was a declaration of war, this third petition is the thorn in our side. We don’t like it. This petition exposes our idolatries and our false beliefs. And we’d much rather it didn’t exists. Why would I say that? Because I know how you pray, and I know how you struggle when God says “no” to your prayers, when your will is opposed to God’s.
Why did Dana’s cancer keep coming back? Why did God let Sable die? Why would He allow that terrorist attack? These are honest questions that believers will continue to struggle with throughout their lives. The question of evil in the face of prayer, in the face of God Himself is one that I’m not able to fully answer, let alone in a single sermon. But I can point you in the right direction. Or rather, I’ll let Jesus point you in the right direction.
If we’re praying for God’s will to be done, we’d better know what God’s will is first. In John 6, Jesus spells it out as clearly as we could hope for. “this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” God’s will for your life is that you believe in Jesus, that you be raised from the dead, and that you spend eternity with Him. That’s what we know is God’s will for you and for me. When we pray “Thy will be done,” we’re praying that you and I would be saved eternally.
But what about everyone else? If that’s God’s will, and God is all-powerful, why is it that not everyone is saved, that not everyone believes? Because God’s will can be, and is, opposed. It’s possible to go against God’s will. Satan does this all the time and we do too. You expect it out of the Devil. He’s opposed to God in all things, so of course he’s opposed to God’s will and is trying to prevent it. When we pray God’s will be done, we’re praying that God would prevent evil in this world, that He would keep Satan at bay, and that God would keep us from falling into the Devil’s traps.
But we’re opposed to God’s will too. First, because of our sinful natures. Our very beings are set against God and His way of doing things. We want to do things our own way. “I know best! Listen to me! If only I were in charge, then things would be better.” That may work in politics, or may not, but it for sure does not work with God. He is perfect; we are corrupt. He is holy; we are embroiled in scandal. He knows everything; we have opinions on everything. Even those of us who have been made Christians continue to struggle against this. We think our will is better than God’s and that He should do things our way. When we pray God’s will be done we’re praying that God would not let us have our own way, but that He would do what He knows needs to be done, whether our sinful nature knows it or not.
But we’re opposed to God’s will another way too. You and I are opposed to God’s will when it involves pain and suffering in this life. We don’t want to experience them, so obviously God won’t want us to deal with them either. But we’ve turned our health into an idol. We’ve turned life itself into our god. We’ve taken the good things that God has given us and made the gifts more important than the giver. By the way we pray and the way we react to God’s “no,” we’ve shown our hand. We’ve shown that we don’t really believe that God has our best interest at heart. We’ve shown that we don’t really believe there’s anything more than this life only. We’ve shown that we care much more about this physical world than the spiritual reality we’re a part of. We’ve shown that we grieve just like the rest of the world grieves, as those without any hope.
Suffering plays a role in the lives of believers, like it or not. First and foremost, we see this in Jesus’ own life. The Father’s will was for Jesus to suffer and die. It was the Father’s will that His Son be beaten and scourged, tortured and killed. God wanted the Christ to be murdered and buried. That was the plan from before the beginning. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that if there was another way, to let Him go that way, but there was no other way. But Jesus Himself lives out this petition for us and prays, “nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.” Unless you truly believe that God is your Father, you won’t be able to pray, “Thy will be done.”
We know that cancer is a result of our rebellion into sin and taking creation down with us, but we don’t know why one person but not another. We know that God set death as a punishment for sin, but we don’t know why some lives are cut shorter than others. We know that Satan and our own wickedness leads mankind to commit atrocities after horrors after pure evil, but we can’t say why some and not others. What we can say is that we know God’s will. God’s will is that we come to know Jesus, be raised from the dead, and live forever with Him. That might, and probably does, mean that we will experience pain and suffering in this life, be it caused by God or allowed to continue by God. The goal is for you to believe, for you to share the Good News, and that heaven would be that much more full because of your faithfulness even in the face of evil. When we pray, “Thy will be done,” we pray that God’s will would reign supreme, overcome Satan, crucify our will, and set our hearts and minds on the life to come.
So we pray: “Father in heaven, we don’t know or understand Your will. We aren’t able to see how you are at work in our lives or in the world around us. More than helping us to understand, help us to trust in You so that we may believe in Your Son, be raised on the last day, and spend eternity with You. In all these things, let Your will be done. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Lobe den Herrn
B. A. Woell