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Thy will be done

July 8, 2007 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: The Lord's Prayer

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Third Petition of the Lord's Prayer

"Thy Will Be Done"

It has been said that this Third Petition of the Lord's Prayer is the center, the keystone, not only of the prayer which Jesus taught us, but of all prayer. When we pray these words we are turning over our own desires and wishes to the Lord, asking not that my will but Thy will be done. In the back of today's worship bulletin is a take-away sheet with reflection notes on the message. I invite you to turn to this, and read with me what Luther writes about the meaning of this Third Petition of the Lord's Prayer: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. What does this mean? The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also. How is God's will done? God's will is done when he breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God's name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will." May the Lord's rich blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, so that his will truly may be done here on earth among us, even as it is in heaven.

In that explanation of this Third Petition, did you notice how Luther linked "Thy will be done" with the first two petitions: "Hallowed be Thy name" and "Thy kingdom come"? God's will is done among us when his holy name is honored and praised among us, and when his kingdom of grace and new life is extended through us. So, what's the problem? We are capable and competent people who manage our own affairs, make plans for our own lives, and in general function quite well from day-to-day. The problem is that we have a hard time letting go of our affairs, our plans, and our functions, and turning these over to God so that his will may be done in our lives. The problem is that each one of us has a will, and our own will is frequently not in sync with God's will. Scripture tells us: "Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.‘ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:13-17). This is godly wisdom for us all, that with all of our plans and purposes we pray "not my will, but thy will be done," and we say "If it is the Lord's will."

Praying "Thy will be done" is no easy thing. To say this in prayer is one thing; to sincerely mean what we are praying is quite another. When we stand by the bedside of a loved one who is critically ill, it is not easy to pray "Thy will be done." When family members or friends make life choices that are painful and hurtful, it is not easy to pray "Thy will be done." When the plans we had for our own life do not work out, it is not easy to pray "Thy will be done." It is not easy to pray "Thy will be done" because in such situations we know what we want done. We want that loved one made well again. We want the life of that family member or friend turned around. We want to see our own plans fulfilled. To let go of these things is to admit that we are not in control, and that we do not always know what is best for us. God does know what is best for us, and in this petition we are putting ourselves into his hands. In his Word, God tells us that he is able to bring blessing out of sorrow and loss: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Those three little words "in all things" are important. Even from what looks to us to be only pain and suffering, God is able to bring good. This is God's good and gracious will for his people.

Flavius Claudius Iulianus (361-363 A.D.) , better known as Julian, was the Roman Emperor who tried to turn the clock back, reversing the decision of Constantine the Great in 313 A.D. that granted toleration and protection for the Christian faith. Julian sought to reverse this and reintroduce worship of the ancient gods. In the end, he was mortally wounded in battle in the east. It is reported that as he lay dying, his plans to eliminate the Christian faith overturned, he cried out: "You have conquered, O man of Galilee!" Luther rightly points out in his explanation of the Third Petition of the Lord's Prayer that "the good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer." So true! God's will will be done, whether we like it or not; whether we want that will done or not. Sometimes in our own lives, we may grudgingly resign ourselves to God's will, like the Roman Emperor Julian. We don't like it, but we feel we have no choice, so we just sort of give in. There is indeed acceptance of the will of God which can be completely joyless. It is wearily resigned to the fact that things must be so. What's missing here? Trust - trust that God's will for his people is for good, not for evil, and that he wants what is truly best for us. We trust that God in his wisdom and love knows far better than we do what is for our ultimate good. God alone can see the whole of life - past, present, and future - and so we trust that God's will, rather than our own, is truly the best for us.

The One who taught us to pray "Thy will be done" is also the One who prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken from me. Yet not my will, but yours be done" (Matthew 26:39). The Lord Jesus submitted not only his will but his very life to the will of his Father. He offered that life upon the cross to fulfill the Father's will that we might be reconciled to God through his blood. If we have difficulty in submitting our will to that of the Father, let us look to Jesus who is both our sacrifice for sin and our model for the godly life, who helps us in our weakness and teaches us to pray "Thy will be done." Amen.


More in The Lord's Prayer

August 5, 2007

But Deliver Us From Evil

July 29, 2007

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

July 22, 2007

Forgive Us Our Trespasses