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Your Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven


Ted Schroder
May 1, 2005

What do we mean when we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? We are praying that something will happen that has not yet happened. We are praying that God will bring about his heavenly purpose on earth. We are praying that God would use us to do his will. We are making ourselves available to do the will of our heavenly Father, to fulfill his purpose.

This was the prayer of Mary after the angel Gabriel had revealed to her the will of God in bearing his son Jesus. “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) Mary became the bearer of the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God because she prayed that God’s will might be done in her life. Her life, and the life of the world, was transformed because she lived that prayer.

Jesus would also fulfill the vocation of the suffering servant through fulfilling the Father’s will. “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.” (Isaiah 42:1)

As a servant he will fulfill the will of the Father. “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30) “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” (Hebrews 10:9)

In his agony in Gethsemane Jesus prayed three times for a way around his suffering: “Yet not as I will, but as you will…. may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:39,42) The only way for the purpose of God to be accomplished is through the pain and suffering of the Cross.

Praying for the will of God to be done in and through our lives on earth, as it is in heaven, means that we are willing to go through whatever might prevent that purpose from being accomplished. Our prayer is that we want to be so aligned with the will and purpose of God that we ask God to empower us to accomplish it. The prayer is a battle-cry in the struggle to bring about God’s purposes on earth. We are praying that we and others might be the means whereby God’s purpose might be accomplished: that the justice and peace of God’s kingdom will become a reality in peoples’ lives.

“When we are to pray, “Thy will be done”, we are not praying for resignation; we are praying for triumph.” (William Barclay) Prayer is not an invitation to passivity, to acquiescence in what has happened, but is a means to fortify our resolution to fight for what is right, noble and true, whatever is pure, lovely and admirable. It is to pray for the spirit of victory, not the spirit of defeatism. It is to pray for perseverance until the victory is won, rather than surrender by retreating from the conflict.

“The prayer of consent, assent – my ‘Yes’ to the divine will is not a fatalism or submission to the status quo or to tragedy. It is not a resigned ‘God wills it”. The prayer of assent will mean the allying ourselves with the great warrior Christ, to do battle with his enemies.” (Donald Coggan) That enemy may be sin, or ignorance, or sickness, or injustice, or pure selfishness. And if that means tiredness, or discomfort, or rejection, or jealousy, we must take that as part of the price to be paid.

“Captain beloved, battle wounds were Thine;
Let me not wonder if some hurt be mine.
Rather, O Lord, let my wonder be
That I may share a battle wound with Thee.”

(Amy Carmichael)

“Thy will be done” is wrongly interpreted in a merely backward-looking sense of resignation to what has happened; its full significance is that it is a creative and forward-looking act – “in this situation that has come to me I want to know and do God’s will as fully as I can.” The result of adopting this attitude is not that the struggle ceases but that what it is all about changes completely. For the Christian believer, in suffering, the struggle is not “about” enduring the suffering but serving God in it. The doing of God’s will is what gives meaning to every situation. The single desire is that whatever one must go through now, one will have the power and discernment to do the will of God. (Neville Ward)

Often when I pray this part of the Lord’s Prayer I am seeking discernment, guidance in the circumstances in which I find myself. Not knowing what is the best way forward, or the best solution to the problem in which I find myself, I pray for God’s will to be done. I am placing in God’s hands what I am struggling with at the time. It may be a financial decision, or a relationship that is troubling me, or a responsibility that I have. I don’t know what the best thing to do is, so I commit it into the Lord’s hands.

When I am at the bedside of someone who is facing critical health problems, and the prognosis is gloomy, and the immediate future is uncertain, the words we pray take on added meaning. When we pray together, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we are praying for ultimate healing, for the strengthening of resurrection hope, for victory over death and disease. The words, “as in heaven” become reminders to us that there is a greater life than this to which we aspire, where the will of God is clearly seen and enjoyed, and life in all its fullness is experienced. This gives meaning to the last days of this mortal life, and gives us the power to continue on to the next stage of life: the heavenly. We are praying for triumph!

My God, my Father, make me strong,
When tasks of life seem hard and long,
To greet them with this triumph song,

Thy will be done.

Draw from my timid eyes the veil,
To show, where earthly forces fail,
Thy power and love must still prevail,

Thy will be done.

Things deemed impossible I dare,
Thine is the call and thine the care,
Thy wisdom shall the way prepare,

Thy will be done.

Heaven’s music chimes the glad days in,
Hope soars beyond death, pain, and sin,
Faith shouts in triumph, Love must win,

Thy will be done.

(Frederick Mann)

Amelia Plantation Chapel

Amelia Island, Florida

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