(Preached at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, Wed. p.m., 5-06-15)
A few years back I read the testimony of a pastor who lived well over a hundred years ago, and who was praying for a friend of his who was very ill, to the point of death. He prayed that God would spare this friend’s life, and add years to its length. Suddenly he felt as if God were asking him: “Would you be willing for Me to take those years from your life, in order to add them to his?” At that question, his heart began to beat quickly, and sweat began to bead on his brow. He didn’t know how to respond. Finally he prayed the only prayer he knew how to pray: “Lord, Thy will be done.”
For the last several Wednesday nights, we have been looking together at the Model Prayer of Matthew 6:9-13. We have seen that it is not a rote prayer that we are to pray mindlessly and repeatedly, but that it is a model of the kinds of things that God wants us to speak with Him about when we pray. We have begun to look together at what those requests teach us about how we should pray, and we have studied the first two requests thus far. We have seen from “Hallowed by Your name” that we are to begin our prayers with praise, and last week from “Thy Kingdom come” that we are to pray for the requests of God’s Kingdom first: praying for churches, pastors, staff, mission work and missionaries.
Tonight we come to the third request of the Model: “Thy will be done.”
I. THE MEANING OF “THY WILL BE DONE.”
It is an old axiom: “the best commentary on scripture is scripture.” If we want to know what “Thy will be done” means, we can look to see where we find these words elsewhere in the word of God. And in fact there is ONE place where these exact words are found again, later in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 26. It is in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus has gone to pray before His arrest and crucifixion. There He prays in :42, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, YOUR WILL BE DONE.” Those last words are significant, because in the original Greek text, as well as in English, they are the EXACT SAME WORDS that Jesus taught us to pray here in Matthew 6:10, “Your will be done”! Jesus did not merely “teach” these words; He used them Himself, in a real-life situation.
So what can we learn from Jesus’ use of these words in Matthew 26?
As we know, Jesus was about to face the death on the cross for our sins and :36 says He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Verse 37 says He “began to be grieved and distressed.” Then :39 says “And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
Jesus knew what He was about to face, not only in the form of beating and humiliation and physical torture, but in the bearing in His body of the wrath of God against the sins of the world. It was a burden that no one had ever borne before, that no one could have borne, and in His humanness (He was a real man) He did not “want” to bear it. (Craig Blomberg, a great New Testament scholar, writes: “In his sinless, human nature He clearly perceives the horror of his coming execution and very naturally and appropriately asks His Father if there is any way out.” NAC Matthew, p. 394) So He asked the Father if it were possible, that He would not have to undergo that indescribable torture.
(By the way, this is one of the strongest arguments for the exclusivity of Jesus … He asked if there were any other way, that He not have to undergo this; but God sent Him to the cross because there WAS NO OTHER WAY that our sins could be atoned, other than what He was about to do for us!)
So in His human flesh He did not want to die on the cross, but what did He say? “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” And then in :42 He prayed again, and this time He said those same words that we find here in Matthew 6:10, “Thy will be done.” And then :44 says “He said the same thing once more.”
So what happened is that in His humanity, Jesus did not “want” to undergo the torture of the cross (who would?). But in prayer, He determined that it was God’s will that He go to the cross, so He surrendered Himself to do NOT what He wanted to do, but what the FATHER wanted Him to do instead. And He prayed, “Thy will be done.”
That gives us some understanding of what we are to be praying for when we pray this 3rd petition of the Model Prayer: “Thy will be done.” It teaches us that, just like Jesus, there may be things that we “want” to do, or do not “feel” like doing, but we are to discern what His will for us is, and that we are to submit ourselves to God’s will for us, whatever it is.
One of my kids’ favorite college and seminary professors, Chuck Quarles, wrote in his great commentary on the Sermon on the Mount: “Every person’s moral choices are associated with one of two Biblical gardens.” In Eden, Adam & Eve said, “Not as You will, but as I will.” In Gethsemane, Jesus said: “Not as I will, but as You will.”
THAT is what it means to pray “Thy Will Be Done” in the Model Prayer. It means that as disciples of Jesus, we are following in His steps, by saying, “Thy will be done” just like He did. Just like Jesus did, we are committing ourselves to obey God, no matter what the inconvenience or cost — or like Jesus, even death.
— There may be things we want to do, but God is telling us, “No, it is not My will for you to do that.”
— And there may be things, like Jesus faced, that we don’t want to do, but we are going to kneel before God and say: “Thy will be done.” I am going to do it — whether I want to or not; whether I feel like it or not — because You are my Lord, and it is Your will for me to do it.”
In a very real sense, at this point in our morning prayer, you & I are to have a “daily Gethsemane”. This is where we remind ourselves that as disciples of Jesus Christ, Jesus is our LORD, which means that we are committed not to our will, but to His will in our live. Praying “Thy will be done” is a kind of “daily Gethsemane” in which we surrender our will to Jesus as Lord every day.
II. THE ONE WHOSE WILL IS TO BE DONE: (GOD’S!)
Jesus taught us to pray “THY will be done” because in this part of the prayer we are asking for GOD’S direction for our lives, not our own.
The words, “On earth, as it is in heaven” are important too. The Greek text is literally, “just like in heaven — also upon earth.” So we are praying for God’s will to be done here on earth, just the way He has designed it up in heaven.
That teaches us that God has a plan up in heaven, for how things are to be done here on earth. Psalm 103:19 says: “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” In other words, God is King of the universe, and He has a plan in heaven for everything. He is not some “spectator” up in the sky, who is hollering down to us, “Hey whatever you want to do down there, do it and I will bless it.” No, He has a specific plan for this world that is unfolding; He has a specific plan for how things are to be done in His church — and He has a specific plan for each of our individual lives as well.
So when we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, we are praying that we would be able to understand and discover what God’s sovereign will is, and that we would conform our lives to whatever He has planned. We are praying for His plan, His will, to be done in and through us: “Thy will be done …”.
This is significant, because this is just the OPPOSITE of what many so-called “Christian” teachers are encouraging us to do these days. They teach that you can just pick out whatever “vision” you want for your life, or your business, or your ministry, and ask God to bless that for you, because He is there to help you to be successful at living out “your dream.”
For example, Joel Osteen recently wrote on his website: “You were created to be successful, to accomplish your goals.” This is where the “health, wealth, and prosperity gospel” deviates from genuine, Biblical Christianity. These “prosperity preachers” are always talking about how you can “claim your vision” and God will bless you and help you achieve it. But the Bible does not teach that God is our own “personal genii” up in the sky, who exists to do our bidding. Psalm 103 and other scriptures clearly proclaim that God is the Sovereign King of the universe, and we exist to do HIS will.
So Jesus does not teach us to pray here: “God bless our will. ” No, instead He teaches us to pray every day; “THY WILL be done.” That is a HUGE difference!
The false version of Christianity says: I will pick out what I want to do, and God will bless my vision. Genuine Christianity says: God, You tell me what YOU want me to do, and help me do YOUR will. That is an entirely different thing. The former is not even Christianity at all; it is a popular perversion of Christianity; maybe we should call it “Success-ianity”. But it is nothing like what Jesus really taught. He never said He would help us do whatever we want to do. He said “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me”!
That’s a huge difference. For example, a follower of “Success-ianity” might say: “God, I want to be the best basketball player I can be. Help me get to the pros.” And their testimonies are always about how God helped them to reach their own goals for their life.
But a follower of CHRIST-ianity will bring his life to God, and say, “Lord, what do YOU want me to do with my life?” And God will direct him, in His own time and His own way, to whatever career that HE has for him. It may not be to be a pro basketball player at all. Maybe God will tell him, “I know that you want to be a pro basketball player, but I created you to be a Youth Minister, or a school teacher, to reach and disciple young people and change their lives forever.”
But you see the difference is that in Christianity, it is not OUR will that we are praying to done; it is God’s.
Pastor Greg Laurie, whom some of you may have heard on Billy Graham’s radio station here, wrote: “Prayer is not bending God our way — it is bending us His way.”
— Our prayer is NOT to be: “God bless what I have picked out to do today
— Our prayer is NOT to be: “God bless what I’ve picked out to do for my life.”
— Our prayer is NOT to be: “God bless what we have decided to do as a church.”
Our prayer is to be: “God what is YOUR will for me? Show me YOUR will and help me to do it.”
I hope you see the HUGE difference in those two things. We are not to pray for God to bless OUR will; we are to pray for Him to direct us in HIS will. Genuine followers of Jesus will pray like He taught us to pray in this Model Prayer; they will pray just like Jesus Himself prayed: “Not my will, but Thine be done.” We are to pray for God’s will to be done in our prayers.
(And let me add this: There is a great deal of peace available for us if we pray for the will of God, instead of our own will. When there is something that we really want, and we are just begging God for it, we can become really anxious, and afraid, and stressed: “God, please give me this; oh, I hope I get it” — and we become so anxious about it, because we think we just have to have it.
But if, instead, we can pray: “God, I just want Your will, whatever that is. If You want me to have it, I will be happy, but if You have another plan, then I will be happy with that” — then it alleviates that anxiety. You don’t worry about it one way or the other; you trust that God knows best, and His will is going to be done, and you can just rest in that.
I tried to do that last year as we were looking for God’s direction for a church to serve in. My prayer virtually every day of last year was, “Lord, Revelation 3:7 says You are the One who closes, and no man can open, and Who opens, and no man can close. I pray that You would close every door You want closed, and just open the ONE door that You want opened — wherever that is.” And I had a peace that His will would be done — and I believe it was!
But it takes us coming to God in prayer and really being willing to pray, “Thy will be done” — and not insisting on our own will being done.
A.W. Tozer has a good quote on that. Years ago he wrote: “Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want. Inside the will of God, there’s nothing I fear.” (Tweet 5-05-15) When we can get to the point of saying, I don’t really have a will in this, except to do God’s will; like Tozer said, “Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want” — then we can have a peace, just resting in His will. Bring your request to Him and sincerely pray: “Your will be done.” )
III. AREAS TO PRAY FOR GOD’S WILL TO BE DONE:
Really we can and should pray about God’s will for any area of our lives and those we care about. You don’t want to be too “picky” about exactly what this applies to. But let me share some areas of our lives that many of us will want to be praying for God’s will about:
A. GOD’S WILL IN “BIG” DECISIONS
This is what a lot of us think about when we think of praying for God’s will: those “big decisions” that we face in life, like what job should we take, or what person should we date or marry, etc.
When I was praying last year for God’s will for the church I would pastor, this is where in my prayer time I would pray that prayer.
B. GOD’S WILL FOR THE DAY
But praying for God’s will does not just involve praying for the “big” things in life. Even when we don’t have one of those “big” decisions in front of us, we should ask God to show us in the morning what His will is for the things we are to do in the day that is facing us.
Last Sunday I mentioned Charles Kimmel’s article, “The Tyranny of the Urgent.” In it he says that many people get lost in the pile of all of the so-called “urgent” things that everyone wants them to do, and so they don’t get those things done which are really most important. His answer, as we talked about Sunday, is to do what Jesus did: get up each morning and spend time with the Father in prayer, and ask HIM to give us the priorities He has for us for the day. At the end of the article Kimmel says that Jesus didn’t heal every blind person in Palestine — but He could come to the end of His life and say, “I have finished the work that YOU gave Me to do.” Kimmel says that we will be able to say the same thing — IF we will start off each day asking God to show us His will for the day.
That’s what we should do at this point of the Model Prayer. Pray about what God’s will is for you to do during the hours of the day ahead of you. Don’t ask Him just to bless whatever you want to do, but to help you know and do what HE has planned for you to do that day. If you’ll do that, then like George Muller (whom we talked about Sunday) you’ll be more productive with one hour of prayer and 4 hours of work, than in 5 hours of work without prayer. Each morning, pray about what God wants you to do in the day ahead.
I try to do this each morning at this point in the Model Prayer Outline, just kind of “preview” the day in advance before the Lord: what are God’s priorities for me to do that day: Study a couple of hours for the upcoming message? Then go make that visit? Then perhaps work on that project? I try to get a peace about what God’s plan for my day is, and ask Him to bless it.
We do want to pray for the “big” items of God’s will, but the truth is, if we are doing His will every day in the “little” things, then often those “big” things fall in place. So make it a priority every day to pray for God’s will in what you are going to do in the day ahead.
C. GOD’S WILL FOR OTHERS
Remember others as well. It is significant that when we come to the 2nd part of the Model Prayer, and we are praying for our requests, we are never taught to ask for “me” or “I.” It is “us”, “us”, and “our.” This reminds us that we are to be praying for others as well. It is good to pray about God’s will for our own lives, but don’t forget to pray for His will to be manifest in others’ lives as well.
Pray for your friend who is looking for a job.
Pray for your children to find the marriage partner that God has for them.
Pray for God’s will to be done in the decision at church.
Pray for God’s will to be done in the political election.
Pray that God’s will would be done in our country: this upcoming Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage is a good example of that. Pray that the judges of our land would judge justly, and that they would do God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
There are all kinds of people and situations for whom we can pray for God’s will to be done.
I heard a “word faith” preacher one time say that you shouldn’t pray “if it’s God’s will” because it indicates a lack of faith, and that prayer will never be answered. But I don’t think his teaching lines up with scripture.
Some of you may have read my blog this morning, where I shared how the Apostle Paul told the Romans in Romans 1:10 that he hoped to come see them “IF PERHAPS now at last BY THE WILL OF GOD I MAY succeed in coming to you.” That’s a lot of “if”‘s and “God’s will”‘s in there — it wasn’t much of a “positive confession”! But it was a humble submission to the will of God — in line with James 4, which commands us not to boast about tomorrow, but to say “IF the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that …”.
Praying “if it is God’s will” is not unscriptural. In fact, looking at what Jesus taught, and what Paul taught, I would go so far as to say that it would be unscriptural for us NOT to pray in our prayers every day just as Jesus taught us: “Thy will be done”!