The following is the sixth part of a series written by one of our members, David Carrico. Previous parts can be found at the links below:
“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10
“Thy will be done…”
We left off in the last article with the thought that God’s mind is not human in scope, makeup, or ability; that it far exceeds our own; and that as part of His mind He does have a will that we may not always clearly understand. That’s because while the Bible is very clear about the things that are part of the precept will of God—those things that He declares should be the responsibility of mankind—it is not always crystal clear on the things that are part of His purpose will. We dare not assume in human arrogance that the Bible contains all things about God. In fact, we have a pretty good hint that this is not the case.
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written. John 21:25
Now some would probably argue that this was a statement of hyperbole, trying to capture an image of the sheer wonder of the life of Christ on earth. But this verse isn’t a piece of poetry; it’s the conclusion of a factual account of the life and ministry of Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. I take it at face value: an attempt to convey in specific detail everything that occurred, every work that was done by Christ, every touch from God during the life of Jesus, would swamp the world. It could not contain it.
And if that is true of God the Son, can it be any less true of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit?
And if we cannot know the fullness of the mind of God, if we cannot know everything that is contained within His will, then what are we praying when we say “Thy will be done?”
Well, for one thing, let’s be perfectly clear that God does not need our permission, agreement, or approval. God is going to accomplish His will, regardless of whether or not we understand it, and regardless of whether or not we think it’s the right thing to do. To be blunt, we are not entitled to an opinion of God’s purposes. That was forfeited when Adam and Eve fell. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from having one at times, but that opinion matters just as much to God as the opinions of the squirrels in my front yard matter to me—less than that, actually.
So if that part of the prayer is not an approval or a vote of confidence, what is it?
It should be a prayer for God to find us worthy of use in accomplishing His purposes.
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves… 2 Corinthians 4:6-7
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory… Romans 9:20-23
It should be the desire of our hearts that even though we are earthen vessels, not gold or silver, that we will still be found to be vessels of honor, useful to the Master for making known the riches of His glory and mercy to the world around us. So our prayer should be “Thy will be done…with me and in me and through me.”
“…on earth as it is in heaven.”
We conclude with the final part of the phrase “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I find it interesting that the vast majority of English translations seem to have this translated backwards. The Greek literally reads something like “Let be done the will of You, as in heaven, also on the earth.” Some might think that there’s no real difference between the two wordings, but I don’t agree. I think that there is a primacy—an importance—in the positioning of these two parts of the phrase. To me, the standard translation carries with it the idea of “let Your will be done on earth, just as it is being done in heaven.” But the literal translation instead carries with it the idea of “just as Your will is already being done in heaven, so let it be done here on earth.”
Do you see the difference? One is reactive and almost passive, while the other recognizes that God’s will and purpose are already being accomplished and carried out. The literal translation is a prayer that God will bring us into line with what His will is already doing.
And as I said above, that should be the greatest desire of our hearts.
Grace and peace to you.