Jean’s Gospel: Introducing the Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
In this third petition, we pray that God’s will be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven.
The phrase – “on earth as it is in heaven” – acknowledges the presence on earth of evil and Sin and their consequences, but anticipates and looks forward to the return of Christ when God will “unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph 1:10)
If we step back for a moment and look at the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer – that His name be honored, His kingship be acknowledged and His will be done – we trust that all of these things are already perfectly accomplished in heaven without any need for our prayers. But we petition our Father for them, so that they may be fully accomplished here on earth. When God completes His plan for the fullness of time, these petitions will be fulfilled and all things in heaven and on earth will be united in Christ. Moreover, at his return “every knee [will] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11)
Therefore, when we pray – “on earth as it is in heaven” – we are praying for the end of all evil, sin and injustice which dishonors God’s name, ignores His kingship and refuses His will here on earth. This petition “hunger[s] and thirst[s] for righteousness” (Matt 5:6) and “seek[s] first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt 6:33). In it we yearn for the end of this evil age when God will unite heaven and earth under the Lordship of Christ. Maranatha!
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Matt 1:23)
Jesus began uniting heaven and earth in His incarnation. God from heaven humbled himself for our sake by uniting himself to the earthly material of human flesh, coming to us in the form of a servant. Jesus kept the Father’s name holy, brought His kingdom, and did His will perfectly –for which He suffered rejection to the point of death, even death on a cross. “He himself bore our sins in his body” (1 Pet 2:24).
No one expected God to come as a suffering servant, though the Scriptures taught that the wages of sin is death. Christ died our death to give us His life. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Rom 5:10)
Christ’s reconciling death also unites heaven and earth in the spread of His kingdom. The Holy Spirit, which faith in Christ receives, comes to us through the Gospel and unites us to Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” (2 Cor 5:17a) “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)
“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Rom 7:22-23)
The Holy Spirit not only enlightens us with faith, but working through God’s Word, He also renews our mind so that we may discern the will of God (Rom 12:2). We begin to delight in God’s Law and desire to do His will. But the renewal of our mind is a declaration of war against our sinful nature, which will not willingly go along with the Spirit’s work in our lives.
Therefore, Christians may experience intense spiritual conflict – our Father’s will, which we begin to delight in by the indwelling Spirit, over and against the will of our sinful nature, which still clings to us. Paul describes this experience: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:24-25a)
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matt 10:34-39)
Our sinful nature is not a Christian’s only adversary. The world also is opposed to God’s will. Doing the will of the Father may result in suffering, ostracism or even death. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, for example, presents the juxtaposition of God’s will over and against the norms and expectations of the world. This is why Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) This is what it means to take our cross and follow Him.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39)
Jesus personally experienced the world’s opposition to the will of His Father. He prayed a similar petition in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus gives us the third petition of His Prayer so that we regularly seek and trust in God’s will for all things and call on Him in our hour of need.
Thus, we pray:
Father, may your will be done in and through us. Give us grace, courage, strength and endurance to accomplish your will in the face of opposition from the devil, the world and our sinful nature. Free us from every impediment that hinders us from accomplishing your will.
Father, “you desire all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4) We pray for all unsaved people that your will may be accomplished in them.
Father, we thank you for everything your gracious will provides for us. Strengthen us in gratitude towards you and in trust that you are in control of this seemingly chaotic world. Remind us that in our Savior “all things hold together.” (Col 1:17)
Father, we confess that we have been ungrateful for the blessings you provide. We also confess that we have failed to do your will. Have mercy on us according to your steadfast love and forgive our sins. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Next week we will continue with the fourth petition: “Give us this day our daily bread”.
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