Every Day His Will is Done
Ironically, it's this petition that some use as an excuse not to pray at all. If the good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, why pray? Both Luther and Melancthon warned strenuously against dragging in the opinions of the Stoics, the Moslems, and the Epicureans which say, "Everything is predestined so why pray?" But God has not revealed to us everything that will happen. God keeps some of His will hidden. We are no more to investigate, tramp through, or pray about the hidden will of God than Pandora was to open her box. As Moses says, "The secret things belong to God, but the revealed things belong to us." And God revealed to us that it is His will that we pray that His good and gracious will be done.
What is God's good and gracious will? You ask that of people and they almost automatically traipse off into hidden, secret things. God's will is mysterious. It's the riddled wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Who knows what the will of God is? It can't be known, but only sought for all your days... usually until you "feel" you know what it is.
The will of God is sought in the mysterious or the miraculous. God doesn't express His will in simple, ordinary words. Nooo, it's to be found in interpreting this sign or that. "If I see a blue car, then God wants me to do this." "If the doctor doesn't have a pen in his hand that means God wills that I be all right." God's will is found in that persistent dream, that intuition, that feeling you have, not in the simple Words of Scripture.
What is God's good and gracious will? Doesn't He plainly tell us what His will is by what He teaches us to pray for? Jesus says, "When you pray, say, "Our Father... Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come." Duh? God's will is that His name be holy, i.e. that His Word be taught and believed in truth and purity. God's will is that His kingdom come, i.e. that His Holy Spirit cause us to believe His Word and live godly lives.
This is what is going on in our Passion Reading. God's name was at the bottom of the 10 Commandments. They were written by His finger. All that that Law commanded and all that the Law promised to do to anyone who broke it were backed by the name of God. How serious are you about what you put your name on? When the car salesman asks, "Just put your signature here so I can take it to my manager," do you? When the resort salesman man asks, "Just sign here to prove that you were at this presentation," do you? You don't just put your name on anything, and you are serious about what you do put your name on. Much more so is God. The full faith and credit of God is behind all the Commandments and every promise to punish their breaking.
So for the good and gracious will of God to be done, His commandments given to men had to be kept by men and the punishment due them for breaking them had to be carried out against men. So, how's that working for you? How are you coming with keeping those commandments? How you doing with bearing their punishments?
Enter Jesus into Gethsemane. He comes having lived the perfect life. He has none of your pride, greed, lusts, or worry. He doesn't have sins of deed, word, thought, or even wicked dreams. Yet see what happens to Him when He gets here. The full wrath of God against your sins comes upon Him. Imagine what it takes to overwhelm a holy soul till the point of death. Imagine what aguish it takes to press blood from pores. Imagine going through all this and your friends ignore you. If you've ever had a co-worker, spouse, or friend cheat on you or let you down when your world was coming down around you, you know a little bit how Jesus felt in Gethsemane.
It's the good and gracious will of God that His kingdom come to sinners. It's not the will of devil, the world, or your own sinful nature for that to happen. These never will that. The devil could will for you to be happy, to be rich, to be fulfilled, but he will never will for God's kingdom to come to you. The world can will for you to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but never, ever will the world will for God's kingdom to come to you. And you own sinful nature wills for you to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, but your own sinful self will never will for it to be saved... because it never, ever thinks it needs saving.
God's will is that His name be hallowed by sinners and His kingdom come to sinners. If the devil, the world, and sinners neither can will nor do either, how can God do both? Enter His Son into Gethsemane. He is the Second Adam. You remember the first? We all fell in Adam's sin. In the moment he took the fruit, we took sin, death and the devil into our very bodies. As we all fell in Adam's sin, so in Jesus' holiness, in His obedience, in His innocent suffering under the wrath of God, we are raised into His kingdom. Get that? God's name is hallowed by God the Son keeping the Law and paying what we owed for not keeping it. He in turn wins the right to bring the kingdom to sinners.
God's good and gracious will is done by God the Son. He hallowed God's name; He made good God's name at the bottom of the 10 Commandments and their due punishments. He won the kingdom for sinners by doing and suffering what they could not. Now maybe you'll appreciate that horrible, yet wonderful statement in Isaiah 53, "It was the will of the Lord to crush Him."
It was the will of God the Father to crush God the Son. You see this in the text. It wasn't the will of the Son to be crushed for sinners. Don't get me wrong. Jesus doesn't say He doesn't want sinners like you redeemed. He simply asks if could be done another way. "If it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me." But it was not possible. God's will was that you be saved, redeemed, forgiven, given the kingdom. To do His will, to save, redeem, forgive, and give you the kingdom, He had to crush His Son. Don't think this was easy for God.
We can't get our head or heart around such pathos. Imagine a man whose job it is to open and close the train bridge above a river. It's about time to close the bridge for the train, but he looks down and sees his only son playing amidst the enormous gears. He shouts to warn the boy, but the rivers roar is too loud. He waves frantically, but the boy is too far away to see. He hears the whistle of the train loaded with passengers; it's only minutes away. He must act now if he is going to save those passengers. He wills to close the bridge and kill his only son for the sake of those people. Of course the difference between this story and the truth is that the true, only beloved Son said, "Thy will to crush Me be done."
As the train roared by, the grieving father with the mangled son and mangled heart looked into the windows at the faces of the passengers and knew they didn't know and might not even care about the tremendous sacrifice he had just made for them. That's how this illustration is suppose to end, but it leaves you asking, Do you know enough or care enough? The answer can only be not one of us knows or cares enough. Such a point really doesn't need to be illustrated. So, the real application is this. Seeing that God's good and gracious will is to save us at the cost of His Son and that the Son was willing to pay this price enables us to pray the extraordinary petition: Thy will be done.
It's extraordinary because who on their own doesn't want what they will? American's prize free will, strong will. Our wills are to be purposeful, directed, intense, and passionate. Yet, here we pray as our Lord taught and showed us in Gethsemane, "Not as we will but as You will." We are praying against ourselves, and if you take this miracle lightly, it's because you haven't prayed much in difficult situations or thought about what you are really saying. Be at the deathbed of someone you love, be at the bedside of your sick child, be at the crossroads with your difficult job, spouse, or life, and pray, "Thy will be done." Then it will dawn on you. The same will that crushed His beloved Son so that your train could reach heaven, might crush your loved one; it might keep you with a burdensome spouse or in a crushing job or life.
But don't you see? It is our wills that we want to be freed of? Our wills, we confess in our Catechism, do not want us to hallow God's name, do not want to let His kingdom come, and will not remain firm in His Word and faith until we die. Whatever high, noble, things our wills might want, we confess that in the end our wills only take us away from God's name, God's kingdom, God's Word, and true faith.
So, while we could will for the good things of life, health, and happiness for us and our families, we have this other evil will going on at the same time, a will that none of us fully knows or understands. It's against this will that we pray. This will wants physical health above spiritual life; it wills its name above God's name; an earthly kingdom over an eternal one, and its word above any Word of God. Luther said this, "If Christ had to surrender His will, which after all was good... always the best, in order that God's will be carried out, why should we poor little worms make such a fuss about our will, which is never free of evil and always deserves to be thwarted" (AE, 42, 45).
When the Lord moves you to pray, "Thy will be done" rejoice; it means His good and gracious will to save you is being done rather than the Devil's, the world's, or your own will that certainly wants to damn you. Go back to the train trestle. Of the myriad things God might will, one thing we know for sure He does will. He wills for your train to cross safely to the other side. Knowing His eternal will is to save you, knowing how totally He is committed to that regardless of the cost to Him, the cry "Thy will be done" can come with gusto from our hearts. Because don't you see? Those in heaven praise God for all eternity not because their will was done but because the Father's His saving will was. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Midweek II (20060308); Lord's Prayer 3rd Petition