“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
So we pray in the Lord’s prayer. But let’s be honest. Do we really want that? Do I really want it in my life? The immediate answer is “Yes, of course.” But my inner thoughts and feelings, and even my prayers, betray my apparent spirituality.
Alexander Schmemann comments on this passage in his book, Our Father:
“I would have to say that precisely this petition, “Thy will be done” is the ultimate yardstick of faith, the measure by which one can discern, in oneself first of all, profound from superficial faith, profound religiosity from a false one. Why? Well, because even the most ardent believer all too regularly, if not always, desires, expects, and asks from the God he claims to believe in that God would fulfill precisely his own will and not the will of God. The best proof of this is the Gospel itself, the account of Christ’s life.
“Isn’t Christ from the outset followed by nameless crowds of people? And aren’t they following him because he is accomplishing their will? He is healing, helping, comforting… However, as soon as he starts speaking about the essential, about the fact that a person has to deny himself if he wants to follow him, about the need to love one’s enemies and to lay down one’s life for one’s brothers, as soon as his teaching becomes difficult, exalted, a call to sacrifice, a demand of the impossible – in other words, as soon as Christ starts to teach about what is the will of God, people immediately abandon him and, moreover, turn against him with anger and hatred. This eerie shouting of the mob at the Cross, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ (Lk 23:21) – is it not because Christ did not fulfill the will of the people?
“They only wanted help and healing, while he spoke of love and forgiveness. They wanted him to liberate them from their enemies and grant victory over them, while he spoke of the kingdom of God…
“This is all described in the Gospels. And subsequently, over the next two millennia of Christianity, do we not witness the same drama? What do we together and individually really desire from Christ? Let’s admit it – the fulfillment of our will. We desire that God would assure our happiness. We want him to defeat our enemies. We want him to realize our dreams and that he would consider us kind and good. And when God fails to do our will we are frustrated and upset and are ready over and over to forsake and deny him.”
You know, you can always discern a person’s relationship with God through his or her prayers. I’m listening to a series of talks by Father Thomas Hopko. He states that every prayer we pray must either be a summary of the Lord’s Prayer or an extrapolation of the Lord’s Prayer. In other words, our prayer life must be the embodiment of the Lord’s Prayer and every prayer we pray must be under the shadow of the Lord’s Prayer. It is that prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray.
Hopko also says, that since we are told not to be anxious about food or drink or clothes or comfort or any other material thing, we are not to pray for those things. Our prayers should always be expressions of “Father, may your name be hallowed, your kingdom come and your will be done.”
Now whether his teaching is a little extreme or not is up for debate. However, it forces us evaluate our prayer life. I find I prayer more about health, finances, comfort, safety, job position and other things for myself, family and friends than I do for God’s will to be done. Now some would say those things are God’s will, but I’m not so sure anymore.
Ephesians 1:4 and other New Testament passages make it very clear that God’s ultimate will for his people is to be holy and blameless, to enter into his divine life and nature. First Thessalonians says God’s will is that we are to be joyful always, praying continually and giving thanks in every circumstance. These passages form the definition of God’s salvation for our lives. If that’s so, then isn’t it God’s prerogative to give and take away as he save us? And our responsibility in prayer is to pray contrary to our fallen emotions and desires that long for safety, comfort and security and to pray for God’s will to be formed in me at any cost.
Thomas a’ Kempis, speaking prophetically for Christ, adds to this discussion:
“And do not consider yourself forsaken if I send some temporary hardship, or withdraw the consolation you desire. For this is the way to the kingdom of heaven, and without doubt it is better for you and the rest of My servants to be tried in adversities than to have all things as you wish. I know your secret thoughts, and I know that it is profitable for your salvation to be left sometimes in despondency lest perhaps you be puffed up by success and fancy yourself to be what you are not. What I have given, I can take away and restore when it pleases Me. What I give remains Mine, and thus when I take it away I take nothing that is yours, for every good gift and every perfect gift is Mine.”
Father, may your name be hallowed in my life as in heaven. May your kingdom come in my life as in heaven. May your will be done in my life as in heaven. Amen.