…your will be done

Jesus Christ’s desire for his father’s will was paramount in his earthly life. Eternal yet begotten, Christ was the linchpin in the plan of salvation, and he knew that the good of Creation depended on God’s will, established from heaven, being accomplished on earth. So he taught his hearers to pray for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

I wonder if any of us would follow this part of Jesus’ example if he hadn’t first established the goodness and trustworthiness of God. God is our father, so he loves us. God is high above us in heaven, so he can see the whole picture. God is holy, so he is trustworthy. God has ushered in his kingdom, and with it, our citizenship. He is utterly and wholly good, and his will for us results in our good. 

We must understand the goodness of God before we pray for his will to be done, because with this prayer comes the possibility of great risk. In Matthew 26:39, Christ lives out his Lord’s Prayer example. The night before his torture and death, face to the ground, blood issuing from his pores, he prayed,  “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 

God’s will for us has nothing to do with our comfort or temporal prosperity. It has everything to do with our holiness, our obedience, and our eternal good. Nobody knew this better than Christ. That’s why he told his followers in John 15:20, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” We are asking for nothing less when we dare to seek God’s will. 

C.S. Lewis said, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” The good news is that, though God’s will has the potential for great discomfort here on earth, the rewards outweigh the risks exponentially. And eternally. 

Paul chose suffering in God’s will for future glory. He told the church in Philippi, in Philippians 1:19-26,

"Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again."

Paul knew that being in God’s will here on earth meant “fruitful labor.” Not comfort. Not riches. Not personal desires. Paul chose to “honor Christ in his body” (to suffer), because to him, the suffering that resulted from praying this part of The Lord’s Prayer was inconsequential compared to the eternal gain he would receive after his death. 

The same holds for us. We must be bold in our praying, asking for the courage that comes from Christ alone to receive God’s will, whatever that looks like. Adoption? Missions? Staying home to raise children? Taking a lesser paying job? Reaching out to an unbelieving neighbor or family member? Forgiving a prodigal?  The very good news that accompanies this is God's care, provision, and sustenance throughout the working of his will, and the abundant blessing in the midst of it.  Praying God’s will means seeing past our “momentary afflictions” (2 Corinthians 4:17) to what God has promised and prepared for us when we see him face to face.