LORD’S DAY 49
- What is the third petition?
“Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven;” that is, grant that we and all men renounce our own will,1 and without disputing obey Your will, which alone is good;2 so that everyone may fulfill his office and calling as willingly and faithfully3 as the angels do in heaven.4
 Matt. 16:24.  Lk. 22:42; Tit. 2:12.  1 Cor. 7:24.  Ps. 103:20–21; *Rom. 12:2; *Heb. 13:21.
Conforming to God’s Will
Perhaps the clearest revelation of the nature of Jesus’ supreme act of obedience came not actually on the cross, but slightly before, in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, just before the beginning of the train of events which led to His crucifixion, Jesus, knowing full well what was coming in the next hours and the next day, struggled painfully to submit His human will to the Divine will. We must never forget His real humanity, and He struggled so greatly to accept the horror that was coming that He told His disciples that His soul was sorrowful even unto death (Matthew 26:38). He said, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” We see there His full humanity, and He recoiled at what would come the next day. Nonetheless, He said, “Not My will but Thine be done.” Here is where we see His perfect humanity. Fully aware of all the horror, shame, pain and sorrow that was to be His in the next twenty four hours, He did the will of His Father, and in doing so, fully earned the glory and right to be the human king of God’s earthly kingdom, the head of the glorious nation that God was bringing to Himself.
Being Christlike is the goal for all of us as believers, as disciples, and here our Rabbi teaches us to pray that we would be like Him, that we would do His Father’s will just as He did. The phrase in the Lord’s Prayer is broad, desiring the doing of the will of God throughout the world, but it starts with us. I have more control over myself than I do over anyone else in the world, and if our eyes are opened to the truth of our own naturem we will know that there is much in our own hearts that falls short. While it is easy to focus on the shortcomings of others, if we truly desire the will of God to be done on the earth, the bulk of our effort should be focused on ourselves and our own obedience to God’s will.
Jesus’ prayer is for the world as a whole, and in teaching us to pray for that Jesus also teaches us to desire it. He has given us work to do in the advancement of it as well, but praying for that change to happen reminds us that it is God that achieves it both in ourselves and in others, and we therefore will not labor in the strength of the flesh but in the instruments that God has given us. We will listen to the preached word of God, make use of the sacraments, seek community with our fellow Christians, be faithful in whatever work God has given us in our lives, and love those who are around us, trusting that through all these means God will work His work. Righteousness is not going to be produced by human efforts like military or political power, education in human systems of knowledge or redistribution of material goods. It will happen by the spread of the gospel and the power of the Spirit in the hearts and minds of His elect.
He will transform the world. We can be certain that God is a benevolent God who loves to give good things to His Son. He is faithful and will certainly do what He has promised. So we can be certain that God’s will is going to be done on the earth just as it is in heaven, or Jesus would not have taught us to pray for it. But we also know that though our efforts are to be directed to this end, we will not see its full effects until He comes again in glory and power to put down all His enemies. Jesus is currently ruling the nations with a rod of iron, and will do so until their final destruction is accomplished by His second coming. Only then will sin be eradicated from the world.
Until then, we fight the spiritual battle for the promotion of the will of God in the world, using the weapons and tools He gives us, and we pray—first that God would change our hearts to conform us more and more to the image of Jesus Christ, who always put the divine will ahead of His own, and secondly that we, as a result of the obedience worked in us, would be faithful agents for the promotion of righteousness through the gospel in our families, our workplaces, our neighborhoods or wherever else God has placed us.
God is the Creator of all things, and therefore all things work properly and best when we learn to use them according to God’s will. Driving a car according to the instructions of the manufacturer is not an unpleasant chore but the way to get full utility and enjoyment from the car. And God’s creation is amazing, beautiful, and very enjoyable. When God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven, then we will be able to fully enjoy all of God’s wonderful creation, to use it as He intended for it to be used, to relate to each other the way we should, and to enjoy His glorious and perfect presence forever.