(The second of two articles treating the third petition as it is explained in the 49th Lord’s Day of the Heidelberg Catechism)
In our first article on the third petition of the “Lord’s Prayer” we concerned ourselves with the treatment of the basic idea of the petition, “Thy will be done,” and in this connection the treatment of the phrase, “Grant that we and all men may renounce our own will,” in the answer to the 124th question of the Heidelberg Catechism. It is the intention at this time to complete the study of the answer to the question, “Which is the third petition?” as set forth in the 49th Lord’s Day of the Heidelberg Catechism: “‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’: that is, grant that we and all men may renounce our own will, and without murmuring obey thy will, which is only good; that so everyone may attend to, and perform the duties of his station and calling, as willingly and faithfully as the angels do in heaven.” It is the author’s desire that you read the first article on this petition before taking up the reading of this present one.
This prayer, taught to us by our Lord Jesus, guides us to pray: “Lord, so submit our wills to thine, that in all of our life, our ways may be submitted to the testimony of Thy Word. And so guide each step we take or decision we make, that we may be certain it is based upon and rooted in the truth of the gospel of Christ.” Our prayer, therefore, must be for diligence to walk from the law of God. For our calling is to walk in ways well pleasing to God, to walk in obedience before Him, and to serve Him in love! But naturally we stand in enmity against God, and our natural inclination is not to please Jehovah. Rather, we are concerned with our flesh, and desire naturally to please it. Our desire is not to obey God’s law, but to make our own laws!
There is a conflict within God’s children. The elect according to the principle of new life desires God’s law and way, but according to his flesh he serves sin. Thus the child of God when convicted in his heart of sin by God, and when aware of his natural depravity, lifts his voice to God for grace. Jesus teaches him to pray through this petition for grace and the fullness of the Spirit of Christ to walk in ways conformable to the law of God in thanksgiving. It is the prayer for consecration, and above this it is the prayer for grace to be sustained in the battle of faith. For in this life as we pray this prayer, we will never be free of the natural inclination of the flesh. We have but the smallest beginnings of new obedience. And this is what draws the child of God daily in prayer to Father, “‘Let Thy will be done.” Daily our sins rise up against us, and daily they testify we are worthy only of desolation—the law condemns!
Hence, daily we need the testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ—that gospel that testifies that for the sake of His Son God forgives our sin and gives us the Spirit of sanctification. And we pray by this petition, “O God, for Jesus’ sake give us more and more and more grace, and more and more obedience, that we may walk in Thy ways. Give us grace to be strangers and pilgrims in the midst of this world, in order that Thy name may be glorified.” So our prayer indeed becomes a prayer for grace to cast off our own will, which seeks the wisdom of this world. A wisdom which is concerned with the logic, philosophy, psychology or politics of this life. And we must pray for grace that our eyes may be drawn away from this life, that they may be set upon the kingdom of heaven. For to walk in obedience to God, we must come to know His will, and learn therein to be content.
Hence when we pray this third petition, we pray to know. The prayer of the third petition is the prayer of the child of God, who naturally rebels against the Word, that God may so rule in our hearts by the Spirit of Christ, that we may long for the preaching of the gospel. It becomes manifest upon the lips of the child of God in the following manner: “0 Lord, give us grace to love the pure Word preached, give us grace to prepare for the preaching of God’s Word. Grant that we may renounce our natural inclination to love this world, which natural desire would keep us from the preaching. Grant that we may above all things set Thy Word and its proclamation before us.” It is also a prayer for grace to overcome our natural inclination to treat the Bible as any other common book; and instead we must seek strength to love the Word so much, that it becomes the central part of all of our life. Then the Bible will not lie idle on the table or night stand in our homes; and our prayer shall be: “Give us grace to open the Scriptures, to read them, to study the Bible; that we might come to a knowledge of thy ill. And, our God, grant that we may live with Thy Word having the central place in all of our activity and life!”
Further, our prayer must be for sanctified wisdom. Thus we pray: “O God, our wisdom naturally is that of the world, which counts the preaching of the cross of Christ foolishness and vanity. Forgive our sinfulness. And, Father, even though we do not have the most fluent tongue, or are not the most educated, pour forth the Spirit of sanctification that by grace we may come to know Thy will. And give us wisdom to apply it to all of our lives. May Thy Word direct our every step.”
According to the Heidelberg Catechism, we then must pray for grace to acknowledge obedience to the will of God as the only good. Understand, our natural inclination is to see good in many things. We would reason that it is good to have certain nice clothes, a fine home, a new car, plenteous food, or the best job. And it must be said that it is not necessarily wrong to have some of these things. However, it is only good to walk, labor, and to seek fellowship in the midst of this world as we make all things subservient to our service of our God. Never must these things become the principal goals of our life. And thus our life must be rooted in and grounded in the Word of God.
Especially is this true of the particular portion and talent that becomes ours! This petition must be a prayer for contentment in the way in which God has placed us. God’s children are called to be content with the talents God has given them. When we pray, “Thy will be done,” Jesus teaches us to pray that God will keep us from being envious of our brothers who may have more talent. Thus the prayer: “Lord, keep us from discontent. Gracious God, keep us from our natural inclinations to tear apart our brethren, that we might gain a portion or honor to which we have no right, and which does not belong to us. Give us grace in our daily life to be content with the way in which Thou hast placed us. And if that portion is sickness, give us grace in this sickness to glorify thee. Our natural inclination is to complain or to fall into despair when Thou hast brought us low. Give us grace to do Thy will, to serve Thee, and to thank Thee for all Thou dost send. Make us by Thy Spirit and Word to become conformable to the life of Christ that dwells within us.”
Such must be the child of God’s prayer!
If you don’t pray this prayer, then you don’t walk as the child of the living God! And if this prayer does not bring you away from the world, and does not separate you from secular goals, and if this prayer does not cause you to flee from sin and to fall on your knees before God in repentance, then it is not a prayer from the heart either. Rather in such case it becomes rank hypocrisy!
But the child of God, who prays unto Jehovah, prays this petition in humility, out of love!
O, all too often we fail to utter the prayer, “Thy will be done,” from the heart. But God’s elect have the assurance as they seek to do the will of the Father, but fail, falling to the side of His law in their seeking, that Christ hath walked in perfect obedience even unto the cross in their behalf. And upon the merits of His cross Christ takes our prayer in perfection unto God. And He will lead His children most assuredly to glory!
This, too, is the end of this petition. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven! It is a prayer for perfection. And it is a prayer for God’s final glory, Thy will be DONE! The angels who dwell in heaven have no sin to pollute or dilute the principle of new life that dwells within them! They walk before God in perfect obedience, rejoicing in and glorifying His Name. Now this prayer of God’s loved ones is, “So, Lord, may Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Understand, this is essentially a prayer for the new heavens and new earth. It is a prayer for the day Christ comes upon the clouds of heaven in glory. It is a prayer for the glorification of the saints everlastingly, and a prayer for the final casting away of the enemies of God and His church. And this for the end that there only remains perfect obedience unto the precious will of Jehovah! In your life and mine!
Hence, the church prays for the grace to set all of our hopes in this life upon the things that are to come. It is therefore a prayer to do that today and every day of our lives. So we pray, “Lord grant that we might so submit our wills unto Thine that our spiritual eyes may be fastened upon Thy heavenly kingdom and its righteousness. And may this give direction to all of our life and activity. May Thy church be faithful, may Thy people be gathered together, and may they be taken to glory. That Thy Name may be all in all!” It is a prayer above all for the glory of God’s Name. And so it shall be as God for Christ’s sake hears this prayer, and brings His elect church into perfection. There shall be only holiness, obedience, righteousness, and that which is good; and God’s name through it all shall be glorified.