The Lord wonderfully instructs His church in prayer by means of the “Lord’s Prayer.” In the first three petitions He teaches the church to use prayer to glorify God, to extol Him, and to be concerned above all with that glory. This is especially true of the third petition. And as we turn our attention to the will of Jehovah, we will note that the will of God eternally is to glorify Himself in the highest possible way through Christ and His church. And all things in this creation, as well as all creatures, come under this eternal purpose of our God. Further this is the peculiar calling of the church of Jesus Christ. She exists in Christ to glorify God, to serve Him, to love Him, and to obey Him unto the end that God may be all in all, that unto Him alone may be the glory! Thus, as the church prays concerning the will of God, she of necessity must pray for grace to be humble, contrite of heart, to confess sin, and for grace to submit to that high purpose of God with all things. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches us this truth in question and answer 124, where it treats the third petition of the ‘”Lord’s Prayer.”
If we are to understand the significance of this petition, it is necessary that we come to an understanding of God’s will as it is used in our Lord’s prayer. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Thy will be done.” What is this will of God? To answer this question we must assume the position of Scripture that God is perfectly and completely a willing Being. The God which Jesus instructs His children to address is not some cold, abstract power, far removed from creation. But Jehovah, Whom you and I are instructed to address in prayer is the willing God! He is our God Who wills and brings to pass His will in time! And as for His will, it is always in perfect harmony with all of His infinite perfections and virtues. And He is the Sovereign God Who does whatever He pleases, cf. Ps. 115:3. This will or pleasure of God is good, righteous, just, and all-wise, according to Paul in Rom. 12:1, 2. Dear readers, it is this will, the perfect, all-wise, good, acceptable, and sovereign will of God by which all things are brought to pass. Jehovah’s will encompasses all of creation and is complete. It is concerning this will that Jesus instructs us to pray, “Thy will be done.”
This will of God has a two-fold aspect. When we speak of the will of God we necessarily speak of God’s eternal counsel. We must turn our attention to His eternal purpose with all things. Thus as Jesus teaches us to pray, “Let Thy will be done,” He teaches us to pray that God may carry out His eternal purpose and counsel. This will of God of His eternal decree we come to know by His revelation to us. And it is true we cannot search out the depths of His will, nor all the mysteries of the fulness of God’s counsel concerning the creation; but God does reveal His eternal will in so far as His children must know it.
Central to the will which He has revealed to His people is His Son, Jesus Christ. God has revealed to us that all things have their significance in Christ. All things are subservient to Christ! And through Christ all things serve the glory of God! It is concerning this Divine will of God centered in Christ that the Lord teaches us to pray “Thy will be done.” This prayer upon the lips of the old dispensation saints was, “Lord, bring to pass all things that Thy promise may be fulfilled, bring to pass all things that the Christ may come!” For they looked for the One Who would deliver the elect children of God from their sin, and Who would bring them to glory. And they looked for this salvation through Christ, to the end that God’s Name may receive all the glory.
In the new dispensation the prayer of the saints, has not essentially changed. It is the prayer to God: “Bring Thy perfect will to its final realization, bring to pass all things in this new dispensation, that Jesus Christ may come upon the clouds of heaven, bringing His elect to final glory. And further so rule, O God, through Thy Son that also Thy enemies and my enemies may fill their cup of iniquity to the full, so that in final judgment they be cast into that everlasting lake of fire and desolation.” The child of God prays to God in this dispensation to glorify Himself through the salvation of the elect church in Christ Jesus; and we pray that God’s will be done concerning the reprobate as they must serve the church in Christ also unto the glory of our God. You and I are thus instructed to pray, “Lord, let Thy will be done.”
However, Jesus also instructs His church in this petition to pray concerning a second aspect of the will of God. We must be concerned in our prayer with God’s will for His elect, the will of His command. Thus, when the Lord teaches us to pray this third petition, He teaches us to pray for grace to walk in harmony with His will according to the commandments He has set before us. The Lord teaches the church she must pray for grace to be obedient unto the Father. Not all shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those that do the will of my Father which is in heaven, states our Lord as it is recorded in Matt. 7:21. The true seed, elect in Christ, receiving His Spirit, alone do the will of God and enter glory. Thus the church must pray for grace to walk in harmony with the will of God for His moral, rational creatures. This aspect of God’s will which concerns our moral, ethical walk in this life requires the prayer: “Lord, grant us grace to obey Thee, and to serve Thee, and to walk before Thee in the way of love, that we may, as Thy children, be brought into the eternal dwelling place with Thee in and through Christ Jesus and for Thy Name’s sake.”
Our Catechism teaches us to pray for grace to renounce our own will in order properly to pray the third petition! Nor is it difficult for the child of God to understand this explanation. The need to pray for grace to renounce his own will becomes very clear for the elect. For the child of God, chosen in Christ and regenerated by His Spirit, and who has come under the efficacious testimony of the Word and Spirit under the preaching of the gospel, is brought to a very certain conviction. It is the conviction of sin and depravity. Such a conviction that it causes the elect to confess, “I do not will to serve thee!” The law and the word of God as it is applied by the Spirit unto the heart of the elect causes the child of God to confess that naturally we do not want to walk in harmony with the eternal will of God. We are not content at all to be satisfied with the will of God for all things. We rather walk in the way of iniquity and sin. Thus when the elect is confronted with the testimony of the Scripture he comes to understand that he cannot seek the will or do the will of God in his own strength. The testimony of God’s Word brings the child of God to confess that his natural inclination and ability are such that he is incapable of seeking God’s will in his life. For the result of your sin and mine is that naturally our minds are carnal minds which are set in enmity against God! By nature we have a hatred for God’s ways and His commands! We are not content in the way of Jehovah naturally! All one must do to see the truth of this statement is observe his own life. How often haven’t we complained with our portion even today. How easy it is to become bitter with the portion we have received when the way becomes difficult for the flesh. How easy it is to cry out when God demands that we be pilgrims and strangers in the midst of this world, for our flesh and natural desire is for the things of this world.
When the child of God under the preaching of the gospel is brought before the testimony of Jehovah’s Word, he is convicted of sin! And the elect, convicted of sin by the Lord Himself, is instructed by Jesus to pray for grace—that he might renounce the will of the old man of darkness, and that he might put on the new man of light. That prayer, beloved, is a very wonderful and precious prayer for the church. And it is also a very necessary prayer for each one of us. The child of God sincerely prays for grace to renounce his will, and this means he prays sincerely unto God by grace for the testimony of the cross. His prayer thus becomes: “O Jehovah, bring me to the cross of Jesus. Thou hast shown me my terrible sinfulness. Now Lord, as Thou hast convicted me of my sins, bring me before the cross of Christ, my Lord. Open and reveal the cross to me that I may see there the Firstborn of Thy children, that I may see there my Elect Head. Bring me to the cross that I may see Jesus there as my only hope of salvation and my Redeemer. Bring me to the cross, Lord, that I may see that the bondage to sin and the slavery to Satan has been broken. Bring me there, that its testimony be mine, that He hath freed me from the testimony of Thy law that my sin brings me to desolation. Make the power of the cross dwell in my heart. Cause, Lord, that I may repent of those terrible sins that brought Thy precious Son to that accursed death. And, my God, pour forth the blessings of His cross unto me in Thy mercy that I may serve Thee, to do Thy will.”
Beloved readers, as by grace the child of God empties Himself before the Lord and seeks the precious testimony of the cross of Calvary, he will be given the strength to pray, “Thy will be done.” And he will begin by grace to do the will of God. For God hears this prayer of His children and pours forth the Spirit of obedience upon them. Never because they somehow are or have become worthy of this work of God in themselves; but Jesus in their stead did the will of the Father, obediently saying yes over against the no of our sin! May God grant that the obedience of Christ may so dwell in us that we pray, “Lord, let Thy will be done.”