Cornelius Hanko is an emeritus minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Ques. 124. Which is the third petition? 

Ans. “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 every one may attend to, and perform the duties of his station and calling, as willingly and as faithfully as the angels do in heaven. 

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 49

Thou, O Lord, art God alone,

Everlasting is Thy throne;

Through the ages men shall sing

Praise to heaven’s eternal King.

It is in that awareness that we lift up our hearts to heaven with the prayer: “Holy Father, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Thy will, O our God, is living, active, efficacious, even as Thou, who art the living God. Thou wiliest Thyself exactly as Thou art in all Thy divine perfections, living Thy own blessed life of covenant fellowship as Triune God, delighting in and seeking Thy glory as God above all, blessed forever. Thy will is holy, righteous, sovereign, eternal, even as Thou art, the only true and living God!

We worship Thee, even as in Thy sovereign good pleasure Thou hast created us and chosen us in Christ Jesus, and redeemed us through His blood from all our sins, meriting for us the right to a place in Thy eternal kingdom. Realizing our own emptiness and unworthiness, we marvel that Thou shouldst love us and claim us as Thy sons and daughters, heirs of eternal life. We can only ask ourselves, “Why us, Lord, who of ourselves deserve only Thy condemnation?” We humbly confess that it is only Thy eternal, sovereign mercy that can claim us as Thine own. As Thy redeemed and sanctified children, cherishing the hope of eternal life with Thee, we pray: Thy will be done!

The very fact that Thou art the holy, righteous and sovereign God requires that men shall obey Thy sovereign will, not with a mere outward lip worship, but from the heart. Thou dost require that we shall love Thee, the Lord our God, with our whole being, keeping Thy commandments in complete self-surrender to Thee. Thy law is holy, just, and good. It is the good and perfect way in which we as Thy children may live in harmony and fellowship with Thee. It is the way of true peace and blessedness, for it is the excellent way that leads us to glory. According to the new man in Christ we may confess, “O how love I Thy law. It is my meditation by day and by night.” Yet sin still wars in our members. While we will the good, we do the evil, our conscience condemning us. We are still so prone to evil, that our best works, even our prayers, are polluted with sin. We are daily guilty of deliberate sins, and also of inadvertent sins, and even of secret sins, which are so deeply offensive to Thee, and yet are still unknown to us. If we should see and know ourselves in the light of Thy perfect law as we actually are, and as Thou seest us, we would have even greater reason to hide our faces in shame and humble ourselves in dust and ashes. How far we still are from living our entire lives from moment to moment in complete self-surrender and devotion to Thee. We must cry out with the apostle Paul, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Therefore we pray the more earnestly: Teach us by Thy Word and Spirit to crucify the flesh, to fight against sin that wars in our members, and to walk according to the new man in Christ Jesus. Give that we may keep Thy precepts with a willing, joyful heart!

We desire “that we and all men may renounce our own will, and without murmuring obey Thy will, which is good.” Not that we expect that in this present time all men will surrender themselves in obedience before Thee. We do not cherish the vain dream that “the whole world will be won for Christ,” and that an earthly kingdom of Christ will be established before the end of the ages. Scripture plainly teaches us that we are living in the last hour, and that the next major event on Thy calendar is the coming of the Son of man on the clouds of the heavens to set up His throne of judgment and to bring His church unto Himself in the new creation. Our Lord, having laid down His life for His sheep, now lives and reigns to carry out the counsel of Thy will in bringing us to glory. We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth in the day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Christ is Lord to the glory of Thy Name. Then we, with all the angels, will surrender ourselves in humble devotion before Thee forever.

We are deeply aware not only of Thy ethical will that must be obeyed, but also of the will of Thy decree, which must be carried out in us, by us, and. round about us, unto the day when Thou wilt make all things new. We bow in adoration before Thee, Who art our almighty, sovereign God, Who dost carry out Thy eternal purpose through all the works of Thy hand. There are not “infinite possibilities” in Thy decree, that can vary according to our whims and fancies, as if Thou wouldst change Thy decree to please us. Thou knowest the end from the beginning, and dost determine even the minutest details of our lives from the dawn of history unto the last hour. The earth-shaking events, such as wars, earthquakes, famines and floods, are a clear testimony of Thy sovereign power over all. But also the ordinary events, such as the rising and setting of the sun, spring time and harvest, health and sickness, our food and our drink, yes, even to the single hair of our heads, must serve Thy purpose to our salvation and Thy glory. Thou art in no sense of the word dependent upon the creature, for even the hearts of kings are in Thy hand, to be turned as a stream of water whithersoever Thou willest. Thou art for us, and nothing can be against us, for Thou dost turn even our desires, thoughts, words, and deeds to our ultimate good. Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever!

In that confidence we pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We ask that Thou wilt bestow on us the grace that we may live our lives in complete self-surrender to Thee, even as the angels and saints do in heaven, only to serve and praise Thee in humble love and devotion. May we realize that Thou art the Potter and that we are the clay, vessels of honor which Thou art preparing for our own place in glory. So often we complain when things are not to our liking. We think we know what is best for us, striving for our own pleasures, our own carnal, sinful desires. We are proud, selfish, greedy in our strivings and prayers. Teach us to look away from ourselves, that we may fade into the background, and that the glory of Thy Name may be the great ambition of our lives. Create in us a willing submission to Thy will also when everything seems all wrong and all things seem to be against us, When we struggle in the whirlpool of adversity or pain, in serious or even fatal illnesses, or loss of dear ones, then lead us to the Rock that is much too high for us to reach. May we then be able to pour out our souls in prayer and supplication, even as our Lord did in His bitter agony in Gethsemane. May we make known to Thee our anxiety and cares, our doubts and our fears, in order that we with Him may learn obedience and in total submission say: “Thy will be done.”

We also pray that “every one may attend to, and perform the duties of his station and calling, as willingly and as faithfully as the angels do in heaven.” Thou givest us the amazing privilege that we may belong to that people whom Thou hast chosen unto Thyself from eternity. We are privileged to be members of the body of Christ, each functioning in his own place with the talents Thou hast entrusted to him for the welfare of all other members. To us Thou hast given the privilege to have Thy own revelation of Thyself in the pages of the holy Scriptures, and to possess Thy indwelling Spirit Who gives us a living faith and an insight into the treasures of Thy Word. We may confess Thee as our God, and Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Who are we, whether old or young, should be called to serve for the edification of the saints, even serving as examples by word and deed? Who are we, who of ourselves lack all zeal or courage to fight, who often falter when the battle rages, that Thou shouldest keep us on the front lines of the battle against our spiritual enemies, the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh? Equip us, that we may recognize the gifts and talents entrusted unto us, and that we may be faithful unto Thee even unto death.

Bless those whom Thou hast placed in authority over us. Supply them with wisdom, love, zeal, and devotion to Thee in the specific calling to which. Thou hast called them, whether as ministers, or elders, or deacons in the church, or teachers in the school, or parents in the home. Give that in ready submission to Christ they may serve unto the coming of Thy kingdom, and that we also in our submission to them may serve, that Thy Name never be dishonored, but shall receive the glory.

Although we distinguish between the will of Thy command and the will of Thy decree, we realize that these two are basically one, even as Thou art one. Together they are the way that Thou hast spread out before us, assuring us that this is the way in which we should walk to please Thee and to experience Thy blessing, for this is the way that leads us to our eternal home. With the Psalmist we pour out our hearts in prayer:

Teach me, O Lord, Thy way of truth,

And from it I shall not depart;

That I may steadfastly obey,

Give me an understanding heart.

In Thy commandments make me walk,

For in Thy law my joy shall be;

Give me a heart that loves Thy will,

From discontent and envy free.

Give us along with our obedience and self surrender to Thee the comfort of the Holy Spirit and the peace that passes all understanding. We have no other comfort in times of pain and suffering, in times of doubts and fears, or in times of bereavement, or when we are brought nigh unto death, than the assurance that all things come to us, not by chance, but from Thy merciful Father hand. Thou, our Shepherd, leads us in green pastures and beside still waters. Thou restorest our souls; Thy rod and Thy staff comfort us, for Thou art near.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

Yea, Lord, teach us also to pray alway: Thy will be done!