We say this every time we say the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” But do we mean it? Do we even understand it?
There is one person who both understood it and meant it: Jesus. After the Last Supper, Jesus retired to the garden and asked his disciples to stay up with him while he prayed. For the disciples, it was an epic failure, but for Jesus it was in many ways the final battle. He knew what he was facing and the agony he was going to suffer. He foresaw his arrest, his scourging, his rejection, his crucifixion. He saw the sins of the world laid on his shoulders. They say that night he sweated blood.
“Lord, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me.” He prayed as no one prayed before, but the crux of it was “If it be thy will,” the will of God. And in the end he confessed in great courage, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thy will be done.” How could he say this, knowing all that he knew? How could he pray this? Because he knew above all and without any doubt that ultimately the will of God was the best for him, for his life, and for the whole world.
We might remember this when faced with something we don’t want to do, some persecution, some difficulty, some hardship. “Nevertheless, thy will be done.” Say it with courage. It is the best for us and for the whole world.
You see, God made us and so he knows exactly how each of us functions and what each of us needs to live a life worth living. It is like the NASCAR mechanics I know. They work on those cars and engines day and night to squeeze out peak performance. But when it comes to the race, they are not the engine. That engine must function on its own. They know exactly the mix of gasoline needed to insure peak efficiency and performance. But if the engine decided on its own that it wanted to run on pure kerosene or pure ethanol, it might go a little distance, but not very far, and the performance would be anything but peak. If the engine decided it wanted to run on water or pink lemonade, it probably would not work at all and that would likely damage the engine.
Walking in God’s will, intention for our life, desire and plan is like putting the perfect fuel in our engines. The one who made us knows exactly what we need. God’s will for us is for us to function at peak efficiency and performance our whole lives. As you may have heard, God loves us, and thus he wants us to walk in that love – love for God and love for others. He made us and so he knows exactly where our happiness lies and he will lead us to it if we follow him to it. And not only happiness, but true joy that is only glimpsed in the distance, just over the horizon in this sinful, weary world.
In general terms, it has been said that God’s will is for us to grow and bear fruit. Indeed, we are warned that those branches that do not bear fruit will be cut off and tossed into the fire. But believers, or rather disciples need not worry if it truly is our desire that “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
So what are these fruit? Paul’s list (briefly) is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentle-kindness, faithfulness, humility and self-control. Are these not things you would have in your life? Elsewhere Paul speaks of faith, hope and love, but the greatest he says is love.
In specific terms, however, which is to understand God’s will for each of us, individually and corporately, we need to look at many things. But first we need to have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. The disciple’s first task is to sit and watch, listen and learn.