Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
In one of our hymns (The Lutheran Hymnal, 1941, #458) we sing: “Curb flesh and blood and every ill, that sets itself against Thy will.” What is the will of God? In the first petition we pray that the name of God may be kept holy among us. That is done when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God lead a godly life according to it. In the second petition we pray that the kingdom of God would come–that is, that His gracious, saving rule will envelop our heart. That is God’s will for us.
But there is another will–one which is all that God’s will is not. It is a will that seeks our harm. It is the will of the devil. The will of the devil is directly opposed to God and His will. As we read in the Scriptures the devil, the fallen angel who out of pride and envy rebelled against God, is ably assisted by our own sinful flesh as well as by the world with all its allurements. This “unholy trinity”–the devil, the world, and our flesh–seeks in many ways to lure the Christian into a snare. The enemy of our souls suggests that truth is relative and that one can never know for sure what is truth. He suggests that right is wrong and wrong is right. He suggests that flirting with sin, walking on the edge, and engaging in the questionable activities offered by the world are acceptable ways to walk. His suggestion is that God would not expect us to deprive ourselves of those things which make us happy through gratification of our flesh.
The devil does not want Christians to be under the rule of Christ, but under his rule. While the devil might not necessarily suggest that we should throw Christ and the will of God overboard and out of our life–he is too subtle for that–he would suggest that we make room in our heart for himself. In other words, in spite of the fact that our Lord says that we cannot serve two masters, the devil suggests that it is the way to go. In summary, the devil has very carefully and cunningly planned our overthrow.
Our Lord tells us in His Word, “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Eze. 33:11). Through the pen of Paul, the Spirit wrote, “God our Savior . . . will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3f). Again, “The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). The heavenly Father desires our eternal salvation. He wants us to live in heaven with Him. But it is more than a desire. It is His good and gracious will. To accomplish His will He sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world. By His perfect atonement the Lord Jesus has reconciled us unto God. But still more! The Heavenly Father sends the Holy Spirit–who works through the gospel and who creates faith in the heart of the sinner–so that, by His influence, we who were at one time lost but now are saved, say: “I believe in Jesus Christ.”
The child of God recognizes the saving work of Jesus as an expression of the gracious will of the Father. But he also recognizes the power of the devil, the temptations of the world, and the weakness of his own flesh. So he prays in this petition, “Lord, Thy will be done . . . ” Therein he is asking that God “would break and hinder every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow the name of God nor let His kingdom come.” We are asking Him to break and hinder the “will of the devil, the world, and our flesh.” The Lord Jesus, who was manifested that He should destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and who said, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), will also fulfill for His children this request and prayer. Further, we pray that the Lord would “strengthen and preserve us steadfast in His Word and faith unto our end.” All this happens without our prayer of itself, for it is the gracious good will of God. God is God. But this petition is an expression of the individual Christian’s recognition of his personal need; it is also a prayer that in his personal life God’s name be hallowed and His kingdom come.
God works through His Word. Since the Word itself is our sword and shield (Ephesians 6), may we hear His Word lest by a life of indifference and neglect we rob ourselves of the experience of having the will of God done in our life. God is faithful! Surely it is not too much to ask that God’s children who enjoy His blessings submit to His good and gracious will for them in any and everything He asks. For just as surely, it is inconsistent and manifests a lack of thanks to ask that the Lord’s will be done among us, while at the same time we make the conscious choice to walk according to our own will.
–Pastor Daniel Fleischer
THE THIRD PETITION Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. What does this mean? The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer; but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also. How is this done? When God breaks and hinders every evil counsel and will which would not let us hallow God's name nor let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, the world, and our flesh; but strengthens and preserves us steadfast in His Word and faith unto our end. This is His gracious and good will. --DR. MARTIN LUTHER'S Small Catechism (Concordia Publ. House, 1943) The Third Petition "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." What does this mean? God's good and gracious will is certainly done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it be done among us also. How is God's will done? God's will is done when He breaks and stops every evil will and plan of those who do not want us to hallow His name or let His kingdom come, such as the will of the devil, of the world, and of our own flesh. His will is also done when He gives us strength and keeps us firm in His Word and in faith for as long as we live. This is God's good and gracious will. --MARTIN LUTHER'S SMALL CATECHISM (Sydow edition, 1988)