The Lord’s Prayer is a fascinating, deeply complex, and surprisingly simple prayer. This series articles pairs a stained glass window from a small church with each petition of the Lord’s Prayer. In each post, we will see how the symbols in the window help us to understand what Jesus says to us when he commands us to pray this chief prayer. Check out the previous posts in this series, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 Look up our selection of Lord’s Prayer jewelry to remind you of this wonderful prayer.
Everyone loves angels . We represent them as loving guardians who hover nearby to protect us. Artist depict them with flowing clothes, white wings, and sometimes cute dimples. We see them in pop culture helping underdog baseball teams win the world series, reminding George Bailey that life really is worth living, or falling in love with the humans they’re meant to serve.
Those angels have little to do with the reality. It is no coincidence that the first thing any angel says upon appearing to humans is, “Do not be afraid.” Angels, instead, are God’s servants sent on missions of utmost importance. In the Gospel of Luke , the angel Gabriel announces Jesus to the virgin Mary, and a heavenly host appears to the shepherds. They speak to Joseph in a dream in the Gospel of Matthew . Angels appeared to Gideon, Joshua, Lot, Jacob, and a host of other Old Testament figures.
When we pray “thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” we pray that God’s will is done by us the same way the angels in heaven do God’s will. St. John Chrysostom said about this, “Grant that we might imitate the way of life in heaven, so that we would will what Thou Thyself dost will.” St. Augustine says something similar in his commentary on the Lord’s Prayer, “When we say, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ we are praying for ourselves that He would give us the grace of obedience, that His will may be done by us in the same way as it is done in heavenly places by His angels."
On one hand, we know that God’s will is always done. Since God is the almighty creator of the universe, he guides the world by his power. God sends prosperity to some and poverty to others. He sends natural disasters to some places, and he provides beautiful weather in others. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. God sends both disaster and joy.
Most Christians are uncomfortable believing that God sends trouble. Ask yourself this: Is anything outside God’s power? If he is almighty and all-knowing, then all things happen in accordance with his will, even the worst things. Christian sometimes call this God’s hidden will. We don’t know why he does what he does, so it is hidden from our understanding.
God’s revealed will, on the other hand, is what we read about in the New Testament. Martin Luther wrote this in his Small Catechism, “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”
Jesus prayed “thy will be done” in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what was about to happen. He would be arrested and put on trial. Witnesses would falsely accuse him of terrible crimes. Priests would command their guards to beat him, and the Romans would whip him terribly. After they would jam a crown of thorns onto his head, they would crucify him.
God’s will sent Jesus to the cross to die for your sins and my sins so we could have eternal life. God’s will destroyed the evil plan and purpose of the devil by sending his Son to die. That is the heart of God’s revealed will: he wants all people to be saved by Jesus Christ.
That’s what God does for us. He saves us through Jesus Christ. He creates faith in our hearts when we hear his word. He makes us into a new creation, adopts us as sons, and promises that the world, the devil, and even death itself has no power over us. When we pray that God’s will be done, we are praying that God save us by his grace.
Jesus’ example, however, shows us that God’s will isn’t always . We pray that God’s will, not our will, takes control. This is dangerous. God’s will can send us places we don’t want to go. We may have to give up our happiness, health, security, or comfort. Just look at what it did for Jesus. He faced terrible suffering, pain, and death.
It’s the same for us. Jesus himself says that following God means denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following him. For some of the first Christians, this was literally true. Many early Christians were crucified just like Jesus. Others were killed in various ways.
However dangerous the prayer is, “Thy will be done” is also the way to resurrection. When Jesus prayed it, he trusted that the Father would bring him through the cross to the resurrection. Three days after Jesus died, he rose from the dead. He is the firstfruits of the resurrection that is to come. It’s the same for us. By faith in Christ, we know that God’s will is to bring us through death to resurrection. Those Christians who carried their cross to follow Jesus will see God’s will done for them. All Christians who follow Christ wait for the same promise to come true.
When we pray, “Thy will be done,” we give up control to God. We offer our obedience to him and trust that his will is always right. Though we may see pain now, we know that he has given us eternal life and promises to return to raise us from the dead.
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