Matthew 6:9-15 – NIV
This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
NIV – “Your will be done on earth. . .”
KJV – “Thy will be done in earth. . .”
When we pray these words Jesus presented as a pattern for prayer we’re actually asking that God’s will be done in the earthen vessel of our lives. Requesting that God’s will be done on earth means it must begin in us.
The reality is far different—most of us hold fast to our will rather than God’s will. Pretend that isn’t so, but all our pretentions and protests echo with dishonesty for they belie a documentable fact: We pick and choose the Scriptures that we emphasize in our lives.
We want what has been termed McFaith—not sure who coined it, but it’s a dead-eyed accurate assessment of the state of 21st century Christianity suffocating in the excesses of prosperous North America.
McFaith—a drive-through experience where we pick up all the benefits of faith we can swallow and digest in a couple minutes of reflection without any accountability, surrender, obedience, or solemn duty.
This easy-breezy package is watered down discipleship. It is all about blessings and goodwill actively mixed and matched with those culturally acceptable practices of consumerism, convenience, and celebrity.
McFaith—it promises goodness and warm fuzzies without any of the prickly words about submission, sacrifice, or covenant. We say the phrase—your will be done—BUT then our attitudes play out in terms of not your will, but my will be done. We clamor for an accessible faith that’s there when we need or want it, but places no expectations on us—we’d like God to be our celestial Sugar Daddy. We can deny all that if we like, but our angst and arm-waving hysterics won’t address the inconsistencies in our lives. Kris Kristofferson put it well in a song: “He’s a walkin’ contradiction partly truth and partly fiction. . .” The evidence is substantial: We’re all walking contradictions—no one is exempt or excluded from this raw certainty.
Every believer in Jesus Christ must recognize the areas in their lives where there’s a great chasm between behavior and Scriptural precepts. To not do so is blatant hypocrisy inflamed by pigheaded pride.
We seek transcendence—we want a healthy relationship with God, but being human means we have this innate self-centeredness. Our wishes, wants, desires, ideas, likes, or dislikes are our established motivations.
Jesus modeled and set an example for us—he attempted to teach us that a self-centered life is out of focus. When we allow our egotistic nature to reign supreme we take on the spoiled brat character of a prima donna. Before too long we act as though the sun rises and sets on our every whim.
A self-centered life prevents us from understanding the needs of others, yet we are inbred to be self-centered rather than God-centered. Our sin nature is our self-centered nature—when we feed it, placate it, or give it what it wants, it grows strong and powerful, and it chokes out any God-centered focus.
It stifles the rich spirituality we aspire to when we pray your will be done on earth—we solicit God’s will to be done in the earthen vessel of our lives, but selfishness is given the stamp and seal of approval by our culture so our lives default to MY will be done.
A self-centered life is a losing proposition, but don’t take my feeble word for it—consider some words spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.
Luke 9:23-25 – NIV
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”
Luke 9:23-25 – The Message
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?”
Grace & Grit
What was Jesus getting at here?
Simply put, to be a Christ-follower one has to be willing to put God first, others second, and ourselves third. If there’s an armchair theologian out there who has developed a formula that makes that perspective and mindset effortless, please send me truckloads of the stuff.
Where faith meets reality is a place of hard work and determined effort. It’s a neverending process that is dependent on heavy doses of grace and grit—grace from God, grit from us.
Ultimately, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer what we are doing is this: We are beseeching the God of creation to grease the grit of our spiritual disciplines with grace. We are asking that we would have the ability to do what Jesus did—to take up the cross to serve and even suffer for others.
To willingly make sacrifices for others is not the norm of our make-up. We chisel out our territory and stake claims on it, which is why churches often spin their wheels ministry wise or are hotbeds of turmoil and dissensions. It’d be helpful if believers in Jesus Christ would take seriously the dictates of selflessness as it relates to community.
Our Life Together
We should look at our life together as God’s story unfolding in our midst and make decisions and choices that reflect the dictates of Scripture. We ought to comprehend our obligation to the generation behind us and the one ahead of us.
What heart issue was Jesus addressing: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
What does that mean? And does the bottom-line principle apply corporately?
Jesus was speaking to disciples and/or wannabe disciples at the time.
As I understand Scripture, Jesus was/is saying that seeking to save, preserve, or maintain our life as we want or wish it to be will result in our losing the very thing we value.
If that principle applies corporately—to the life of a cell in the body of Christ—and there’s no indication that it doesn’t, then in communal relations and discussions we must always take a fiercely honest look at the impetus for our position or proposal. If our thinking and vision are byproducts of a maintenance-mode mindset, at the very least we are in danger of putting our future at risk. We may in fact lose the thing we seek to save which is our life together in community—“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
Wouldn’t growing in Christ and discipleship be so much easier and hassle-free if this—along with other hard sayings of Jesus—were merely pretty phrases that meant and signified nothing?
Here’s a capital letter HOWEVER—the words of Jesus do have weight and significance, don’t they? As believers in Jesus Christ we are supposed to wrestle with them and work at implementing them in our lives—we are supposed to endeavor to understand and apply them.
Indeed, it was Jesus who said: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Not sure what linguistic game or dance there is that’d allow us to dismiss that edict with integrity intact. We have a sacred responsibility to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowerment as we attempt to live out the truth of Scripture, whether we like where it takes us or not.
“Your will be done on earth. . .” “Thy will be done in earth. . .”
Do we desire God’s will to be done in the earthen vessel of our lives? Would an unbiased study show that we’re all about self-preservation or all about giving ourselves away for the sake of Christ?
May our answers to those questions honor God.