Lots of people share that they have failed to put God first in their lives. I inevitably ask them “What do you mean?” What follows is often akin to the deer in the proverbial headlights. I often follow up with something like, “What does it look like to put God first in your life?” Not easy questions to answer off the cuff, on the fly, but then this is Lent. Probably a pretty good question to ponder during this season.
Today’s gospel is Matthew’s version of the “Our Father” also known as the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt 6:9-10) Words that are familiar, words that almost flow without thought from our lips. Words that, here in the Lenten season, we might do well to dedicate some time for reflection and musing. So here is some food for thought.
When Jesus teaches the apostles to pray in such a manner, He is not asking them to do something He himself is not committed to. In John 5:30, Jesus said, “I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” Looking for God’s will to be done on earth was a way of life for Jesus. Acting according to God’s plan was so important to Jesus that He said, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Just like eating food, carrying out God’s plan was a life-sustaining activity for Jesus. He felt, like hunger, a continual inner need to do God’s will and, like food, an on-going satisfaction in accomplishing the work God gave Him to do.
The Lord’s Prayer is not the only time Jesus prayed “your will be done.” Right before Jesus was betrayed and turned over to endure the agonies of the cross and drink the cup of God’s wrath, He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. He said, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will …My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” (Mt 26:39,42)
When we pray “thy will be done,” we are praying for God to accomplish His purposes in our lives and to enable us to live as full and whole Christian lives in whatever place or state we find ourselves. Romans 12:1-2 talks about offering ourselves as living sacrifices; we are to honor God in the way we live our lives – right where we are. Philippians 2:12-13 talks about working out our salvation because God “for his good purpose, works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Right where you are as business person, social worker, teacher, health care professional, Uber driver, and all the occupations of life. Right where you are as spouse, parent, child, single, religious, or whatever relationship is part of your life.
Asking for God’s will to be done is a way of submitting ourselves to Him and seeking to do what He has called us to, trusting that He will complete His good work in us (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:28–30). It is asking for His help to do His revealed will—things like worshiping God, loving our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8), giving thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18), speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), abstaining from sin and instead living holy lives (Ephesians 4:22–24). Right where we are.
Praying “your will be done” means forsaking our own plans and desires to instead trust God’s will, believing in His goodness and His wisdom. It means discovering that our plans already in place are God’s will and seeing His goodness and wisdom play out…right where you are.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, “food for thought.” Happy Lent.