Mark 14:32-38; Isaiah 55:6-11; Psalm 40:1-8; Romans 12:1-2; 9-21
I would not be surprised in the least that today’s sermon is the one that everybody’s been waiting for. In this series that we’re doing on the Lord’s Prayer – a series that we’re calling “The Dangerous Prayer – what could be more dangerous than when we pray, “Thy will be done”? Thy – or your – will be done.
Remember that it is God the Father that we are addressing this prayer to. And therefore it is God’s will that we are asking to be done. And since that is the case – I’m guessing you’re thinking, “Just what is God’s will?”
Well, let me tell you. Let me tell you that I don’t always know. But! But that is not say that we can’t know God’s will. And I would like to suggest that when we talk about God’s will – we can talk about it in two ways.
The first way we can talk about God’s will is to talk about it in a broad sense. That is to say that God’s will for His creation is that we learn what it means to live in peace and harmony – and then for all people – governments, countries, businesses, communities – you name it – to work for peace, justice and harmony in everything we do.
What we also know about God’s will is this – that “[God] desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That’s what we read in the Bible in I Timothy 2:4. So we can talk about God’s will being done in a universal or general way.
The second way we can talk about God’s will is in more specific ways. Like, “What is God’s will for my life? Where does He want me to go? What does He want me to do?” These kinds of questions are not so easy to answer. And I gotta tell ya, sometimes I still wrestle with these kinds of questions. As I enter into my early to mid-60’s, those questions are still something I wrestle with. When I was a younger man, that question, “What is God’s will for my life?” was always right there staring me in the face – just like it is with all young people today – especially young disciples of Jesus Christ. “What do I want to do with my life? Or more importantly – what is God’s will for my life?”
I can’t answer that question for you. I can’t answer that question for anybody but myself. And even then, it isn’t always clear – at least not right away.
But one thing I want to make clear. God’s will is not to be confused with fatalism. Fate says that everything is predetermined, and that there is nothing we can do about our fate. And it usually sounds like this. And by the way, some of you are not going to like what I’m about to say. But fate often sounds like this, “Things happen for a reason.” I hear that a lot. And quite frankly, I hear it a lot from people at this church. And usually it is said when unpleasant or bad things happen. Yes – we can and should learn from the experiences of our lives – both good and bad experiences. And yes – there are times when something good just might come out of a bad situation. But that’s not to say that things always happen for a reason as though the universe were guided by some unknown force called fate, and there is nothing we can do about it.
Or what I also hear a lot of times is, “Well, I guess it’s just God’s will.” When it’s said like that, there’s a level of bitterness, or even a level of resignation. “Oh, well, it must be God’s will.”
Let me tell you something. When bad things happen, I don’t think that that’s God’s will at all. I don’t think it is God’s will when bad things happen to good people. And that’s why I hope you see why we need to pray, “Thy will be done,” because what we are asking for is that God’s good and gracious will will be done – here – right here among us! The very same way that it is already being done in heaven.
So when we say the words, “Things happen for a reason,” or “I guess it must have been God’s will,” what we are giving into – what we are saying we believe in – is fatalism. And fatalism is not the same as God’s will. Fatalism is not what God’s will is all about.
So what do we mean – or what should it mean – when we pray, “Thy or your will be done?” We are asking that God’s good and gracious will be done among us.
But sometimes – maybe a lot of times – we resist God’s good and gracious will. This I think is the primary reason why we can say that the Lord’s Prayer is a dangerous prayer to pray. The prayer says, “Lord, I want what you want.” In other words, we are praying the same prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane – just before he was arrested, placed on trial, and crucified. The same prayer. “Not what I want, but what you want.” Or another way to say it is, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
You see, we want things the way we want them. We want to be free to choose whatever it is we want to do. Like that great theologian – Frank Sinatra – sang, “I did it my way.” Yeah! We want things our way. Some of you remember the old Burger King commercial that told us, “Have it your way!” We say things like, “It’s my way or….” Or the highway. Yeah you know how to finish that sentence, don’t you!
Listen! Let’s be honest here. What we want – what we really want – is things our way. But the prayer doesn’t say, “My will be done,” does it! No. It says, “Thy will be done.”
This past week, I was visiting someone in the hospital. In the room with us was another man. I’ll call him Hank. The person I was visiting was called out of the room for a few moments, and Hank started talking to me. “So you’re a minister?” “Yeah,” I said. Then he said, “They kicked me out of the Baptist church, and the Assemblies of God church kicked me out too, and it’s because I’m living with my fiancé, and having an affair with another woman. You know, I really don’t want to marry either one of them. My fiancé doesn’t want to be intimate with me and the other one does. So I live with one – and have sex with the other. Tell me Pastor. Would I be welcome at your church?” And I said, “Well, yes, Hank. You’d be welcome. All are welcome at my church. By the way, do both of these women know about the other?” “Oh yeah,” he said.
Now folks, I really did not want to have this conversation with Hank. And thankfully about this time, the person I had come to see had returned. I visited another 10 minutes or so with the person I had come to see. And on my way out the door, I turned to Hank and said, “You know Hank, the Lord wants you to choose between these two women. You can’t have both.”
To my surprise, Hank said, “Yeah Pastor. I know. I know.”
Sometimes the will of God for us is obvious. And even when we know what God’s will is in a certain situation, still we sometimes say, “I want things the way I want them. I want things my way. My will be done.”
I’d love to say that the two women in Hank’s life were named Kate and Edith, because then I could have said, “You know Hank, you have to choose between those two women, because you can’t have your Kate and Edith too!” I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help it. And I know – I shouldn’t make light of Hank’s situation. But apparently he wants things his way – even when he knows his way is not God’s way.
All joking aside, do you see why praying “Thy will be done,” is such a dangerous thing to ask for? Do we really want God’s will to be done in our lives? I would think so. I would hope so.
And yet, we struggle, don’t we! It really is a matter of attitude. It is an attitude of the heart. And really, this attitude of the heart should govern all of our prayers – whenever we pray. “Lord, I want what you want. I want to want what you want. I surrender my will to yours.” This is one of those not easy parts of what it means to be a Christian.
You see, the purpose of prayer is not to get God to do for us whatever it is we want God to do in order to get from God whatever it is we want or think we need. The purpose of prayer is to grow closer to the Lord God – our Father God. It’s hallowed be your name – not mine. It’s your kingdom come – not mine. It’s your will be done – not mine.
So how can we become more aware of God’s good and gracious will? One place to turn is the love chapter in I Corinthians 13. You know the love chapter, right? That’s the one that says, “Love is patient. Love is kind.” You remember that one? That’s the chapter that says, “Love does not insist on its own way.” Oh! Love does not insist on its own way. Oh! Yeah! That one! Doesn’t that sound a lot like, “Not my will – not what I want – but your will be done.”
And then there’s today’s reading from the 12th chapter of the book of Romans again. I love this passage. When you hear me say that we are Romans 12 Christians living in an Acts 2 church, this is what I’m talking about. Listen!
Do not be conformed to this world. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another... serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering,...persevere in prayer...Contribute to the needs of the saints…Extend hospitality. Bless those who persecute you;...Live in harmony with one another;...Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Okay, so that was the Readers’ Digest version of Romans 12. But if you want to know what God’s will looks like for you in your life, this is a good place to start. Let me encourage you to read the whole thing, verses 9-21 on your own. Take your bulletins home so you won’t forget. “Now what did Pastor Randy tell us to read?” Romans. Chapter 12. We are Romans 12 Christians living in an Acts 2 church. And while you’re at it, you can read Acts 2, especially verses 41-47. Write it down. There will be a test. By the way, you’ll find the six marks of discipleship in Acts 2:41-47. I guess you could say that Romans 12 tells us what God’s will for us as individuals is, and Acts 2 tells us what God’s will for the church is. So until we meet again, you’ve got homework to do.
But do you see why Pastor Becca and I are saying this prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer is a dangerous prayer to pray? Because it goes against everything that our human nature wants. My will. My will be done.
So when we pray, “Thy will be done,” I want you to be aware of what it is that we are really asking for in this prayer. Thy will, not mine, be done. And that’s a good thing! Because God’s will is good and gracious.
So when we pray, “Thy will be done,” what we are asking for is that God’s good and gracious will will be done not only TO us – but THROUGH us – in our families – in our places of work – in our schools – in our neighborhoods – and in the world – through us. I’m Pastor Randy – and I approved this message. Amen