E and I had tea today with her best friend and her mom, who is a good friend of mine. Tea at our favorite, little British-style tea room, complete with personal pots, tea-sandwiches, pasties (not pastries), and scones with devonshire cream. Ah, the luxury of such moments.
We talked this afternoon about children. Our very obedient, compliant, discipline with one cocked finger, first children were sitting there, but we have other children. Dramatic ones, stubborn ones, ones who wanted their will more than ours. My son was such a rascal, I was saying this afternoon, he constantly kept us on our toes. The thing is, he wasn't a stubborn kid, just one who only obeyed the rules he knew. For example, I told him not to write on the walls, but inexplicably, I never bothered to tell him not to write on the floor. So one day, after putting the baby down for a nap, I came back down the stairs, and he'd drawn a "Duck, Duck, Goose" circle on our brand new carpet--in permanent marker. Another day he came running down the stairs, jumping in glee, saying, "I got my raisin man back!" "Where was it?" I asked. "On the roof." He'd climbed out the window of E's room onto the lower half of the roof. One slip and he would have hit the cement driveway two stories down! These are both incidents from when he was no older than 3. That boy...
The thing is, he wasn't stubborn. He didn't throw tantrums, didn't rebel against correction, he simply had ideas in his head and went about doing them--without thinking what mom and dad might want him to do.
Kind of--or exactly--the way we all are. It's the human condition to go our own way, do what we want, without considering God. So, it's not at all surprising that Jesus, in giving his disciples the 'model' of prayer, at the exact center of it, speaks to this. "May Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." This phrase is so important, we should write it on our foreheads (as the Israelites were told to do with God's commands--see Deuteronomy 6).
To start with, we must look at how Jesus modeled these words, "Your will be done." From the beginning of His ministry he talks about how doing His Father's will is food to Him (John 4: 31-34). In Hebrews 10:7 it says bluntly that Jesus came to do God's will. That was the very purpose of His Incarnation. This of this--there was NO will of Jesus that was not the Father's. Not a step taken, not a word spoken, not a person healed or even, anger expressed. Nothing Jesus did was outside of God's will.
And in the darkest moment of His human life, which was the night before He died, I think, not the dark morning when He was nailed to the cross, He came to the heart of the matter by admitting that it was a terrible, difficult thing He was facing. He prayed for the cup of suffering to pass from Himself, but before the words had died on His lips, He was already praying, "But not My will, but Yours be done." The submission to the Father's will is the most significant thing about that moment in Gethsemane. Here's the raw truth of that moment--Jesus surrendered in pain so great, He sweated blood, and God answered. And God's answer was No! The cup did not pass from Jesus. Thankfully, gloriously, perfectly, that suffering did not pass from Jesus. There was pain and death in God's no, just as Jesus knew there would be. But there was also glory--and, of course, the salvation of the world in God's will being done.
This is the thing about praying for His will to be done--we must recognize that this prayer (the whole of it!) is about achieving God's will and purposes for the world, not our own. It's a dangerous thing to pray, but there is nothing less.
And it's the only place to start. Surrender. This word has seen the screen of this blog myriad times. And because it's the core of the life I write about, the life I'm praying to live, it will always be but one word away from every other aspect of life. It's what Jesus did, and what we must do. Not half-hearted, not superficial, but all-in, even if it kills me!, surrender.
And I don't know if you've noticed, but so far, nothing in the prayer Jesus taught His disciples even had to do with them yet. The first three petitions are only about God--His Name be honored, His Kingdom coming, His will being done on earth. This means that before we ask for a single thing for ourselves, we surrender.
And we DESIRE His will, His Kingdom, His Name. The truth is--and I know you've done this, I've done it my entire Christian life!--we usually pray for something, then tack on the caveat, "if it's your will, Lord," at the end. But if we read and follow the Lord's will, that order is backwards. What I--we--have to learn is to pray for a hunger, a deep, deep hunger, for His will, the ears that listen to Him tell us what that will is, and a heart to surrender to that...and then pray for that thing which we've discovered is already His will. Then, with this stronger desire for His will, a stronger sense of what that will is, I can pray more effectively, more assertively--more certain!
Think about the second half of this sentence--"on earth as it is in heaven!" Can you imagine how God's will is done in heaven? Can you imagine the speed, the joy, the all in, "I'm your obedient servant" of those who populate His heaven? Not begrudgingly, not resignedly, not dragging our feet but at a run simply because it's the Father Himself who wills it! When I pray this prayer now, I always add the word exactly to this phrase. "...your will be done on earth exactly as it's done in heaven."
That's how I want His will to be done in my life, how I want to participate in His will being done--joyfully, instantly, at a run. Exactly!