Thanks, I’m glad to be back in touch as well. I’m glad you enjoyed my comments on the first line of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father in heaven…” And yes, I’ll happily explain my cryptic comment about the “modifiers” being the really interesting thing about several lines of the Lord’s Prayer.
Some of the lines are straightforward. Look at the first two requests:
Hallowed be thy name.”
Thy kingdom come.”
Once you get past the archaic words, these are very clear and to the point.
No so much the next line. we pray,
Thy will be done…”
and it seems quite plain — though even here there are a number of ways to take it.
- Martin Luther asked that God should be sure to do God’s own will, and absolutely not do Luther’s will, since he was a sinful man and would ask for the wrong thing.
- On the other hand, I personally take this line as permission to pray confidently for all the things I see Jesus doing in the gospels, since those things are clearly his will (You know, the way he provided health care to everyone who needed it, fed everyone who was hungry, comforted the grieving, welcomed foreigners, etc.)
But simply praying that God’s will be done is not the end of the request. Grammatically it is modified by the phrase
…on earth as it is in heaven.”
Well that prompts a bit more thinking, doesn’t it? How is God’s will done in heaven?
Scripture gives us only a few clues, but I think we can make some inferences.
On Earth As It Is In Heaven
In heaven God’s will is done without objection. When Isaiah was given the vision of God enthroned, he heard God’s will in a call to go. His response?
Here I am, Lord. Send me.”
In heaven God’s will is done quickly. That’s pretty much the opposite of what happens down here, wouldn’t you say? I think of the dozens and dozens of seminarians I’ve heard tell their stories of being called by God. The stereotype most relate is that God was calling for years and years, and finally for one reason or another they got worn down and gave in.
It is hard to picture that kind of resistance and procrastination among the angels.
So we pray that our response would be willing, ready to serve in love.
In heaven God’s will is done by all. We pray God’s will be done, not only by us as individuals, but as churches — and if you’ve ever walked a few miles with a congregation as it tries to do God’s will you know that responding “quickly and without objection” may seem like uncharted territory.
In heaven God’s will is done in a spirit of joyful worship. The glimpses of heaven we have in the book of Revelation, show us saints and creatures surrounding the throne, spending all their energy on singing the praise of God. Whatever else they are up to, it is filled with the echoes of the same
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Hosts!”
Isaiah heard in his vision.
Now isn’t that something worth praying for? Wouldn’t that look like a transformed life? If the Holy Spirit really did shake us up and renew us in the image of Christ, we might just find ourselves doing God’s will with easy quick joyful obedience — just as it is in heaven.
Praying for you,
Lenten Prayer Class
While we are on the topic of prayer, Lent is coming very soon. I’m aiming to offer my “Focus on Prayer” class for the third Lent in a row. It is a really fun way to help make Lent a time of spiritual renewal, exploring three classic approaches to Christian prayer.
We’ll be using three chapters of my book Kneeling with Giants, one Protestant, one Catholic, and one Orthodox. If you want me to email you when registration opens, click the button and get on the waiting list.