As I was saying, the first three petitions of The Lord’s Prayer are a connected triplet of requests. They are petitions—not statements. After we have addressed God as our Father, and after we have acknowledged He is enthroned in Heaven as King over all, our desire should be that He would become to others what He has become to us. And so, we ask that He would cause His name to be increasingly hallowed. We ask that He would cause His Kingdom to increasingly come down. And then we ask that His will be increasingly done, on earth, as it is in heaven. All three of these are requests for God to reveal Himself more and more to a world that is in need of His transforming power. We, as His creatures, cannot affect any of this on our own. We are utterly dependent upon God to move first. He must initiate. He must reveal His Holiness, the Rule of His Kingdom, and His Will, to sinful men and women who are blind, deaf, and stupid. He must do a work within the hearts and souls of foolish rebels, before they can ever respond back to Him through faith. It is God alone who saves. And it is God alone who grants any of us faith to believe. Even our faith is His gift to us. And Jesus is teaching us, even commanding us, to pray for God to grant an expanding Salvation, on earth, as it is in heaven.
When we ask our Father to cause His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven, we must differentiate. Scripture speaks of the will of God in two different ways. Turn with me to James 4:13-16. ‘The will of God’, spoken of here, is God’s Decreed Will. For each of us, God has decreed a plan that cannot be thwarted. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, God foreordained everything that would come to pass. Our Father not only created all things, He also ordained what all those things would do in time. Your birth and death and everything in between, were pre-planned for you, before you were born. And James tells us this ‘will of God’ for our life, is something we are not privy to, and we should therefore never be so arrogant and presume to know too much. We can only do what God has already willed for us to do.
Keep your finger in James, and turn with me to Ephesians 1:11. Again, we see this doctrine of the Decreed Will of God. He works all things after the counsel of His will, according to what He has purposed to predestine. God’s Decreed Will is also referred to as His Sovereign Will. In Him, and under His Sovereign Plan, we live and move and have our being. This is also referred to as God’s Hidden Will. While He knows beforehand, all that He has ordained for His creatures to do, we cannot know. While we make plans and decisions for ourselves, as we should, we cannot know how things will exactly go. ‘Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord. How then can man understand his way?’ (Proverbs 20:24). But He knows our plans and decisions, because He ordained them too! And that is why we must always trust in Him. He alone knows our end from our beginning. Job’s words are appropriate here. ‘Even though He slay me, yet I trust in Him.’ Or David’s words in Psalm 23. ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me.’
Keep your finger in Ephesians, and turn back to James 4. We saw verses 13-16 speak of the Decreed Will of God. But look now at verse 17. ‘Therefore, to one who knows the good thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.’ Doing the right thing, and not doing the wrong thing, is also the will of God. Obeying the Word of God is doing the will of God. Disobeying the Law of God is a refusal to do God’s will. The will of God spoken of here, is God’s Moral Will. Morals are rules to live by. God has showed us in His Word, His will for how we should then live. God’s commands are not hidden from us, but have clearly been made known, as we read responsively in Psalm 19.
Look back at Ephesians 5:15-18. Again, we see this doctrine of the Moral Will of God. It’s something we can know and understand. It’s something we are commanded to do. The rest of the letter to the Ephesians is a list of our duties, the rules we are required to live by. This is also referred to as God’s Preceptive Will. It is the Divine Desire that we be holy as He is holy. We may not know the details of God’s decreed will for our lives, but no matter what circumstances come our way, we are required to respond in righteousness. We do not know what God has ordained for us, but we do know how we are supposed to walk in all of it.
This is what Jesus is teaching us to pray for. When we ask, ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’, we are asking for the Moral Will of God to come down from heaven to the earth, and be practiced by sinners here. We are asking for the Rule of Heaven to rule in men’s hearts, and to demonstrate right living in how they walk. We are asking for the Holiness of Heaven to come down to earth, and become the lifestyle of men and women here. We are asking that God would cause His Law to be obeyed to the ends of the earth.
I said in an earlier message, praying the Lord’s Prayer was a corrective against the prayers of the day. The Pharisees were all for the Kingdom of God. But they viewed the Kingdom in a limited and arrogant way. For them, the Kingdom was all about Israel. They believed that when the Davidic Kingdom was restored, the Gentiles would become subservient to Israel, at best, and destroyed, at worst. Their pride disallowed them from seeing the Gentile nations as being included into the commonwealth of Israel, even though theirProphets had said that very thing. In their pride, they never imagined the Gentiles could share the same status that Israel had enjoyed in the Covenant. Israel was for Israel. And Israel despised the Gentiles.
But Jesus was promoting a Kingdom with much larger borders. Jesus wanted His disciples to have a more expansive perspective. Jesus wanted His followers to realize the universality of the Kingdom. Pray for God’s will to be done, not just in Israel, but in all the earth. There is a great example of this doctrine in Ephesians 6:1-3. The Apostle Paul modified one word in the commandment, as it came through Moses to Israel at Mount Sinai. Israel’s children were given a promise for honoring their parents—they would live long in the land. But Paul is writing to Ephesian Gentile children. The commandment remains exactly the same. But the promise is much more expansive. That you may live long on the earth. Paul’s theology remains consistent with the teaching of Jesus. The Kingdom is not limited exclusively to Israel’s borders. The Kingdom includes the whole world.
But this portion of The Lord’s Prayer also corrects the prayers of our day. For Jesus, there was one God, one King, who was over one Kingdom, with one holy moral will for all the earth. But in our day, Jesus’ teaching is rejected. How can the Bible be regarded as true, if the God of the Bible will not recognize other gods and other religions? Why can’t He make room for Baal, for Ashtoreth, for Zeus, for Allah, for Krishna, for Buda, and for Karl Marx? Why does it have to be the road to His Kingdom, or the highway to Hell? Why is there only one way to eternal life? They hate the teaching of Jesus, because they hate the way He tramples their imagined free will. As Psalm 2 says, ‘Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Messiah. Let us tear their fetters apart, and cast away their cords from us!’ It’s actually quite simple. Unbelievers refuse the authority of God, as it is revealed in the Scripture. So, they hate the Bible, they hate the Church, they hate Christians, and they hate God. And, at one time, we were no different from them.
But this is exactly why we are commanded to pray this way. These other religions, some of which claim to be Christian, reject the God of the Bible, because they reject the idea that they are damaged goods. They refuse to admit their sinful pride before a holy God. They refuse to submit to His authority and rule. And they refuse to accept His Moral will, because they have devised for themselves an optional morality that they rather enjoy. They, like Adam and Eve, reject the Word of God for another crafty word. ‘Has God said?’ They remain blindly enslaved to their Adamic nature. They worship the creature, and not the Creator. They love self and their selfish appetites, more than they love God and His Word.
What argument can we offer to convince them? What can we do to make them submit to Christ? Not a damn thing. We do not have it within our power to convert even one sinner. We can argue with them until we are blue in the face, and they will not get it. Unless God is pleased to open their eyes, and unstop their ears, and change their hardened will.
Of course, whenever God ordains that we engage in conversation with unbelievers, we have an important responsibility. We must keep repeating that it is imperative for them to bow before the only wise God, and submit to His rule. We must also demonstrate our true concern for their eternal souls, in our words and in our actions. And we must never compromise the Gospel of the Kingdom. This is our duty as ambassadors of that Kingdom.
But more importantly, we must pray. We must pray the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Our Father, who art in Heaven, cause an unbelieving world to realize they stand as sinners before a Holy God, and they are at risk until they repent. Cause an unbelieving world to see the Kingdom of Heaven ruling over the earth, and they must submit. And cause an unbelieving world to do Your will, by obeying your Law. O Lord, you saved us and brought us into your Kingdom. Now we ask that you will save more. You promised long ago to deliver this fallen world. Only You can make good on that promise, and bring Heaven down to kiss the earth. Do this for your own glory. And do it for Jesus’ sake, who died for all. Amen.