“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
~ Matthew 6:10b ~
If we are not careful to understand the meaning of Scripture within the context of the whole counsel of God, our sin nature will take over, and we will use texts like this petition to justify our laziness. We will pray for the fulfillment of the will of God as if its unfolding and accomplishment takes place without reference to what we do. Imagine if a heart surgeon, standing over a patient’s open chest, stopped working and said to his medical staff, “Let’s pray and wait to see what the Lord does.” Imagine, for a moment, if our Lord, following His baptism and commencement of earthly ministry, said, “Time to stand back and watch My Father work.”
If we’re not careful, the verbalization of our trust in the Lord’s will can be a veiled cloak to hide our slothfulness. If a person seriously trusts the Lord’s will, they will not only verbalize that trust through claims and prayer, they will live as if they actually trust that will, doing what is well pleasing in the sight of the Lord. The chronically overweight person is not in a place where he can “wait on the Lord.” He must pray and concur with that prayer in action for the sake of his own health.
As Christians living in this sinful world, navigating our own sins and the sins of others, we must offer this petition, “Your will be done,” understanding that it’s a petition demanding our action rather than our inaction. In other words, if we pray, “Your will be done,” and we have consistent theology, understanding ourselves to be part of that will, then of course we will live and act like we are part of that will. This is not a prayer encouraging us to “wait and see what happens.” This is a prayer that requires proactivity and initiative on our part if we are to be consistent. As Calvinists, we say, “Nothing escapes the will of God. It is comprehensive.” But the fatalist (hyper-Calvinist), ironically, seem to preclude themselves from the scope of God’s will. If we are included within the will of God, should we not see the importance of living consistently with the holiness and purity of that will?
If, indeed, this petition obligates us to action (and it does), we need to understand some specifics about that action—
Laziness Is Excluded
As was already shown, laziness is excluded by this prayer. People often invoke the will of the Lord to cover for their inactivity, their lack of desire to shoulder their responsibilities. But Proverbs 18:9 says that this kind of person is allied with Satan, “He who is slothful in his work Is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.”
We Must Apply God’s Means of Grace
This petition obligates the Christian to the application of God’s manifold grace in their lives. Professing Christians abound who claim to be spiritual people, full of grace, and walking in the light of Christ. Meanwhile, they’re either not part of a local church, or they’re not committed to a local church. But the local church is the predominant place in which the Christian life is lived, and where professions of faith are vindicated before the sight of the saints.
The local church is the high-point of the unfolding of God’s will in our lives. It is the high-point of our active obedience before God—hearing the preaching of the Word, growing the knowledge and wisdom of the Most High, administering and receiving the ordinances of the church, etc. It is the high-point of our passive obedience to God’s will in that the local church consists of the brothers and sisters with whom we suffer on this earth. They are our shoulders, pillars of support, and compassionate friends.
We Must Rest Entirely Upon God
This petition prays for the grace without which we cannot lift a single finger toward true obedience. It is a prayer that we would be given the strength to obey. Our Lord says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5) And far from encouraging a rampant passivity in which we neglect action, it encourages just the opposite. Our Lord obligates us to abide in Him on the basis that, apart from Him, we can do nothing.
This Petition Presupposes God Has Given Us the Grace to Obey
This petition presupposes that God has given strength to obey and that He will continue to supply it. In other words, we are not praying for a strength we haven’t yet received, but both hearts that seek to apply such strength and that God would continue to supply it on into the future.