Sunday, June 12, 2022

Lord, Teach Us to Pray (1)

In seeking to interpret the answer given by the Lord Jesus to this request, we should remember he spoke to his disciples in the light of where they stood and what they could grasp at the time. It was before his suffering, resurrection and ascension to heaven, with all the privileges that resulted from those events. Those making this request had an earthly kingdom in view, but we can learn so much of practical value from the pattern he laid down for them.

Christians know themselves to be already included in the kingdom of God with their citizenship in heaven, but still may learn from this prayer.

The word “us” in the disciples’ request suggests he meant when they were together, not when each was praying privately. The first word in the pattern Jesus gave confirms this; they were to begin with the pronoun:


If “our” is to be given its true value, those leading us in prayer should act as spokespersons for the others. They will reserve personal requests for domestic or private devotions. The strength of a local church’s prayers lies in its members being of one mind, having mutual reasons to praise or pray, and a common goal — “that in all things God may be glorified”.

An example: If my niece in Europe is facing a difficult exam at the end of this month, it will be of concern to me and I should be praying about it, but it cannot be said to be of mutual interest. If she had been part of our youth group when she spent last summer in this country, or was known to a few families in our fellowship, that would be a different matter. The word “our” says we are together, to deal with matters of common knowledge, interest and involvement.


This word is coupled with the reminder that he is in heaven. His ways are superior to ours. Yet a primary thought when believers join together for prayer is that the one in ultimate control is a father — our Father; we are born of God. That not only calls for reverence, it invites intimacy; we are bidden to “come boldly to the throne of grace” while keeping in mind that all glory is due to him: “Hallowed (enshrined in our hearts, not only with our lips) be your name.”

Your Kingdom Come

The disciples would surely be looking and longing for the son of David to appear, the purifying of their nation of all that was an offense to God, and Israel becoming the head of the nations instead of the tail. It was a well-founded hope, but not one to be presently enjoyed. (This was later explained after the descent of the Holy Spirit and through Paul in Romans 9-11.)

Many readers will see in Revelation 20 and 2 Peter 3:4-13 the following scenario and the establishment of the coming kingdom: For one thousand years following the Great Tribulation, peace on earth will prevail. The Old Testament prophets celebrate this period in which righteousness will reign. Satan will be imprisoned during that time but, when released, will be able to gather the nations for a final rebellion. The end or eternal state will follow, that in which righteousness will dwell.

Your Will Be Done

This phrase has been incorporated into the religious exercises of some very influential eastern religions and, when encountering Christians, its followers will try to convince us that their God is the same as ours and the title they use in their worship means God, the same one to whom we profess allegiance. This is supposed to remove one barrier to worshiping with them. Another huge difference which, on the surface, seems to point to a similarity between faiths, is in the way the words “Your will be done” are employed. Are they spoken in resignation to the inevitable or in a wholehearted cooperation with the will of God despite having a clear understanding of what it will cost? Think for a moment of Jesus, who was giving this direction and would shortly display the extent to which he would go in fulfilling his Father’s will.

The weight of our sin — borne when his spirit was in deep sorrow over the ignorance and obduracy of mankind, while his holy body was subjected to the worst cruelty that man could devise and forsaken by his God, the one whose will he had said (in the process of coming into the world) he delighted to accomplish — this was facing our Savior in Gethsemane. No wonder his sweat became like drops of blood falling down to the ground; he was in agony such as no other could know. “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”

Don’t think that because he was himself God he would avoid, ease or anesthetize himself as he went through all that was involved in doing the will of God. Escape had earlier been suggested to him and in one sense it was available; twelve legions of angels were positioned to serve him in this way. But he had come to “accomplish” the will of God. He would fulfill all that the Levitical law demanded; becoming the required burnt, meal, peace, sin and trespass offering. For this, he “offered himself without spot to God”. For the Lord Jesus, “Your will be done” was not merely an expression of resignation to something bound to happen because ordered by a superior; it was an intelligent voluntary cooperation with the Father who had sent him to be the Savior of the world.

When Christians pray these words they are not just saying “We must accept what God ordains.” (In a life-threatening situation that is both a natural and spiritual way to pray, see Acts 21:13-14.) Instead, they are saying, “We desire to do what the Lord has given us to do, at whatever the cost to ourselves. We are here to promote his interests, not our own.”

“Your will be done; on earth as it is in heaven”, should be accompanied by a commitment to do that will in our own lives. Anything less is only the expression of a wish.

— Colin Anderson, April 2016

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