Nothing More, Nothing Less, Nothing Else
October 7, 2009
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10
Before we begin: Why is it difficult to sincerely pray “Your will be done?” How would your life change if doing God’s will became your first priority?
Some prayers are harder to pray than others. I learned that many years ago when my father died. One October day he felt a pain in his shoulder. The doctors later said it was transferred pain from a bacterial infection in his liver. It did not seem serious at first, but he got no better and a few days later traveled by ambulance to Birmingham where a battery of doctors went to work on him. Marlene and I drove in from Dallas, arriving at the hospital sometime after midnight. Dad spoke to me when I saw him, but even I could tell he was desperately ill.
A few days later, now back in Dallas, the dreaded call came. Once again we sped through the night to Birmingham, hoping against hope. But I could tell he was not long for this world. That day-it is etched forever in my mind-I went in to see him and he did not know me. He was drugged and nearly in a coma. Outside the Intensive Care Unit I saw a friend from my childhood days. Somehow seeing an old friend triggered emotions I had kept bottled up inside. Leaning against the wall I wept furious tears, unable to keep back the truth-my father was dying and I could do nothing about it. I must have prayed that day. I’m sure I did. After all, I was in seminary learning to help other people draw near to God. But if I prayed, I do not remember it. In that terrible moment of utter helplessness, prayer did not come naturally. All theology aside, I knew my father was dying. So I could hardly pray, “O God, heal him,” for I knew in my soul that that prayer on that day was not going to be answered. But I could not pray “O God, take him home and end the pain,” for he was my father and much too young to die. So I prayed something, exactly what I do not remember. In a few days, God mercifully intervened and ended my father’s ordeal.
Praying in the Darkness
When I first started in the ministry, I hesitated to share that story because it seemed too personal. Over the years I came to understand that nearly everyone is in a similar situation sooner or later. You have stood beside the bed of a loved one and found that prayer was nearly impossible. Or you have faced a difficulty so immense that you truly did not know what words to use when you prayed. Or perhaps there have been times in your life when you have not prayed because you were afraid of the answer God would give. Prayer can do that to even the best of us. It seems so easy on Sunday morning. Why is it so hard when the hard times come? Perhaps we are afraid of what God will say in response to our prayers. What if we ask for guidance, and he guides us a in way we don’t want to go? What if we pray for wisdom and the wisdom we receive seems more like nonsense? What if we pray for patience and the answer means nothing but trouble for us?
What if we ask for guidance, and he guides us a in way we don’t want to go?
This should not surprise us. Jesus hinted at the problem when he gave us the Lord’s Prayer. Included in that model prayer were these words, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The basic difficulty may be easily seen if we lay it out in a series of logical statements:
1. God has a will concerning my life.
2. God’s will encompasses his desires for my life.
3. But I also have a will that encompasses my desires for my life.
4. Those two wills will often (not always) be in conflict.
5. When there is conflict, either God’s will or my will must prevail.
6. When I pray “Your will be done,” I am asking that God’s will prevail over my will.
That’s the basic difficulty we face when we pray. When we ask that God’s will be done, we are implicitly asking that our wills be overturned, if necessary. That’s good theory but it’s not easy to pray that way standing by the bedside of someone you love.
“Thy will be done” is a difficult prayer to pray sincerely.
But that’s only part of the problem. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” Exactly how is God’s will being done in heaven? If the reference is to the angels (as I think it is), then God’s will is always being done in heaven. Psalm 103:20 says, “Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word“ (emphasis added). In heaven, God’s will is always done; in heaven, God’s will is instantaneously done; in heaven, God’s will is completely done; in heaven, God’s will is joyfully done. In essence, Jesus asks us to pray that we might become a little more like the angels (who always obey) and a little less like the demons (who never obey). When that happens, the earth will become a little more like heaven and a little less like hell.
He Won’t Cross The Picket Line
But it rarely happens. God’s will is rarely done on the earth. After all, there are over 6 billion wills on the earth, and still only one will in heaven. Just look around you. Do you see God’s will being done? Pick up the newspaper and read about another school shooting. Read about powerful people evading taxes. Read about the rising tension between Israel and Iran. In recent years our papers have been full of sordid tales of sexual misdeeds by the top elected officials in our land. This morning I read about local school teacher being charged with sexual battery against a 16-year-old student. On and on the stories go. A fair reading of the situation suggests that someone else’s will is being done. In some ways, “Thy will be done” seems like the most hopeless of all prayer requests. Rarely do we mean it. All too rarely does it seem to be answered. But the hardest part is this: God never burglarizes the human will. He is a perfect gentleman. He will not force himself upon you. If you do not wish to do his will, he will respect your decision. In the words of James Jauncey, “He will never cross the picket line of our unwillingness.”
“Thy will be done” is a difficult prayer to pray sincerely. Those four one-syllable words may be the hardest prayer you will ever pray. Let’s think together about what it means to ask that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
1. Praying “Your will be done” means giving up control of your own life.
We’re back to that little syllogism again:
A. God has a will (or desire) for your life.
B. But you also have a will (or desire) for your life.
C. When you pray “Your will be done,” your are asking that his will take precedence over your will.
Only one will can be done at a time. Either God calls the shots or you call the shots. Either he is in control or you are in control. It’s not easy to pray like that, because it means you have to give up control of your own life.
But you aren’t really in control anyway. It only seems that way.
The “mighty men” come and go. Only God remains forever.
A few years ago a Greek professor at Moody Bible Institute performed a wedding ceremony at the church I pastored in Oak Park, IL. During a brief chat, he brought up a verse I had never considered before-Proverbs 20:24, “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” That didn’t seem like a remarkable verse, until the professor mentioned one little fact. The word for “man” in the first part of the verse is a Hebrew word that mean “a mighty warrior.” The Old Testament writers used it to speak of great soldiers who valiantly march into battle. These were the “mighty men” of Israel of great strength and courage. And Solomon says even their steps are directed by God. In fact, we could legitimately translate the first part of the verse this way: “Even the steps of a mighty man are directed by the Lord.” Think of the “mighty men” of today. Their names are Obama, Putin, Netanyahu, Ahmadinejad, and in another category Woods, Manning, Pujols, Gretzsky, Ronaldo, and in yet another, more general category O’Reilly, Winfrey, Buffet, Soros, Pickens, Clinton, Clooney, and Palin. They appear to be self-made men and women, self-sufficient, able to run their own lives. But it only appears that way. Solomon says that behind the power and image of the mighty stands the Lord himself. He is the one who directs their paths. And those “mighty men” are mighty only as God wills it. Here’s proof. That list will be outdated in a few months. And in ten years some people will read those names and say, “Who is he talking about?” The “mighty men” come and go. Only God remains forever.
That brings us to the second half of that verse. “How then can anyone understand his own way?” The word for “anyone” is the ordinary Hebrew word for “man.” If even the mighty man cannot direct his own steps, how then can any of us be sure about the future? If the people we look up to are at the mercy of Higher Hands, then how can any of us claim to fully understand the direction of our lives? The answer is, we can’t. The mighty man can’t. The average man can’t. You can’t. I can’t. No one can.
Just when we think we’ve got the world by the tail on a downhill slide, everything falls to pieces.
What Jim Bakker Learned in Prison
In the 1980s Jim Bakker was one of the most important Christian leaders in America. As the founder of the PTL ministries, he presided over one of the largest broadcasting empires in the world. Millions of people watched him on television every day. Then came the fall. First there was the revelation of the affair with Jessica Hahn. Then came accusations of greed, fraud, further sexual misconduct, and tabloid headlines. It all eventually led to a trial that ended in a prison sentence. Jim Bakker suffered a nervous breakdown that was trumpeted from coast to coast. After going to prison, he suffered the final blow when his wife divorced him and married one of his former best friends.
Few Christian leaders in recent history have fallen so far so fast. I remember watching his program in the 1980s and I also followed the details of the collapse of his vast empire. When he went to prison, I simply forgot about him. But God didn’t. That much is evident from a book he wrote called I Was Wrong. After being released from prison several years ago, Jim Bakker wrote about the events leading up to his fall and the things that happened while he was in prison. After writing at some length about the total despair and humiliation he felt, he describes a singular moment when he simply began to read the Bible. He cried out, “God, why am I here? There are so many dying men in prison. How can I help them?” The answer from the Lord surprised him. “You are arrogant. You think you are the only person I have in this prison. I have many others here. I am God. I did not bring you to prison to minister. I brought you here to know me.” (Jim Bakker, I Was Wrong, p. 236).
The only thing that matters is knowing God and doing his will.
That was the turning point. By his own admission, he had been an extremely ambitious man. After climbing to the pinnacle of evangelical success, he ended up losing everything. Little by little God stripped it all away and left him with nothing but guilt, pain and failure. When he finally hit rock bottom, Jim Bakker met God in a new way. What he learned in prison, we must all learn sooner or later. The only thing that matters is knowing God and doing his will. When we truly pray “Your will be done,” things almost certainly won’t work out the way we planned. And some things will end up opposite of what we expected. But that doesn’t mean your life will go out of control. It just means that your life will now be consciously passed into God’s control.
2. Praying “Your will be done” means trusting God to do whatever he thinks is best.
More than once I have heard people say, “Pray for the opposite of what you want, because God always gives us the opposite of what we ask for.” We laugh when we read that because it seems so absurd. But how many of us secretly wonder if it isn’t true? We’ve all known the frustration of unanswered prayer. Perhaps it was for something small-like a new dress for a Saturday night date. Perhaps it was for God to give you a Basset Hound. Perhaps you asked God to open the door for you to go to a certain college. Or perhaps it was for something truly big-prayer requested at the bedside of a loved one, prayer for a sick child, prayer for a failing marriage. When God doesn’t answer our prayers-or when he doesn’t answer in the way we want him to-are we not tempted to wonder if maybe it’s true that God always gives us the opposite of what we ask for?
Does God Know My Name?
Our biggest problem is not “Is there a God?” because virtually everyone agrees that the answer is yes. Even people who never come to church, and people who consider themselves irreligious would answer yes. The much greater question is this-“Is there a God in heaven who cares for me?” Does he know my name, does he under-stand my problems, does he have any interest in me, does he see my struggles, does he feel my pain, does he care what happens to me? Millions of people-including millions of apparently loyal churchgoers-secretly wonder if the answer to those questions must be no. A God who is there-Yes. A God who cares for me-maybe not.
Perhaps some wonder if this does not reveal a kind of spiritual schizophrenia. How can you answer yes to one question and no or maybe not to the other? Is this not some kind of internal contradiction? If there is a God, surely he cares for me? And if he doesn’t care for me, who cares whether there’s a God or not? But the questions move on two different levels. The existence of God is primarily a mental or logical problem. It’s an issue of philosophy. The question concerning God’s personal concern is entirely different. Very often it is asked by those who have known deep pain and suffering. For them, the question is very personal: “If God cares for me, how could he let my son die?” or “Where was God when my husband lost his job?” or “Why didn’t God stop that man who shot my father?” These are not abstract questions about first causes and the answer from design. These are questions wrenched from the depths of horrible despair.
How do you pray “Your will be done” when you aren’t sure that God really cares for you? If you knew-really knew-that he had your best interests at heart, you might dare to pray that way. But as long as you doubt, that prayer will be almost impossible.
He Bowed His Head And Died
There are many answers to the question-“Does God really care for me?”-but there is only one that really matters. It’s the answer God gave 2000 years ago on a hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem. On a hot Friday afternoon, the Romans crucified a man they thought to be a Jewish rabblerouser Only later did they understand who he really was. His name was Jesus. He came from a small town in Galilee called Nazareth. He started his ministry by preaching in the synagogues. As he went from village to village, his fame spread until thousands came out to hear him. At length the powers-that-be found him to be a threat to them, and they decided to eliminate him. It took a long time to trap him, but they finally arrested him with the help of a traitor from his inner circle. Once arrested, he was tried, beaten, mocked, insulted, cursed, abused, slapped, scourged, and crowned with thorns. Eventually he was condemned to die. For six hours he hung on the cross-naked before the world, exposed before the elements, reviled by the crowd, jeered by his enemies, mourned by those who loved him. At the end, after suffering excruciating pain, he bowed his head and died.
And God said, “Do you still wonder if I love you?”
For some people, even the death of God’s Son will not be enough. But if that is not enough, then nothing God can do will make any difference. For if a man will give his own son to die, is there anything else he will hold back? Money is nothing compared to a son.
To call God “Father” means that you recognize what he did when he gave his own Son to die on the cross.
That’s why the most crucial word of the Lord’s Prayer is in the very first phrase-“Our Father in heaven.” To call God “Father” means that you recognize what he did when he gave his own Son to die on the cross. He knows what it is to lose a son; he knows about pain and suffering; he knows the anguish of unjust accusations; he knows all about hatred; he knows about death. He’s seen it up close and personal. He watched his Son die in agony. “Father” is not some phrase to flip around when we pray. It’s what Christian prayer is all about. God is worthy to be called “Father” precisely because he has done what good fathers must do-he has sacrificed the best that he had for the welfare of his own children.
Look to the cross. Gaze on the Son of God. Ponder the meaning of Golgotha. Who is that crucified on Calvary’s tree? His name is Jesus. Study his face. See the wounds in his hands, his feet, his side. Was it not for you that he died? Do you still doubt that God loves you?
People who have been abused sexually or physically or emotionally have a difficult time praying “Your will be done.” They fear what God will do to them. The problem is particularly acute in cases where a father abused his own daughter. She tells of one friend who is terrified to pray “Your will be done” because she is afraid God will beat her over the head. There is no easy answer to this problem. Since the problem is not intellectual, it won’t be met by arguing at the intellectual level. Deep issues must be faced; bad memories must be confronted. These problems are best dealt with in a group setting. When believers pray together, good things happen that can lead to healing and emotional health.
3. Praying “Your will be done” means we may face suffering and pain.
It was true for Jesus. The scene has shifted to Thursday night. It is late-perhaps 10:30 or 11 P.M. The Lord now retreats to his favorite spot-the olive groves in Gethsemane. Leaving Peter, James and John behind, he wrestles in prayer with what is about to happen. He knows with the perfect knowledge of omniscience that the time has come for him to die. All is revealed; nothing is hidden. It was for this moment that he came into the world. Nothing will surprise him-not Judas’ wicked kiss, not Caiaphas’ mocking words, not Pilate’s curious questions. The pain, the blood, the anguish, all of it is seen as clearly to him as if it had already happened.
Most of all he sees the blackness. Sin like a dark cloud is lowering upon him. Sin! The very word is repugnant to him. Sin in all its ugliness, all its vile reaches, all its putrefying force now looms before him. It is as if a giant sewer is being opened and the foul contents are flooding over him. All the evil that men can do, all the filth of uncounted atrocities, the swill of the human race, the total iniquity of every man and woman from the beginning of time.
If Jesus struggled with the will of God, should we be surprised if we struggle with it too?
As Jesus sees the cup filled with human scum approaching him, he recoils in horror. These are his words:
My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. (Matthew 26:39)
These are not the words of unbelief. They are words of faith. They are the words of a man who understands fully what it will cost to do the will of God.
Was it wrong for Jesus to pray this way? Did it somehow reveal a lack of trust in God? I think not. No man was ever more committed to doing the will of God. He did not pray because he wished to be released from the will of God. He prayed because he knew how much the will of God would cost him personally. He was willing to pay the price, but in the horror of seeing the “cup” of suffering draw near, he asked that it might be removed from him. If Jesus struggled with the will of God, should we be surprised if we do the same? If it was difficult for Jesus to pray “Your will be done,” is it likely to be any easier for us? Jesus is Exhibit A of what it costs to pray “Your will be done.” It cost him his life. No wonder he struggled in Gethsemane.
A Sovereign Bullet
In April 2001 news broke of the tragic crash of a missionary airplane in Peru in which a mother and her seven-month-old daughter were shot to death with the same bullet fired from a Peruvian Air Force jet. Evidently the pilot of the jet mistook the missionaries for drug smugglers and shot the plane out of the sky. Out of over 50 bullets that hit the missionary airplane, one particular bullet passed through the fuselage, hit Roni Bowers in the back, passed through her body, and lodged in the head of her daughter Charity, killing mother and daughter instantly. Jim Bowers, Roni’s husband, and Cory Bowers, Charity’s brother, survived the crash.
For days afterward the major media gave massive coverage to the sad story. The world doesn’t understand why missionaries do what they do. Why would fine people like Jim and Roni Bowers put themselves (and their children) in harm’s way? Are there not safer places they could go? Why not stay in America? The answer is simple and profound. They went because Jesus called them to go, and when Jesus calls, you go. Period. End of story. They went because they wanted to be part of God’s harvest in a remote region of Peru. Did they know the risks? Absolutely. Was it an easy decision? No, it wasn’t. But they knew the Lord was calling, and they were certain that the Lord was with them every step of the way. They went in obedience, trusting God to take care of them. Nothing that happened when their plane was shot out of the sky changes that truth in the least.
When Christ calls, we have to go. We don’t have to come back.
Thirteen hundred people attended the funeral service for Roni and Charity Bowers. There was a taped message from Elizabeth Elliot whose husband Jim Elliot was killed by Auca tribesmen in Ecuador in 1956. Steve Saint, son of one of the other missionaries killed in 1956, spoke in person. Eventually Jim Bowers gave his first public comments since the plane crash. After thanking a number of people, he made this remarkable statement:
Most of all, I want to thank my God. He’s a sovereign God. We’re finding that out more now. Some of you might ask, why thank God? Of course now, after hearing some people speak tonight, you’re realizing why, maybe. Could this really be God’s plan for Roni and Charity? God’s plan for Cory and me and our family? And I’d like to tell you why I believe so, why I’m coming to believe so.
His list of reasons included many items, but I was struck by one in particular. His wife and daughter were killed by the same bullet. Stop and think about that for a moment. What are the chances-humanly speaking-that a bullet could be fired from a speeding jet, pass through the fuselage of the missionary airplane, hit Roni Bowers in the back, go through her heart, and then end up in the head of the baby she was holding in her lap? The best marksman in the world could never make that shot on purpose. It had to be more than chance. In his remarks Jim Bowers called it a “sovereign bullet.” What an amazing thing to say. A sovereign bullet. Meaning that God was there, he was not absent, he knew everything that was happening, and he could have intervened in a thousand different ways to stop that bullet from hitting Roni and Charity. But he didn’t. Only a man of biblical faith could have called it a “sovereign bullet.”
Why did it happen? The full explanation is hidden in the heart and mind of God. But Jim Bowers said he believed God allowed the tragedy to wake up a sleeping church: “I think he also wanted to wake up sleeping Christians, including myself, and maybe most of all, to wake up those who have no interest or little interest in God. And I say tonight, wake up!”
“It will be worth it all.”
A few days before her death, Roni Bowers wrote her personal testimony, intending to send it to a few friends and family members. Little did she know it would soon be spread around the world. In it, she speaks about her spiritual journey over the years and concludes with the story of how she was unable to have children of her own despite repeated attempts. That’s why she and Jim adopted Cory and Charity. She concludes with these moving words that in retrospect seem strangely prophetic: “Now I choose to trust God fully. He is in control; he knows what is best. He doesn’t owe me anything, rather I owe him everything. When we as believers get to heaven, we won’t have to ask, ‘why?’ It will be worth it all.”
God’s will is seldom done on the earth. Too many things that go on are obviously not God’s will.
So it has come to pass as the Lord ordained. Through her death, Roni Bowers touched people around the world, far more than she would have touched if she had survived the crash. And Jim Bowers is right. Through this tragedy, God spoke to multitudes of people-believers and unbelievers alike. Out of death has come life and a wake-up call to a sleeping generation. Was God’s will done in this tragedy? If we believe in a “sovereign bullet,” then the answer must be yes. In the Coast Guard, before a dangerous mission begins, the sailors are taught, “You have to go, you don’t have to come back.” The crash of the missionary airplane in the Amazon River proves once again the truth of those words. When Christ calls, we have to go. We don’t have to come back.
4. Praying “Your will be done” means praying against the status quo.
God’s will is seldom done on the earth. Too many things that go on are obviously not God’s will.
Killing the unborn is not God’s will.
Homosexuality is not God’s will.
The rising tide of divorce is not God’s will.
Single moms raising children is not God’s will.
Pastors committing adultery is not God’s will.
Rampant pornography is not God’s will.
Nuclear warfare is not God’s will.
Ethnic cleansing is not God’s will.
Racial prejudice is not God’s will.
Serial killings are not God’s will.
Greed, graft and corruption are not God’s will.
Sometimes it seems as if God has gone to sleep and Satan has taken over.
God Does Not Accept The Status Quo
Now ponder the next sentence carefully. God does not accept the status quo. He does not accept Satan’s usurpation of God’s rightful place in the world. He does not accept that sin should reign forever on the earth. He does not accept that the killing should go on forever. God does not sit idly by while the world goes to hell. That’s why he sent the prophets who thundered out his message to ancient Israel. That’s why he raised up mighty men like Moses, Joshua and David. That’s why he inspired his prophets to write down his words. That’s why he wrote the Ten Commandments with his own fingers.
God does not accept the status quo!
Do you want more proof? He sent his own Son into the world to change the status quo. What the prophets couldn’t accomplish with their words, his Son accomplished by the Incarnation. At Bethlehem, God sent a message to the world-“Things are going to change.” If things were okay, why did God send his Son? But things weren’t okay. They were wrong, dreadfully wrong and getting worse all the time. So God intervened in human history in the most dramatic fashion possible. To pray “Your will be done” is to follow God in opposing the status quo. This prayer goes against the grain. In a world where God’s will is not done, you are to pray that God’s will be done. Those are fighting words, words that rebel against everything that is evil and wrong on planet earth. All too often when we pray “Your will be done,” we do it with an air of pious resignation. “O God, since I am helpless to stem the tide of events, may your will be done.” Sometimes we use it as an excuse not to get angry at the sin and suffering all around us.
But if God does not accept the status quo, neither should we.
The Hawk and The Swallows
I confess that I hadn’t thought much about this aspect of the prayer until I read a column by Alden Thompson. He points out that praying “Your will be done” is to mount a massive offensive against all that is evil and crooked in the world. Too often we say these words with a kind of passive resignation, as if we really meant “Your will be done but we know things will never change anyway.” We live in the “in between time” where Christ has come and gone and will one day come back again. The King announced his Kingdom, then disappeared from the earth. We know that better days are coming but they aren’t here yet. We live in a world with too much killing, too many broken marriages, too much greed and too many broken promises. Thompson speaks of watching some swallows that built a next on the back patio of his home. Day after day he and his family watched the swallows come and go. Five baby swallows hatched one spring day. Five weeks later a hawk swooped from the sky and took all five baby swallows away. Writing about it later, he spoke of the anger he felt:
At breakfast I stare at an empty nest. Then I go to my desk and write about Jesus’ prayer, “Thy will be done.” And I am angry, for the enemy doesn’t restrict his visits to the nests of birds (Alden Thompson, “Thy Will Be Done,” Signs of the Times, November 1988, p. 28).
Praying “Your will be done” is an act of God-ordained rebellion. This is not a prayer for the weak or the timid. This is a prayer for troublemakers and rabblerousers. It is a prayer for believers who look at the devastation all around them and who say, “I’m angry and I’m not going to take this anymore.” It is a prayer that leads necessarily on to action. If you see injustice being done, you cannot blithely pray “Your will be done,” and then walk away. If you really mean “Your will be done,” you’ve got to jump into the fray and help make it happen.
Praying “Your will be done” is an act of God-ordained rebellion.
Let me summarize this point with two simple statements:
1. By means of humble prayer and fierce action, God’s will is done on earth.
2. As God’s will is done, the atmosphere of heaven is re-created on the earth.
You’ll Never Know Till You Let Go
Let me summarize everything I’ve said in this message: Praying “Your will be done” means at least four things:
1. Giving up control of your own life.
2. Trusting God to do whatever he thinks is best.
3. Accepting that personal pain and suffering may be part of God’s will.
4. Refusing to accept the status quo.
I freely admit that this is not easy to do. And yet Jesus told us to pray this way. It’s not wrong to struggle with this prayer. After all, Jesus struggled with it himself. But over the years I’ve discovered that the happiest people are those who have said, “I’ve decided to let go and let God run my life.” So many of us go through life with a clenched fist, trying to control the uncontrollable, trying to mastermind all the circumstances, trying to make our plans work. So we hold tightly to the things we value-our career, our reputation, our happiness, our health, our children, our education, our wealth, our possessions, even our mates. We even hold tightly to life itself. But those things we hold so tightly never really belonged to us. They always belonged to God. He loaned them to us and when the time comes, he will take them back again.
Happy are those people who hold lightly the things they value greatly. The happiest people I know are the folks who have said, “All right, Lord. I’m letting go. I’m going to relax now and let you take over.” What are you struggling with today? What are you holding on to so tightly that it almost makes your hands hurt? What is it that you are afraid to give up to God? Whatever it is, you’ll be a lot happier when you finally say, “Your will be done,” and then open your clenched fist. But you’ll never know till you let go.
Happy are those people who hold lightly the things they value greatly.
A Simple Prayer
Here’s a simple prayer that may help you loosen your grip on the things with which you are struggling:
Lord Jesus, may your will be done in my life.
Nothing else. Amen.
Are you ready to let go of whatever stands between you and God? Count the cost. Take a deep breath. Only the brave will pray “Your will be done.” Those four words have the power to change your life and your world forever.
Lord Jesus, you have made it so simple that we can’t miss the truth even if we tried. You taught us to pray like this, and this you showed us how when you prayed alone in the Garden. Forgive us for doubting your goodness and for fearing that your plan would lead us to misery. Grant us the courage to lay our rebel hearts on the altar before you. Teach us the joy of submission. Bring us to the place where your will is our supreme desire. Amen.
A Truth to Remember: To pray “Your will be done” is an act of God-ordained rebellion against the evil of this world.
1. Have you ever faced a moment so desperate that you felt you couldn’t pray? Can you think of a time when you were afraid to pray “Your will be done” because you feared God’s answer?
2. If you could ask the Lord one question about his will for your life, what would it be?
3. “When Christ calls, we have to go. We don’t have to come back.” What does that statement mean in your own life?
4. Read Matthew 26:36-45. When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, what was the “cup” that he asked might be taken from him? What do we learn about the cost of praying “Your will be done” from Jesus’ example?
5. Is it true that “God does not accept the status quo?” In what sense is the prayer “Your will be done” an act of God-ordained rebellion against the evil of this world?
6. What happens to the person who refuses to pray “Your will be done?”
An Action Step
When you pray “Your will be done,” you are asking that your life pass from your control to God’s control. What are the signs that you are trying to control your own life? Circle the words that apply to you: Irritable, pushy, anxious, fearful, hyperactive, withdrawn, driven, compulsive, critical, hyper-sensitive, perfectionistic, overbearing, worried. Spend some time asking God to set you free from the need to always be in control.