Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Thy will be done

The third petition of the Lord's Prayer, "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven", coming before the petition "give us this day our daily bread" is essentially a prayer for obedience. It's not about submission - i.e. submitting all of the events of life to God's over-ruling providence, known theologically as God's "decretive" or "secret" will. We know this because of the second half of the petition, "on earth as it is in heaven". In heaven God is always obeyed immediately and perfectly by the vast host around his throne. It is an eschatological prayer - that this perfection which is above might increasingly be reflected below also. That's why it comes immediately after "thy kingdom come".

This is the petition before "give us this day our daily bread". And that's a reflection of a profound theological truth. Only those who sincerely desire to obey God - as he is obeyed by the sinless angels - have the right to progress to seek his provision for their daily needs. One comes before the other. If pleasing God is not on our hearts, then to ask him to take care of us is not faith, but presumption - bold, defiant presumption. If we're not willing to put pleasing God before everything else, then we have no permission to pass further down the road to pleading our own needs and desires. We often get this the wrong way round - God help me, and then I'll serve you! That's not God's way; in his kingdom, he is the King, and our first duty - our first duty - is to bow before him.

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