I have been thinking this week about the Lord’s Prayer. Besides praying it, I have been contemplating what it means to pray, “God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven." Many challenges are interrupting the peaceful loving world we all desire.
Soon classes will begin in schools, causing joy for some and anxiety for other parents who desire masking to be mandated in schools. This week a startling report came out about climate change identifying those changes are occurring more rapidly that once thought and that humans have contributed significantly to our planet’s climate damage. Maybe it shouldn’t have been that startling to us. As the United States leaves Afghanistan, the violence of the Taliban and their disregard for human life is taking over. As a result, Afghans are losing all hope. In Pennsylvania Dutch country and counties in Indiana and Ohio that are heavily populated by the Amish, the people remain wary of preventative shots and government intervention. COVID is infecting a majority of this population as immunizations are ignored. Church leaders explain that they have faith in God’s will.
And so, we pray, “Your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” But what is that will? Surely, God doesn’t will the world’s many problems. Do we pray by placing these life-threatening concerns in God’s hands and conclude that we have done our part and that is all we can do because God is in control? Some would say “yes," but that is not our Lutheran understanding or what we see lived out in the ministry of Jesus and the early church.
God’s will is done because of who God is. God is good. God is gracious, and through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, the kingdom of God is at hand; the reign of God is begun and will eventually be the only rule for all creation. This is because God is good, gracious, giving and loving. When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are asking that it may also come in each of us and among all of us. God’s will is not something remote that does not affect each of us. The challenges each and every one of us face in dealing with COVID stressors, climate change, and lack of respect for human life, are the result of evil and not the will of God. These are all instances that work against the holy ways of God and attempt to restrict the coming of God’s kingdom. We pray for God’s will to be done, yet we can be assured that even without our prayer, God’s will is being done in some form or fashion. Even though our prayer is not necessary for God, Luther tells us that God’s will is done even without our prayer, but it is still necessary for each of us to pray for it to come. Prayer is not an idle activity. God hears our prayers, and prayer changes us into people who work for God’s will to be done.
I am reminded of the story of Solomon found in I Kings 3. Solomon loved the Lord and was faithful. He was by no means perfect, just as his father David was a great king but still a flawed human. Two examples of Solomon’s brokenness stand out in this text. First, Solomon offers incense in the high places. This was a condemned practice since the offering is for idols. Secondly, he chose to marry wives who worshipped foreign gods. But despite these things, one night God appears to Solomon in a dream and says, “Ask what I should give you.” Solomon responds by sharing what he has observed to be the relationship between God and Solomon’s father David. Solomon saw the steadfast love and faithfulness David had. He is aware that his birth was a blessing for his father, and that now God was choosing him to be a blessing by governing the people. Solomon also is aware that as leader of the people, he is also the servant of the Lord. Solomon acknowledged that he is young, inexperienced, and there are lots of people depending on him. He is afraid, and so his prayer is for wisdom. Wisdom that God will give him the ability to discern between good and evil so that he can govern the people to God’s glory. God’s response to Solomon is telling: “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for long life or riches for yourself, or for harm to come to your enemies, but instead have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right…I give you a wise and discerning mind.” (I Kings 3: 11-12) Solomon, like all kings could never rule like God, but he was considered a great king among all earthly kings. The brokenness he shares with all of us is evident in his life, yet he shares some rare qualities. By asking for wisdom, he already possesses wisdom, or he would not know to ask for it.
God does not control Solomon but trusts him to live faithfully. It is the same with each of us, as God’s beloved children. God does not control our every thought and action but trusts us to live faithfully. God trusts that we desire God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven. God gives to us flexibility and freedom. The theologian Jurgen Moltmann explains that God limits God’s self to give us freedom to make decisions. God creates resulting outcomes and gives us time to choose what our response will be. So, God is in ultimate control but rolls back some of God’s control so that we can make decisions and choices.
I think that helps explains our purpose as a beloved community. God’s will be done whenever God strengthens us and keeps us steadfast in his word and in faith, and we choose to follow, then God’s will is done.
And so, we pray today and every day, “Your will be done, on earth as in heaven." Use each of us O God to live your will faithfully and steadfastly. Amen.