The Lord’s Prayer 2019
By Dr. Harvey Plett
Many of us memorized the Lord’s Prayer in grade school. The Manitoba Education Department prescribed daily Bible readings and a daily reciting of the Lord`s Prayer for the public schools. That has changed now, but many of us know the prayer from those days.
As we look at the Lord’s Prayer it naturally divides into two parts. The first part is worship of God and recognizing who He is. He is our Father; His name is to be hallowed — honored; we pray for His Kingdom (rule) to come; and then we pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This is followed by a number of requests for ourselves.
Reading and reciting the prayer is good, but not very meaningful unless we understand what the prayer is saying. When have you heard an explanation of the phrase, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? So, think with me on the profound truth being prayed.
The first question that we face when praying this is, “What is God’s will?” One answer is, “It is what the Bible teaches.” When we pray that God’s “will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we quickly think of the purpose of creation. We are also aware that God’s will shall not be fully done on earth until sin has been removed. God’s full will on earth will be done when the new heaven and the new earth are here. But until that happens, we are still to pray that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In heaven there is no sin. Things work for a purpose. They were made and in all God is glorified.
When we think of creation, we are aware God created it and set it in motion according to the laws He ordained. One example would be the seasons. Yet sin has warped creation and so we pray when we face storms, etc., remembering that the storms come from the ways nature runs its course and will continue until Christ returns and gives us a new heaven and a new earth. God’s will is also that we humans are to rule and have dominion over what God has created (Gen. 1:26-29). That includes using it wisely.
There is another important dimension of God’s will and that is how humans live, relate, and behave. In the human relationships area humans are responsible to make them what God wants them to be. God has spoken to this area and also stands ready to help humans bring God’s will to this area as it is in heaven, but humans have to respond or it won’t happen.
God’s will for human relationships is to live in loving caring relationships with one another. He says, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Harmonious relationships are brought about when we love. It is the will of God that we “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27-28, Deut. 6:5, Lev. 19:18). It is also the will of God for us here on earth to accept ourselves and use the abilities and gifts we have been given. So, as we pray for God’s will on earth as in heaven it involves accepting self and relating to others with love, respect, and care.
As we pray this and become available to God we must accept we are made in the image of God. This means I have value, but it also tells us how to relate to others as fellow image bearers. We bring in God’s will as we are good image bearers and treat others as fellow image bearers. Then we love ourselves appropriately and also our neighbour.
This also means that I accept the gender I am born with, male or female, and treat others according to their gender. Genesis 1:26-28 puts it this way. “And then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . .’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. God blessed them and said be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion . . . over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” By His grace God’s will is brought to earth when we obey Him. Thus, our prayer is asking for a process that will be completed when Christ returns.
It is also important to note that as we pray for God’s will to come to earth as it is in heaven, we are aware that God expects humans to respond rather than that He does it arbitrarily Himself. God’s will in human relationships is done on earth as humans live as outlined in the Scripture. God does not force them on us. We as followers of Jesus, when we pray this, are asking God to help us live in harmony with the way He has created humans with the responsibility to live in good relationships, and so our prayer for God’s will in human relationships requires human response and obedience. As we obey God, His will is brought to earth in this area.
God’s will on earth is done when we love our neighbour as our self. How do we do this? We must first of all have accepted Jesus into our lives as Saviour and Lord. To love my fellow humans includes returning good for evil, seeking the welfare of the other regardless of cost, forgive when wronged and forgo vengeance.
Romans 12:14-21 gives us the will of God here on earth for human relations, and when we do that we are bringing God’s will to earth as it is in heaven and this prayer is being answered. As you read these verses, do you feel like throwing up your hands and saying how is that possible? It is possible for you and me to do this by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and our decision to follow Him.
Following are a few truths from that passage. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, bless those who persecute you and do not curse them, repay no evil for evil but take thought of what is noble in the sight of all, leave vengeance to the wrath of God, do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.
It is the will of God that we feed the hungry, care for the sick and nurture the faith through Bible study, prayer, meeting with fellow believers. We are to bring the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him.
The created world is groaning for redemption which will come when Jesus returns. Humans groan as they live for God waiting for the redemption of their bodies (Rom 8:22-23). Meanwhile we bring God’s will into our relationships by loving, caring for others, preaching the Gospel and growing.
So, I suggest to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” includes great significance in terms of our obedience to our Lord.
Dr. Harvey Plett has long served the EMC and the wider Church in various capacities—as a minister, SBC professor and president, Board of Missions chair, a counsellor, and as EMC moderator. He and his wife Pearl are part of Prairie Rose EMC and live in Mitchell, Man.