In Matthew 6, Jesus focuses our attention on a very basic matter - worship. He talks about the worship of giving, prayer and fasting. In this section he contrast true worship with hypocrisy.
In verses 9 -15, Jesus elaborates on prayer more than He does on any of the other areas of the discussion. In these verses Jesus develops the content of prayer. The practice of prayer is so abused that Jesus is not only going to warn about improper motives in praying but about the content of prayers as well.
The Lord preceded this model prayer with these words: "In this manner, therefore, pray". Jesus wasn't saying, "Pray these exact words." Many people misunderstand the Lord's instruction regarding prayer. Instead of learning how to pray from this model prayer, they recite it. However, it's not a prayer to be recited but a pattern for all prayer. As we study this model prayer, my hope is that God will teach us how to pray and the importance of prayer.
It is amazing and awesome when you think about it that we, as the children of God, created human beings living on this planet, are privileged to have a personal relationship with God. We are privileged to have as our Father the One who created everything. The opportunity is ours to come into His presence with confidence and lay out to Him the burdens and desires of our hearts and know that He is listening. That He promises to answer and to give us the desires of our hearts is truly mind-boggling.
The amazing thing is that God has made it possible for us to be His children by having His Son die for us. That is the beginning point of our relationship with Him. Those of us who have believed in Him ought to be basking in the privilege of prayer. We don't have to beat on the door, beg, or make long petitions; we don't have to repeat ourselves over and over hoping to get His attention or hoping He will see how serious our plight is. We have full confidence that He is our Father. We can present our situation to Him and describe our very needy condition in His very presence. We can acknowledge Him to be a God who can meet every need and One we can trust to meet those needs. What a privilege! We often look for people to help us, individuals on whom we can dump our problems, but we are privileged to have a God who is there, a Father who is concerned about us and has the ability to meet every need in every situation.
In our last study we looked at the first petition of this verse, so this morning we are going to focus on the second petition:
Matthew 6:10 (NKJV) Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
Remember that these are petitions. This is a request and could be translated: "Cause your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven." It is a prayer that God's will be done.
Listen carefully to what John MacArthur has to say about this verse:
The statement "thy will be done in earth" assumes that God's will is not always done here ... Not everything that happens in the world is God's will. Other wise that petition is pointless.
If you go into the house of a family who has lost a child to a fatal disease or an automobile accident, you may hear someone say, "it was the Lord's will for that to happen." Or you may hear of a mother dying from cancer who is needed by her husband and children, and someone will say, "This is the Lord's will." Disasters such as floods, earthquakes, fires, train wrecks, airplane crashes, or famine are frequently explained away as being the Lord's will. But if you look at life with that kind of perspective, there will be no energy in your prayer life.
This may sound heretical, but God does not will for tragic things to happen. Jesus came into the world to stop the problems we have. Second Peter 3:9 tells us that God is "not willing that any should perish." There are people dying all over the world every day, but God does not will that they die without becoming saved and coming to a knowledge of the truth. Unfortunately, many people don't become saved before they die. So God's will is done in heaven, but it's not always done on earth. (The Disciples' Prayer by John MacArthur, Jr. page 80-81)
Is MacArthur right? Does God not will for tragic things to happen? Do things happen on earth that are not God's will? Think carefully now before you answer. The answer to the first question is NO. If God did not will for tragic things to happen, then they would not happen. The answer to the second question is yes and no. Hopefully, what I mean by this will become clear as we proceed in this study.
I believe that the Bible teaches us that one of God's primary attributes is that He is sovereign. But most of those in the church today deny the absolute sovereignty of God. Christians speak of accidents, or of things just happening by chance.
The church today, for the most part, doesn't see God as the absolute sovereign ruler of the universe. In 1981 Rabbi Harold Kushner's best selling book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" swept the country. It was described as a book all humanity needs. In the book, Kushner says, "God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes even He can't bring that about. It is too difficult even for God to keep cruelty and chaos from claiming their innocent victims."
This sounds like what MacArthur said, "...God does not will for tragic things to happen". So they have an impotent God sitting in heaven unable to do what he wants to do. He wants to help his children, but he is unable to. This is not the God of the Bible!
The Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign. What does sovereign mean? According to Mr. Webster, it means: "above all others; chief; supreme". To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purposes, or resist His will. The sovereignty of God is absolute, irresistible, infinite. God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases; whatever takes place in time is but the outworking of that which He decreed in eternity. Is this too strong for you? If it is, you do not understand the God of the Bible. The Scriptures affirm these truths:
Ephesians 1:11 (NIV) In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,
Psalms 115:3 (NKJV) But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
The word "pleases" in this psalm is the Hebrew word chaphets. This word is translated: "will" or wishes" twice in the Old Testament; once in Ruth 3:13 and the other time in:
Proverbs 21:1 (NKJV) The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
So, God's will is His pleasure, He wills whatever he pleases. How could God "work out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will", and how could He do "whatever He pleases" if He is not sovereign?
Believers, if God is not absolutely sovereign, then there is really no sense in praying to Him. If He is not sovereign, then there are some things that he can't do anything about, they are beyond His control. But the Bible teaches that God has absolute rule over everything:
1 Chronicles 29:11-13 (NKJV) Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all. 13 "Now therefore, our God, We thank You And praise Your glorious name.
Psalms 47:7-8 (NKJV) For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. 8 God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.
God did not simply create the world and then walk away. He constantly sustains that which He created. Seventeenth-century deism constructed a god who created a universe and then walked away to leave it running according to its natural laws and man's devices. Many Christians are practical deists. They act as if God has left the world to run on its own. But this is not what the Bible teaches about God:
Isaiah 46:9-11 (NKJV) Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,' 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.
It is God, and God alone, who declares the end from the beginning. He does whatever He pleases. Whatever He purposes, he does. That is absolute sovereignty.
Jesus taught that God exercises His sovereign control in very minute events - even the life and death of an almost worthless sparrow:
Matthew 10:29-31 (NKJV) "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. 30 "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 "Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Believers, we must understand that God is SOVEREIGN. We must understand that He is in control of every aspect of our lives:
Lamentations 3:37-38 (NASB) Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?
No one can act outside of God's sovereign will or against it. Centuries ago, Augustine said, "Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen: he either permits it to happen, or he brings it about himself." God calls ALL the shots, He rules over all. Why is that? Because He is God. The sovereignty of God is asserted, either expressly or implicitly, on almost every page of the Bible.
The Bible clearly teaches that we cannot carry out any plan apart from God's sovereign will:
Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
Proverbs 19:21 (NKJV) There are many plans in a man's heart, Nevertheless the Lord's counsel; that will stand.
God is in control; He is sovereign. He does whatever pleases Him and determines whether we can do what we have planned. No one can do anything apart from God's sovereign will:
Proverbs 16:33 (NKJV) The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.
"Every decision is from the Lord" -- The sovereign God even controls the decisions people make for His glory and our good. Even our bad and stupid decisions are under God's control.
In Isaiah 5, God speaks through the prophet and tells of the forthcoming invasion of the Assyrian army. Notice what he says at the end of verse 27.
Isaiah 5:26-27 (NKJV) He will lift up a banner to the nations from afar, And will whistle to them from the end of the earth; Surely they shall come with speed, swiftly. 27 No one will be weary or stumble among them, No one will slumber or sleep; Nor will the belt on their loins be loosed, Nor the strap of their sandals be broken;
In this last statement, we see the absoluteness of God's sovereignty, it covers every detail. Nothing is left to chance. God says that not even a strap of their sandals will be broken.
The Scriptures teach us that everything - good and bad - is under the direct control of God. Whether it be a devastating hurricane that kills hundreds or a gentle spring rain, it is an act of God. The Bible teaches us that God controls all the forces of nature, both destructive and productive, on a continuous, moment-by-moment basis.
It is God who controls the diseases and physical infirmities that affect us. I think that most Christians today would have a problem with that, but it is what the Bible teaches:
Exodus 4:11 (NKJV) So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?
This verse strikes at the heart of the health\wealth gospel which says that sickness and disease are not God's will for His people. God specifically says that these physical afflictions are His work. These physical problems are not merely the result of defective genes or bad luck. God causes these things.
Donald Grey Barnhouse said this: "No person in this world was ever blind that God had not planned for him to be blind; no person was ever deaf in this world that God had not planned for that person to be deaf..... If you don't believe that, you have a strange God who has a universe which has gone out of gear, and He cannot control it." Rather than being offended by the Bible's assertion of God's sovereignty over everything, believers should be comforted by it. Whatever it is that we are going through, we may be sure that our wise loving Father has a purpose in it.
Well then, if God's will is always done, why does Jesus teach His disciples to pray, "Cause your will to be done". Is this a prayer for today? Yes, it absolutely is! Why should we pray for something that is inevitable? In our last message, I said that to pray "Your kingdom come" was not something that believers should be doing today, because God's kingdom has come. So if we shouldn't pray for the kingdom to come because it's already here, why should we pray for God's will to be done when it always is?
If God's will is always done, why does Jesus say to pray, "Cause your will to be done on earth"? This is a prayer for God's moral will to be done.
When the Bible talks about God's will, it can be referring to one of two things: God's sovereign will or providence - His predetermined plan for everything that happens in the universe; or His moral will, which is revealed in the Bible, which tells us how to live. Look at "will" in these two passages:
Romans 9:19 (NKJV) You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"
1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NKJV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;
Does the term "will" mean the same in both of these passages? No. Romans 9 uses the term "will" to speak of God's secret will of decree, His sovereign will. And 1 Thessalonians 4 uses the term "will" to speak of God's revealed will of precept, or His moral will. As we have seen, God's sovereign will is always carried out. His moral will, on the other hand, is not. Do people commit sexual immorality? Yes, but it is God's moral will that they not commit sexual immorality.
The term "will" itself is ambiguous. We must determine its meaning from the context. The ten commandments are God's preceptive or moral will. They command men to do this and to refrain from that. They state what ought to be done, but they neither state nor cause what is done. God's sovereign or decretive will, however, causes every event.
The Scripture commands all men to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but in His sovereign will, he has chosen some to believe, and He has chosen to harden the rest:
Acts 13:48 (NKJV) Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
In the New Testament, we find Paul giving the Ephesians general instructions for not living as the world does. He writes:
Ephesians 5:17 (NKJV) Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
What does "will" here mean? We can't understand God's sovereign will, it is secret until it happens. We are to understand the moral will of God which is revealed in the Bible.
So, how do you think the term "will" is being used in our text? Are we to pray that God's sovereign will be done? No! We don't need to pray that, God's sovereign will is always done. "Your will be done" is a reference to His moral will. When we pray, "Cause your will to be done in earth," we are praying for practical sanctification or holiness. We are praying that God's moral will would be done on earth.
When we come before the Lord and pray, "Cause your will to be done in the earth, as it is in heaven," it should first and foremost be a personal prayer. If God's will is not being done in our lives, why would we ask Him to do it in someone else's?
Since God has revealed His moral will to us in the Bible, how can we pray that His will be done and be ignorant of His Word? It is by the Word of God that His will is revealed unto us. It is by the Word, and the Holy Spirit applying, enlightening, and opening the Word that His will is revealed. So we are asking that our walk, and our will might be brought into obedience to His Word.
It is so important that we read and meditate upon the Word of God. It contains such fullness that we can meditate on it day and night, and there are still depths and a newness revealed unto us of the will of God. How can we come before the Lord and say, "Cause your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven," if we neglect studying the Bible that has been given to us to reveal His will?
As we read and study the Bible, we learn what God's moral will is, and as we do, we should be praying, "Cause your will to be done in earth, as it is in heaven." This is a prayer for power and strength that we might live out God's will in our day to day lives.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
What "will" is that talking about? Is it God's sovereign will that people be thankful? Obviously not, not many people are. But it is His moral will for all believers.
God's sovereign, secret will will be done, but we are to regulate our lives by His revealed will:
Deuteronomy 29:29 (NKJV) "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
How can we pray, "Cause your will to be done in earth, as it is in heaven," if we are not willing to walk in righteousness and godliness? God wills that we:
Philippians 2:4-7 (NKJV) Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
The will of the Father is that we walk in the footsteps of Christ, that we be others oriented, that we love our brothers and sisters..
It is God's moral will that we live a sanctified life:
Ephesians 4:29-32 (NKJV) Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
When evil communications come out of our mouth, we are not doing God's will on the earth.
"Cause your will to be done in earth, as it is in heaven," directs our attention to angelic obedience. In other words, it points out how it is in heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven, and He is sitting as King. The angelic obedience is seen in their waiting upon God, and their anxiousness to glorify and magnify His name. The supreme desire of all heaven is to do the will of God.
The heart of true prayer is not, "Lord, do my will," but "Lord, prepare my heart's desire and strengthen me to do your will." So often we come before the Lord trying to tell Him what to do. True prayer is, "Your will be done." True prayer seeks to know what His will is so our hearts will truly come in the right place before the Lord. The true meditation of our heart is then directed to knowing the will of the Lord, that we may walk in the ways that are pleasing unto Him.
We need to realize that if we are praying that God's will be done on earth, we are committing ourselves to two important responsibilities. First of all, we are committing ourselves to learning all we can about his will. That means time spent in His Word.
Secondly, if my desire is that God's will be done, then praying this prayer is also my pledge that so help me God, by his grace I will do his will, as much as I know it!
Every time we pray for others to turn from sin, we are praying, "Cause your will to be done". When I pray that Tom or Catherine would forsake their immoral lifestyle and return to a life of fellowship with God, I am, in effect, asking God to cause his moral will to be done in their lives.
Let me show you a great description of a Christian who is living in fellowship with God. These eight words sum up God's moral will for all believers:
Ephesians 6:6 (NKJV) not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
This is what life is all about. We are to be "doing the will of God from the heart." God created us, He is the author of life, and if we are ever going to live life to the fullest, it will be by living in the will of God. Does that make sense?
I think that "doing the will of God from the heart" involves two things: 1.actively obeying God's moral will, 2. passively submitting to His sovereign will - the circumstances that God brings into your life.
God's moral will is revealed in the Scriptures. And we don't have to ask, "What is God's will?". We know His moral will. For example, Jesus tells us that we are to love God and love our neighbor. Our response to God's moral will is obedience. Now, we all struggle with selfishness, so it is often hard to love God and our neighbor. As hard as obedience can be, I think that believers have a greater problem with God's sovereign will than His moral will. We are to obey God's moral will as revealed in the Scriptures, but we are also to submit to God's sovereign will of providence.
Now let's be honest, when circumstances don't go the way we want them to, the way we've planned, we usually get upset. Would you say that that was true? If we believe that God controls every event in time, if we believe that nothing happens apart from His sovereign plan, then why do circumstances upset us? The answer to that question is this: we get upset by circumstances because our will conflicts with God's will. We don't like God's plan. We want it our way. Listen, believer, it is not only important that we live in obedience to God's moral will, it is also important that we live in submission to his providential will.
What ever it is that we are going through, we may be sure that our Father has a loving purpose in it. We need to learn to submit to God's providential will even when we don't understand.
Let me show you a biblical illustration of a man who submitted to God's will of providence even when it meant great pain to him. Eli was the high priest of Israel. In 1 Samuel 3, we learn how God revealed to the young child, Samuel, that He was about to kill Eli's two sons for their sinfulness. The next day Samuel communicates this message to the aged priest. It is difficult to conceive of a more painful message for a parent to receive. The message that his children are going to be suddenly killed, under any circumstances, would be a great trial for any father. Yet, this was the message to Eli. What was his response when he received these tragic words from Samuel? What did he say when he heard the awful news?
1 Samuel 3:18 (NKJV) Then Samuel told him everything, and hid nothing from him. And he said, "It is the LORD. Let Him do what seems good to Him."
Believers, that is submission! He knew God, and he trusted God. He didn't argue with him or try to talk God out of his plan. He simply bowed to God's sovereign will in humble trust. When is the last time things went contrary to what you wanted, and you said, "It is the Lord, let Him do what seems good to Him"?
Our desires are often different than God's will for us, but if we really love God, we must humbly submit to His will. Look at Jesus' attitude as he prays that his circumstance may be different:
Luke 22:41-42 (NKJV) And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."
Jesus is saying, "I don't want to go to the cross. Is there any other way to save the world?" He knows that Judas is on his way with the chief priests and elders to arrest Him. He knows that He'll be mocked, insulted, spit upon, scourged, killed. More, He knows that the wrath of holy God will fall upon Him.
Note that little word "cup". "Father," he says in His prayer of verse 42, "if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me." The word "cup" contains very graphic Old Testament imagery:
Psalms 11:6 (NKJV) Upon the wicked He will rain coals; Fire and brimstone and a burning wind Shall be the portion of their cup.
The cup was the symbol of God's wrath. Whoever had to drink that cup had to confront the wrath of the Most High. That wrath of God was nothing to blink at, and therefore, the cup was no small thing, either.
But notice Jesus' attitude, "Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." Jesus wanted it different, but he humbly submits to God's will. How often do we pray, "Father, take this circumstance from me"? It's probably not too often that we pray, "Nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done."
Believers, We are to be "doing the will of God from the heart." This involves living obedient lives according to God's moral will and having a submissive attitude to God's sovereign will.
Let's pray that God would cause His will to be done on earth, and let's pray that he would start in our lives.
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