And he said to them, When you pray, say, Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done…
You learn here what it is that makes heaven to be heaven. It is that God's will is done there — perfectly, always, in everything. That is what makes heaven. It makes heaven anywhere, everywhere. It brings heaven into a heart. It brings heaven into a home. It brings heaven into a street, or city, or land. If universal, it would make it to be heaven all the world over. When Garibaldi, the hero of Italy, entered on his career of conquest, ore rather I should say, of emancipation, many parts of Italy were groaning under oppression and tyranny; the prisons were crowded; justice was not to be had; liberty there was none. Ignorance and crime and misery was everywhere to be met with. As he advanced, throwing open the prison doors, giving the people freedom, leaving the way clear for all good influences being brought to bear on them, you might have asked, What makes the difference between one town or province and another lying close beside it, where no such changes had taken place? And you might have been told in answer, "The will of the Liberator, or of his royal Master, is done here!" And the same explains the difference between one heart and another, between the happy and good, and the evil and wretched among men; they are the one or the other, just according as the will of God is done among them, or not.
I. A GREAT AUTHORITY — the will of God: "Thy will." If a master and a servant give opposite orders, I do not hesitate to obey the master; and if I am asked the reason, I say, He is my authority. At the mills, or any public works, if a foreman were giving certain orders, the workman or mill-girl might point to the printed regulations, signed by the manager, and having the seal of the company attached, and say, "That is my authority, which I may not disregard." If a railway servant were asked or bribed to do something that was a violation of rule, he would pull his instructions out of his pocket, and having first pointed to the paragraph that forbade him, he would put his finger on the signature of the manager, and say, "That is my authority; I dare not." Now, I wish you were just as particular in the respect you pay to the authority of God as the mill-worker or railway-man is in his regard to the authority of his manager, deciding everything by the will of God.
1. The will of God is above that of magistrates and kings.
2. The will of God is above that of masters and mistresses.
3. The will of God is above that of parents.
4. The will of God is above our own will.
II. A HARD LESSON — submission to the will of God: "Thy will be done." I have heard of a lady who, on being visited by a friend, said: "I was just trying to learn the Lord's prayer as you came in." "What," said her friend, "have you never learned the Lord's prayer?" "No," was the reply; "I have just got the length of the third petition, and I find it hard to learn: I cannot say yet, 'Thy will be done!'" It is called, "that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." The hardness lies in us — in our being so sinful and depraved, so ignorant and self-willed. If you were to take a straight rule, wouldn't you find it a hard thing to get a tree that had grown crooked and gnarled to lie alongside of it, so as just to answer to it? Luther got so far as to say, it was not, "Thy will be done," but "My will be done," so much had Goal's will become his. There is a godly woman sick unto death. She is asked whether she would live or die. "Which God pleaseth," is her reply. "But if God should refer it to you, which should you choose?" "Truly if God should refer it to me, I should even refer it to Him again." See that deaf and dumb boy. As the school where he is is being examined, the question is written on a slate, "Why were you born deaf and dumb, while I can hear and speak?" "Never," says the narrator, "shall I forget the look of holy resignation and chastened sorrow which sat on his countenance as he took up the chalk and wrote, "Even so, Father, for so it hath seemed good in Thy sight." There is a Christian officer, well up in years, with an only and beloved son. During a siege, they are sitting together in their tent, when a shot carries off the son's head. What shall the father do? "He immediately arose, first looked down on his headless son, and then, lifting up his eyes to heaven, while the tears rolled down his cheeks, said, 'Thy will be done!'" Faith in God alone can bring us to this. Sight and sense will not suffice. There is a merchant travelling with a considerable amount of money, overtaken by a heavy rain and thoroughly drenched. He is inclined to murmur, and upbraid Him who sent it; but just as he comes to a wood, he gets other thoughts to occupy him, for a robber lies awaiting him, and the next moment the muzzle of a gun is pointed at him, the trigger is drawn, its click is heard, but the gun will not go off, for the rain has drenched the powder; and putting spurs to his horse, the traveller gets back in safety to his wife and family. The rain that he so grumbled at was the means of saving him. How this is to be got at — this submission — I cannot tell better than in the words of one who had his full share of trouble, but was never heard to repine: "I can teach you my secret with great facility; it consists in nothing more than making a right use of my eyes. In whatever state I am, I first of all look up to heaven, and remember that my principal business is to get there; I then look down upon the earth, and call to mind how small a place I shall occupy in it; I then look abroad into the world, and observe what multitudes there are who are in all respects more unhappy than myself. Then I learn where true happiness is placed, where all our cares must end, and what little reason I have to repine or complain."
III. A HOLY PRAYER — that God's will may everywhere be supreme: "Thy will be done on earth," &c. Our last remark had reference more especially to the providence of God, this to the commands of God. The one spoke of submission, the other speaks of obedience. For, notice, the prayer is, that the will of the Lord may be done. He has a work and a will to be done, and we and others must be the doers. And then notice, it is "on earth." Many are willing that God's will should be done in heaven, not on earth. "We shall do His will when we get there." Nay, but in earth as in heaven. How can that be? Chiefly in the spirit of it. And how do they serve in heaven? The Word gives us glimpses, from which we may gather —
1. That they do the will of God promptly. There is nothing of doubt or uncertainty — nothing of hesitation, or hanging back, or deferring.
2. They do it cheerfully.
3. They do it with all their might. Oh, what a waste of power there is on earth.
4. They do it always, constantly, unweariedly. "They serve Him day and night in His temple."
5. All do it. "Are they not all ministering spirits? "Like the different threads in a loom, all combine to make up the fair fabric with its leaves and flowers, so delicate in colour, and elegant in form, that delights the eye of the onlooker.
(J. H. Wilson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.