No one likes to think they are under authority. We live in a world where we are constantly told that we are free. That we can do what we want if we put in the effort. That we control our own destiny. That the decisions we make are ours, and we are free to make them. This is certainly part of the cultural milieu of Western society. Although it is somewhat ironic to say this during 2020, the year of the global pandemic, particularly when living in Melbourne. In the last few months we’ve all come to realise that we aren’t in control of much, and whatever we thought we were in control of we probably never have been.
As Jesus teaches his disciples about prayer in Matthew 6:9-13, as he outlines a prayer to pray, we come across this phrase, “Your will be done”. And in essence, this is a phrase that is about giving up control and sitting under the authority of God.
There are certain prayers that are dangerous. Perhaps all prayer is dangerous, because the act of prayer is an act of giving up control and authority itself. But prayers can be dangerous because they can change us and they can change the world. And when we come to God in prayer, expressly saying to him ‘your will be done’, then we are praying a dangerous prayer for at least three reasons.
First, we are acknowledging his power and sovereignty over all.
Through the act of prayer we are acknowledging that God is greater. In prayer we lift our praise and requests to God, and we come to him because he is God and we are not. He is the one with all power and wisdom to rule the world. He is the one who has created this world and given everything in it life. He is the one who is all-knowing of past, present, and future. And so we come to God in prayer as beings who rely on his power and sovereign rule, to act in our lives and in the lives of people we know.
“The sovereignty of God is the fact that he is the Lord over creation; as sovereign, he exercises his rule. This rule is exercised through God’s authority as king, his control over all things, and his presence with his covenantal people and throughout his creation…Because God is tri-personal, however, his sovereign control is not impersonal or mechanical, but is the loving and gracious oversight of the king of creation and redemption.”
And this is the God we pray to. This is the God we are able to come to in times of need and hardship or in joy and happiness. And so when we come to him in prayer this is the God we bow down to and to whom we acknowledge our need.
Second, we are acknowledging that we need help and lack control.
In prayer we are doing the exact opposite to what we like to believe, that we are in control. In prayer we are acknowledging that we need help, that we can’t do it all by ourselves. Sure, we can do a lot by ourselves, and we can become very successful at life and work and relationships by doing it all ourselves. But in the end, we know there is little that we do actually control.
There is little that we can do when we are sick will severe illness, there is little we can do when a global pandemic hits, there is little we can do when our employer tells us it’s time to move on, there is little we can do when supposed friends no longer wish to be friends, there is little we can do when a child is diagnosed with cancer, or when a friend loses their spouse suddenly.
There is little one can do.
And so prayer becomes dangerous because it is the realisation that we have so little we can control. Yet having little control is not something to be afraid of, rather we pray to a God who is in control and knows what he is doing. So despite not being in control we can still have peace and a sense of assurance. With the Psalmist we can affirm, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears”. (Psalm 34:4)
Third, we are acknowledging that we wish to do what God wants rather than what we want.
And maybe this is where the prayer-rubber hits the roads. When we come to God in prayer we are handing over our own wants and needs and being open to have God have his way.
Think about the phrase, ‘your will be done’. This is affirming to God that we want him to rule and have authority in our lives and in what we do. It isn’t about our own will and desires and wants–it is about God’s.
Often this is taken out of our hands, as I have alluded to above. But at other times we may need to make a decision that requires going against the grain. It might be making a stand of conviction, a choice about the future, or making the call to stay or leave. As Jesus teaches his disciples this Lord’s Prayer we realise that it isn’t some nice, wafty, feel-good prayer that will wash over us and then we will be on our way. No, it means that we affirm truths about God and hand over our lives to him.
Another way of putting this may be thinking about the cost of prayer. We know that there is a cost in becoming a disciples of Jesus, to hand the Lordship of our lives over to him. In the same way, through prayer we are handing over our prayers and our wills to him and asking him to guide us.
I wonder, for God’s will to be done in your life right now, what is it you need to hand over to him?
This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following: