We now come to our time to look at the Word of God together, and I encourage you to open your Bible to the 11th chapter of Luke, Luke chapter 11. We are looking at the life and ministry and teaching of Jesus as recorded by the historian Luke. It is a fascinating, fascinating account that he gives. And we find Jesus in the last months of His ministry and His life headed toward the cross. He is in Judea. He is teaching His disciples how to pray. Luke 11, verses 1 through 4.
Now it is in this passage that the New Testament gives us for the second time what is known as the Lord's Prayer, or the Disciples' Prayer. The accounting of it here is different from the first account which is found in Matthew chapter 6 verses 9 through 13. That is a more complete account of this prayer our Lord gave to us. It happened many months earlier, on a completely different occasion in Galilee that Jesus gave that original instruction on prayer. This, again many months later, in a different place in Judea under different circumstances and yet Jesus repeats essentially the same principles for prayer. Combining these two together...Of course, Matthew's is the more full account, and in fact we're going to find ourselves today looking at an element of this prayer that Jesus did not give here in Luke 11, but we draw it from Matthew 6. It was many, many years ago we went through Matthew. Many of you were not here. Those who were can't remember a thing I said about it anyway. We don't want to pass this prayer without inserting in it elements from Matthew's account so we get the full text.
Verse 1 of Luke 11 gives us the setting. "It came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.'" Jesus prayed regularly, prayed constantly to the Father. And He prayed very differently than anything these Jewish people had ever heard. He prayed differently than the scribes and the Pharisees, the rabbis and the lawyers, the law experts. He prayed differently than the Sadducees. He prayed differently than the common people who took their instruction from the leaders of Judaism. They prayed repetitious prayers, vain, empty, repetitious prayers, ceremonial prayers, ritual prayers and Jesus didn't pray that way at all. And so on this occasion one of the followers of Jesus, recognizing after having heard Jesus pray that he didn't know how to pray like that, and neither did the rest, said to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray." John the Baptist had to teach his disciples to pray because in this apostate form of Judaism which has deviated from the teaching of the Old Testament so far, none of us really have been taught properly how to pray. John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray, and won't You teach us to pray? So here again the Lord rehearses the essential principles of prayer.
This isn't just a prayer to pray or a prayer to sing, although it is often prayed and often sung and that's fine. It is rather a framework for prayer. It is a way to pray. It is a method for prayer. It is a skeleton for prayer. It is a pattern for prayer. It is a model for prayer. It is how we should pray all the time, working our way through these great truths. He said to them, "When you pray say, Father," or as Matthew puts it, "Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come." And in Matthew's prayer we would read here, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And then, "Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us, and lead us not into temptation," and Matthew's prayer adds, "And deliver us from evil for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen." Those are the components that should make up every prayer, not just this prayer as if it were a formula to be prayed, or something to repeat, which Jesus had just condemned in the passage in Matthew 6. But rather, this is a way to pray.
Before we look specifically at the phrase which isn't in Luke, and if you want to look at it, you'll have to turn in your Bible to Matthew 6:10 because it's there we find the phrase, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Before we look at that phrase particularly, let me just say, of all the profound and rich realities that our Lord taught His beloved disciples, of all of the great gifts that have been given by God to us through Scripture, no greater gift exists to the believer than the opportunity to pray because prayer for us is the access we have into the communion of God. It's access into His fellowship. It's access to His power, to His strength, to His wisdom, to His knowledge, to all the necessary spiritual resources. It's really the key that unlocks the treasure house of heaven. We have nothing greater than the gift of prayer. Access, the way is open, the veil is ripped from top to bottom. The Holy of Holies is open. We come boldly before the throne of grace to seek whatever we need in time of trouble.
Matthew 7:7 tells us about prayer. Here's what Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it will be open to you." James adds, “You have not because you ask not. Or you ask amiss to consume it on your own lusts.” That's the wrong approach.
In John 15 verse 16 Jesus said, "Whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give you." In John 16:24 Jesus said, "Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full." In Matthew 21:22 Jesus said, "Whatever things you ask in prayer believing, you will receive." And then that verse that we've sort of used as our key verse, John 14:13, "Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do that the Father may be glorified in the Son." If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. There is no greater gift than that. Ask anything, believing in My name, of the Father and if it brings glory to Him, you'll receive it; marvelous promise, incredible. We certainly don't deserve the meagerest salvation. We understand the prodigal's attitude, who goes home in the story of Luke 15 and says to his father, "Just make me a slave, I...I don't deserve anything." And the father says, "Forget that, get a gold ring and put it on his finger, get me the finest robe, slay the fatted calf, call everybody together. We're going to have a party like none has ever been held." This is the lavishness of God. And it essentially is what given to us in prayer. The model prayer that our Lord gives us is a way to access everything we could ever need to the glory of God and to our spiritual benefit because it glorifies Him to bring spiritual blessing to His own. Everything we could ever need is accessible to us.
And the question of all questions then is, "Lord, teach us to pray. How do we put the key in the lock and open it up?" Well we know one thing, it isn't by vain repetition. It isn't by endless ritual ceremonial prayers. How are we to pray? And here is the instruction. And at the heart of this instruction is a focus on God and we've been saying that. "Father," looks at God as our source. "Hallowed be Thy name" looks at God as sacred or holy. "Thy kingdom come" looks at God as sovereign. "Thy will be done," God as superior, Lord and Master. "Give us our daily bread," God as supporter. "Forgive our sin," God as Savior. "Lead us not into temptation," God as shelter. "Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever, amen," God as supreme. It's really about God. It isn't so much that we're trying to line up God with our agenda as we're endeavoring in our prayers to line up our lives with Him. When we understand the supremacy of God in praying, we have touched the blessed richness of true prayer.
We have seen God as source, our Father. We've seen God as sacred, hallowed be Thy name. We've talked about God as sovereign, Thy kingdom come. And this morning we're going to look at God as superior, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And as I said, it's not in Luke. You find it in Matthew 6:10. When we pray we always begin with the acknowledging of the holiness of God, the acknowledging of the kingdom of God, that is to say His eternal purposes, and the acknowledging of the will of God. Beyond the hallowing of His person, beyond the honoring of His program comes this concern for His will to be done. A believer who comes to prayer comes to God with a holy passion and his passion is not about his own agenda. It's for the holy glory of God. It's for the advancement of the kingdom of salvation and the realization and manifestation of God's will. To put it simply, we want the will of God, which is always done in heaven to be done in earth; to be done in earth to whatever extent heaven can be brought down. That's our prayer. God's will is always done in heaven, perfectly, fully, immediately, completely. And we pray, longing that that would happen here. This petition indicates a heart that seeks God's glory; that wants what God wants. It's not personal. It's rather an expression of worship.
And the best example of this I know is Jesus Himself. In John 4:34 He said, "My food is to do the will of Him that sent Me." My food, My...My nourishment, My delight, My daily necessity, My joy, My sustenance, where I draw My life is from the will of Him that sent Me. That's all that Jesus ever wanted. He said, "I only speak what the Father tells Me to speak, I only do what the Father tells Me to do." In John 6:38 He further said, "I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me." And the more Christ-like you are, the more consumed you are with God's will. The more you grow in grace, the more you grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, the more you become identified with Christ, the more Christ-like you are, the more lost you are in the pursuit of the will of God and the less your own will matters, other than that it should be aligned perfectly with His. In fact, Jesus went on to say in Mark 3:35, "Whoever does the will of My Father, the same is My mother and sister and brother." What He was saying is the people who are truly related to Me are the people who are concerned with the will of God, with the will of God. This is characteristic of a true believer. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I want Your holiness, Your kingdom, Your will to be supreme. The statement is simple. It could be paraphrased like this. Your will... This is more closely to the Greek arrangement. Your will, let it come, let it come. In the vernacular, let it happen in my world as it happens in Your world. This is the passion of the true believer. This is the one who loves the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, with all his strength, cares little for his own will because he is engaged in a constant pursuit of self-denial. Back again to that marvelous definitive text of Luke 9:23, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself." We are consumed not with our own will but with the will of God. Jesus Himself lived for that, prayed for that. It was His constant perspective. It was there in the garden where He was saying from the agony of anticipating the separation from the Father, "Oh God let...Oh Father God, let this cup, this cup of wrath pass from Me. Nevertheless not My will but Thine be done," Matthew 26:42. That's basic to prayer. Our communion is centered on the will of God, not ours. We want God to do His will.
Now we know ultimately in the big scheme of things, God will arrange everything that happens in the world ultimately to His will. All things will ultimately resolve in His eternal purpose which was established before the world began. We're not talking about that grand, overarching, eternal purpose of God. Everything ultimately that God desires will be achieved, but along the way in all the specifics and the circumstances in this created realm, not everything is God's will. In fact, most of what happens in this fallen world is contrary to His will. But our cry is that He would be honored, that His kingdom would be advanced, and His will would be done here the way it's done there. That's part of our heavenly preoccupation. That's part of what it means to set your affections on things above and not on things on the earth. That's part of what it means to understand that you're a pilgrim and an alien here and your real home is heaven. When you are passionate about heaven and about heaven's agenda and heaven's glory you're going to want to see heaven here as much as possible.
Now I don't want you to get me wrong about this, so let me just say a few things about how this is easily misunderstood. There are many people who when they think of "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," find themselves in an attitude of what I'll call bitter resentment, bitter resentment. This prayer can take on a tone to some people to say, "Well, I can't escape from the inevitable so Your will be done. Do whatever You're going to do, You're God, You're on the throne, You're going to do what You want to do. I don't like it but I certainly really have no input. Your will be done." So you may say, "Your will be done," not because you want to say it but because you simply think there's nothing else to say. You've accepted the fact that God is too strong for you and that it's useless to batter your head against the walls of His sovereignty and you get angry about it. There are people who are angry at God, who take a fatalistic, deterministic view of God, that God is going to do what He's going to do and there's no sense in fighting it. Omar Khayyam was such a person, the poet, he wrote, speaking of God as if God was the master of a chess board, he said, "But helpless pieces of the game He plays upon this checkerboard of nights and days, hither and thither moves and checks and slays and one by one back in the closet lays." A rather dramatic picture of God doing whatever He wants with the inanimate pieces on the chess board; that's a fatalistic, deterministic view and Khayyam was bitter about it. Life was somewhat the same for Beethoven. It was a sad thing from the human perspective that one whose very soul was music should become completely deaf. But Beethoven did. And when they found him dead, it is said that his fists were clenched and some who knew him said, "It was a posture which he took as if he would strike God." "And his lips were drawn back," writes one, "in a snarl as if to spit his defiance and his bitterness at the God who made him deaf." There are people who approach life like that; who see the will of God as some unassailable granite block and it angers them. That's not the right approach to saying "Thy will be done."
There's a second way in which this can be misunderstood, not only by bitter resentment but by passive resignation. There are those people who don't get angry about it, they just give up. They will just admit defeat. "OK, if it's going to be like this, I...I...I give, I'm not going to fight you." Julian was the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire who tried to reverse the decision of Constantine. You remember back in the fourth century, Constantine had determined that the whole of the Roman Empire would become Christian and he established Christianity as the only religion and anybody who fought against that was persecuted. Julian came along and he wanted to reverse that. He tried to introduce again the worship and service and ceremonies of the ancient deities and bring back pagan, Greek worship. In the end, Julian was wounded mortally in a battle in the east and the historian tells us that when he lay bleeding to death, he reached to his chest and took a handful of his own blood and threw it in the air and said, "You have conquered, oh man of Galilee." Lying bloody and in the midst of death he gave up, accepting defeat from the One he had tried to conquer because there was nothing else he could do.
There are people who look at the will of God as something that you can try to fight against but in the end you're going to lose. And so they go through life with a kind of gray acceptance, a kind of resignation, a kind of weary, tired, listless, defeated resignation that what's going to happen is going to happen. This perspective is very often manifest among Christian people, very often manifest in the church among us. People who pray very little because they really don't think it matters, they don't really pray with the assurance that their prayers have an impact. They're not necessarily mad about it, they're not bitter about it. They just don't think it really is important. Nothing is likely to happen anyway, why bother? They go through the motions because it's their duty to do that but they don't have that ongoing, passionate heart that cries out all the time to God because it believes that the effectual, fervent, prayer of a righteous man avails much.
This is nothing new. In the early church, Peter was in prison. It was in the city of Jerusalem. He had been in prison once and released and now he's back in prison. This time they were going to kill him. James had already been executed, the brother of John, and there was every reason to believe Peter would be next. Herod Antipas was the reigning king of Israel and he hated the preachers of the gospel, the apostles. The Christians, understanding this, called a prayer meeting. I want to take you to that prayer meeting. Go to Acts chapter 12. This gives us an insight that I think is remarkable.
Acts chapter 12, let's go to the prayer meeting for Peter. Peter doesn't know the prayer meeting is happening. He's in prison, he's about to be executed. The Christians gather to pray. They gather at the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark and they're very visibly engaged in prayer. Verse 4 says that Peter had been seized, put in prison, delivered to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people and, of course, with a view to killing him. Verse 5: "So Peter was kept in the prison but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God." Now watch what happened in response to the prayer. "And on the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward,” take him out before the crowd and take his life, “Peter was sleeping” no anxiety, apparently, “between two soldiers bound with two chains, took him with four squads." They didn't just put him in a cell, they chained him to two men. This is the maximum security approach and they set guards in front of the door watching over the prisoner. "And behold,” verse 7 says, “an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell and he struck Peter's side and roused him saying, 'Get up quickly,' and his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, 'Gird yourself and put on your sandals.'" Put your belt on, which they used to tie up their loose robe. Put on your sandals. "And he did so and he said to him, 'Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.'" In the vernacular, "We're out of here."
And he went out and he continued to follow this angel. And he didn't know that what was being done by the angel was real. He thought he was seeing a vision. You know, this is one of those dreams that's so good you hope it's true but don't believe it is. He thought this had to be a dream or a vision. "And when they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself and they went out and went along one street and immediately the angel departed from him." Verse 11, "And when Peter came to himself, he said, 'Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all the Jewish people were expecting.'" It's incredible, isn't it? The angel just comes in and takes him out. "And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John who was also called Mark where many were gathered together and were praying." That was very obviously where the church gathered. So he went there. They’re inside, fervently praying for his release, and he shows up. And when he knocks at the door of the gate, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer and when she recognized Peter's voice, because of her joy, she didn't open the gate, she didn't let him in. She just turned and ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. And they said to her, "You are out of your mind." Now would you say they had a great confidence in answered prayer? I wouldn't say so, would you? Here they are praying fervently with zero expectation, going through the motions, and when exactly what they're praying for happens, they aren't even able to believe it. She kept insisting that it was so. So this goes on. She can't convince them and they kept saying, "Ah, it's his angel," which is harder to believe then that it's Peter. And they may have been sarcastically saying that. I mean, the idea that their prayer would be answered was just too bizarre.
And so Peter, meanwhile, verse 16, is banging on the door. And finally they open the door and they saw him. They were amazed. "But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison and he said, ‘Report these things to James and the brethren,' and he departed and went to another place."
Do you pray like that? Do you pray that God will do things that you have absolutely no faith He will do? We can't pray in this day for angelic deliverance, for miracles that were limited to the time of Christ and the apostles, we're not saying that. What we're talking about here is not the way in which God answers prayer in a given time and in a given season of His redemptive history. What we're talking about here is the typical, traditional, common attitude of those who pray without expecting an answer. This is passive resignation. We're in here praying fervently because we're supposed to but we don't want to expect God to do anything in response. This is unacceptable. This is absolutely unacceptable. Either bitter resentment against the will of God, which is inexorable in your mind, or passive resignation to the will of God are unacceptable.
Now there's a third wrong way to view this and we'll call this theological reservation, theological reservation. There are some people who are literally paralyzed in prayer because of their doctrine. You know, some would call them hyper-Calvinists. They've got such an over-the-top view of the sovereignty of God, what's to pray for? God is the chess master. God does move all the pieces. He is so absolutely sovereign that there's no room in their theology to plead, no room for passionate, intense prayer. They just accept the will of God because God is God and that's it. They're not particularly resentful about it and they're not particularly resigned to it, it's just the way it is. They're fatalistic and deterministic and they pride themselves on their great view of the sovereignty of God and the view is that God's going to do what He's going to do all the time, everywhere, with everyone so what's to pray for?
But let me have you look ahead to Luke 18, in case we never get there. This will be a little preview. Jesus was telling them a parable, telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray. You ought to pray at all times, and not to lose heart. What He means there is not to stop praying, not to become weary in your prayers or discouraged in your prayers or think your prayers don't matter, or resent God, or resign yourself, or let your theology shut your prayers down. You ought to pray all the time and never lose heart in prayer. And here's the story. "There was in a certain city a judge who didn't fear God and didn't respect man." I wonder what qualified him to be a judge. I can't think of anything worse. If you didn't respect God, the source of what is right, man who needs to be protected by the divine standard, what good would you be as a judge? Well this is the worst possible kind of judge. That's the whole point. He doesn't fear God. He doesn't respect man. He's the worst of the worst. There was a widow in that city. She kept coming to him. That is a widow because she has nobody to plead her case, no resource, no provision. And this widow comes to him in the story all the time asking for legal protection “from my opponent.” Somebody is adding insult to injury. She's already a destitute widow and whatever meager life she has, somebody is trying to destroy. She goes to the judge who is there to protect her against this crime that's being committed. And verse 4 says, "For a while he was unwilling." He didn't want to protect her, didn't want to help her. Why should he? He had no respect for men and he had no fear of God. But afterward he said to himself: "Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection lest by continually coming she wear me out."
Now this is the worst possible person. He's supposed to be a protector of those that are being offended. He's not. He's supposed to fear God and therefore uphold a righteous law. He's supposed to respect man and therefore defend the rights of those who are being harmed. He isn't going to do either. But this man, even this bad, even as low as he is, will finally cave in to somebody who just won't quit. He gets so sick and tired of this woman, she's wearing him out, and he caves in and gives her protection.
Now the Lord explains the parable in verse 6. “Hear what the unrighteous judge said.” If the worst of men would do that, because of this relentless pleading of a woman, “shall not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night and will He delay long over them?" If an unjust judge will finally cave in, what will the just judge of all the earth do in behalf of His own people? It's a contrast. It's a contrast. Verse 8: "I tell you, he will bring about justice for them speedily," justice, or righteousness, if you will. If you cry to God for what is righteous, He will bring it and bring it speedily. He's not like that reluctant judge at all. He's the very opposite of that. You can't just accept the way things are because of your theology or because you're weary and resigned, or because you're bitter and resentful. You can't do that. You still have to pray, "Your will be done," and with none of those attitudes.
You say, "Well what should be our attitude?" This may surprise you. It should be an attitude of rebellion. That's right. You heard the word, rebellion. You go to God saying, "Thy will be done," because you rebel against everything that is occurring that is not consistent with His will. This is praying with a certain kind of holy indignation. David Wells has an excellent statement on the nature of petitionary prayer. This is what he writes. "What then is the nature of this prayer? It is in essence rebellion. Rebellion against the world and its fallenness, the absolute and undying refusal to accept as normal what is pervasively abnormal; the refusal of every agenda, every scheme, every interpretation that is at odds with the divine norm as originally established by God." He writes, "As such it is in itself an expression of the unbridgeable chasm that separates good from evil; the declaration that evil is not a variation on good but its antithesis."
In other words, we are saying, "Oh God, we know that everything in heaven is done according to Your will. Everything here is not and we would pray that it would be." You can never accept life as it is. You can never accept your circumstances as they are. You can never accept your sin the way it is. If you've done that, that is not a Christian view of God or life. Nothing will destroy your passion and prayer as quickly as a warped anger, as a defeated attitude, or as an aberrant theology.
Go back to verse 1. “He was telling them this parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart.” Why? God, verse 7, “will bring about righteousness for His elect who cry to Him day and night. He will not delay long over them. He will bring justice for them swiftly,” swiftly. That's how Jesus prayed. Matthew chapter 26; turn to it for just a moment. Matthew 26, I mentioned it earlier. He said in verse 39, "My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from Me." He hated the sin-bearing. He hated the sin. He hated the idea of being handed over, as it were, to death. He rebelled against sin. He rebelled against sin-bearing in His holy nature. "Let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will but as Thou wilt." Verse 40, "He came to the disciples, found them sleeping and said to Peter, 'So, you men could not keep watch with me for one hour." Fell asleep. Verse 41, "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." He's saying to them, "If you don't pray, you're going to enter into a temptation that will defeat you." And then He went back, verse 42, a second time and kept praying, “’Father, if this can't pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done.' And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again and went away and prayed a third time saying the same thing once more. And then He came to His disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?'"
And you know what happened. They came to the hour of temptation and they fled. And Peter denied Him three times, unprepared for the trial. Jesus prayed constantly. Jesus... He prayed during the night before He selected the twelve. He prayed at night to ready His heart for the pressing crowds of people with all their needs that He'd see in the morning. He prayed at all the great crises of His life, His baptism, His transfiguration, and the cross. Prayer preceded and accompanied His temptation in the wilderness by Satan and His agonizing struggle in the garden. He prayed, they slept; He triumphed, they were defeated. He fought against evil. He fought against darkness in His prayers and always His prayer was, "Your will be done, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," never resigned to the status quo, never resigned to the evil that exists. To pray "Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven," dear ones, is to wake up and stop sleeping, fainting, or losing heart. It is to act as if there is a war because there is one. It's not about, "Fix my little world and give me what I want," it's about God, "Bring Your glory to earth, bring Your kingdom to earth, do Your will here." And you pray that because you believe it will make a difference because He says it will. "The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man does avail much." And when you do not pray like that, you have struck a truce with evil. We've lost our anger. We've lost our rebellion. We've lost our indignation. We've... We've come to be comfortable with the world and we are settled over the wickedness that reigns supreme.
I find it so hard to get to that point. I'm glad. I usually live with a measure of anger. I was doing some talking with Phil Johnson because I'm doing a book on leadership and one of the things he was asking me about is anger. And he asked me if I'm angry. And I tend not to be an angry person. I think my dear wife would support that. But there is a category of my life in which there's always a simmering anger and it is against that which brings reproach on the name of God, or the glory of Christ, or besmirches His church or His precious Word. So, there is always that simmering indignation that drives me to minister and drives me to cry out to God like the saints under the altar, "How long, oh Lord, how long, oh Lord? How long are You going to tolerate this? Bring heaven down." We cannot strike a truce with what is wrong in the world.
Now does this mean that we pray passionately to God, expecting that He's going to give us everything we want just the way we want it and deliver us out of all trouble? No, He's going to teach us how to triumph in trouble and how to be perfected through trouble so there's paradox in it, isn't there? It's enigmatic. Paul prayed three times for a thorn in the flesh to be removed and three times God said no. Why did God bring that thorn in the flesh, that terrible, distressing situation? Because, it says there in 2 Corinthians 12, "To keep me from exalting myself." God was using it to humble him. That's why 1 Peter 5:10 says, "After you've suffered a while, the Lord will make you perfect." If you're praying for the will of God, you can't expect that you can also pray to be delivered from all trouble because if the will of God is for your spiritual perfection, it requires a measure of trouble, OK? So there's paradox in this.
But we do cry against the evils of the world. We cry against what's wrong. We cry against sin. We cry against sorrow and weakness and trouble. We pour out our hearts to God over the troubles, the problems, the powerlessness, the lack of love, the misunderstanding, the unrighteousness, the injustice, the dishonesty, the evil speaking, every other sin and product of sin. We plead for righteousness to prevail, for justice to prevail. We plead for the kingdom to come, the name of God to be honored, His will to be done. And then we say, "Whatever needs to happen in my life to achieve that, oh God, bring it and bring it now." But it's paradoxical. You pray the will of God and it isn't going to be necessarily that God's going to relieve all your problems.
I love to read about the covenanters, the Scottish covenanters. They fought the English Catholic system. England was ruled by the Catholics in the days of the covenanters and they came up to Scotland and wanted to pull Scotland in, but the Scottish were committed to the Reformation doctrine. They were Reformed believers. And so they would not succumb to the Catholic pressure from England. And so they came up and they began to persecute and even to kill the preachers of the gospel in Scotland. Scottish people made a covenant and they literally signed it nationally which affirmed the true gospel faith. And that, of course, escalated the persecution. Reading about the covenant is fascinating material. They were driven out of their churches. Their churches were abandoned and the people met in the moors and the meadows in the cold and the rain in Scotland to worship and hear the preaching of the Word of God. They did it for decades. And the English were always looking for the covenanters. One of their leading preachers, a favorite of mine, was a man named Richard Cameron, a remarkable and preeminently gifted man, maybe one of the most famous of all the covenanters. What they would do to these covenanters if they couldn't find them was find somebody they loved and do some terrible thing to them. And they happened to find his son. They couldn't find him but they got his son. His son, according to the biographer, had notably beautiful and deft hands which they cut off and sent to the father in a box in an amazing act of cruelty. And when whoever had those was able to get them to Richard Cameron, his biographer says he recognized them at once, quote: "They are my son's,” he said, “my own dear son's. But it is the Lord's will and good is the will of the Lord. He has never wronged me." That's the enigma of it, isn't it? That's the paradox of it, that God knew it was better for that faithful servant to endure the suffering of the pain of the loss of the hands of his son, who by the way was killed, the loss of the life of his son, for his own spiritual advantage and therefore to the glory of God.
We pray then, whatever it might be, whatever it might be, "Thy will be done." You remember in the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? And what did they say to the king's men? "Our God will deliver us," Daniel 3, "and if He doesn't” that's OK, too. “We still aren't bowing down to you.” If He wills, we will survive on earth. If He doesn't, we'll survive in heaven. God brings these purging, pruning, purifying trials and still we say, "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." And whatever needs to happen in my life; let it happen to make me what I need to be, to hallow Your name, advance Your kingdom and do Your will.
Father, as this fills our minds, may it occupy our prayers. These things we ask in Your Son's name. Amen.
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