The Third Petition

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Day 5 | The Lord’s Prayer

Welcome to St Johns Papatoetoe Studies. During Holy Week, we are examining portions of our confession relating to the Lord’s Prayer. This connects us to an historic faith rooted in the word of God.

We continue the study with the following question:

What do we pray for in the Third Petition?

In the Second Petition (which is, Thy kingdom come,) acknowledging ourselves and all mankind to be by nature under the dominion of sin and Satan, we pray, that the kingdom of sin and Satan may bIn the Third Petition, (which is, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,) acknowledging, that by nature we and all men are not only utterly unable and unwilling to know and do the will of God, but prone to rebel against His Word, to repine and murmur against His providence, and wholly inclined to do the will of the flesh, and of the devil: we pray, that God would by His Spirit take away from ourselves and others all blindness, weakness, indisposedness, and perverseness of heart; and by His grace make us able and willing to know, do, and submit to His will in all things, with the like humility, cheerfulness, faithfulness, diligence, zeal, sincerity, and constancy, as the angels do in heaven. The Larger Catechism (1648), 192

The Third Petition of The Lord’s Prayer are the words: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” By now, you have noticed the language is nearly 400 years and yet relevant today. There is no doubt that God’s will is the obvious theme in this Petition. The Reformers noted 3 specific actions we are praying for:

  1. That we renounce our own will.
  2. That we obey God’s will.
  3. That we serve as heaven’s angels.

So, let us now go back through the statement and review these actions one at a time.

Action #1 – Renounce Own Will

acknowledging, that by nature we and all men are not only utterly unable and unwilling to know and do the will of God, but prone to rebel against His Word, to repine and murmur against His providence, and wholly inclined to do the will of the flesh, and of the devil:

The doctrine of Total Depravity once more shines through in its language: “utterly unable”; “unwilling to know” the will of God (Job 21:14). Unwilling to “do the will of God.” Language offensive to do-gooders and believers in humanity’s divinity. Yet this is the language of scripture itself:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Romans 7:18

Scripture very clearly teaches that without regeneration, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14).

Persons concerned about the offence of God’s language to their ears and way of being do not consider the hostility of their words and actions to God’s law of love. (Romans 8:7). Our rebellious nature (Ephesians 2:2) must be renounced for God’s will to be done in our lives.

Action #2 – Obey God’s Will

When we pray, “Thy will be done”, we are renouncing our own will and requesting help to obey God’s will.

we pray, that God would by His Spirit take away from ourselves and others all blindness, weakness, indisposedness, and perverseness of heart; and by His grace make us able and willing to know, do, and submit to His will in all things,

When we seek to obey God’s will, we seek enlightenment for the eyes of our hearts (Ephesians 1:17-18). We seek strength for our inner being to be empowered by God’s Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). We seek that because our flesh is so weak that we are unable to watch and pray in the strength of our own spirit (Matthew 26:40-41).

In truth, our hearts are so perverse toward the things of God; our thoughts so contrary to the wisdom of God; our understanding so pale to the Light of God; that we are like untrained animals requiring correction (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

“Thy will be done” is a prayer to obey God’s word (Psalm 119:1,8, 35-36) without murmuring. It is a prayer that believes God’s will is good. It is a prayer that believes our ability to perform our duties at work and fulfil our calling on earth is only possible by God’s grace.

Our entire thinking is transformed to the point where we recognise the rebellion in others and proclaim, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:14)

Action #3 – Serve like Heaven’s Angels

And finally, when we pray “Thy will be done,” we are praying for the ability to perform the duties of [our] station and calling, as willingly and faithfully as the angels do in heaven. (The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), 124) 

with the like humility, cheerfulness, faithfulness, diligence, zeal, sincerity, and constancy, as the angels do in heaven.

The startling fact for those raised under the religion of science preached by the high priests of professors in their university cathedrals is the mention of angels as literal, real beings possessing qualities associated with personality.

Our confessions are not Medieval but from Renaissance. The Reformers were products of institutional enlightenment. And yet, like the saints in scripture, they assumed the reality of angelic beings. But it appears they also believe there are differing angels for their answer clarifies that we pray for those attributes of the angels in heaven.

Whether or not you believe in literal angels, you cannot deny their application. The point being made is this: there are qualities worthy of our aspiration. When we pray, “Thy will be done,” we are seeking certain qualities.

  • Humility (Mic 6:8)
  • Cheerfulness (Ps 100:2; Job 1:21; 2 Sam 15:25-26)
  • Faithfulness (Isa 38:3)
  • Diligence (Ps 119:4-5)
  • Zeal (Rom 12:11) and
  • Sincerity (Ps 119:80)
  • Constancy (Ps 119:112)

Whether or not you believe in angels, you ought to believe these are 7 qualities that will enrich your life. These 7 virtues attributed to angels—those who minister before God, are what we are praying for when we say, “Thy will be done.”

“Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20).

Published by St Johns Papatoetoe

Presbyterian Church, Hunters Corner, Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand belonging to Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (PCANZ).

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