Fr. Ron Millican
THE PRAYER TO BEGIN ALL PRAYER: THE LORD’S PRAYER, 6
Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven
This is a deceptive little petition that seems so harmless and well intentioned at first. Henry Ward Beecher, a nineteenth-century Protestant preacher said, “You read, “Thy will be done,” and you say to yourself, ‘O, I can pray that’; and all the time your mind goes round and round in immense circuits and far-off distances; but God is continually bringing the circuits nearer to you, till he says, ‘How is it about your temper and your pride? How is it about your business and daily life?’”
To pray to do God’s will, then, is no small prayer. It encompasses about everything we do—and who we are in body, mind and soul. This is not a prayer to do God’s will on Sundays or when we feel religious. Nor is it a prayer to do God’s will as best we can or according to our interpretation. No, the prayer is to DO God’s will “as it is done heaven.”
For the person of prayer, we want to live life as it’s lived in heaven. Again, heaven is not a place so much as a way of being, a way of existing, and that way is described as love. To say our friends who have died are “in heaven” is to say they exist in a state of love, loving each other and God in ways that are imaginable now.
That qualification, “as it is in heaven,” is what saves this prayer from becoming an oppressive burden. The temptation is to begin to catalogue all the ways we fall short of doing God’s will—impatience, ungratefulness, selfishness, seducing people in order to do our will, gluttony—and vow we do better in the future. That we should do better goes without saying. But God’s will is not a list of do’s and don’ts as much as it is living in love. Someone once asked Jesus what the greatest commandments were, which essentially asked what God’s will ultimately is. Jesus replied that we should love God with everything in us, and we should love other people as we love ourselves.
According to the first three petitions, then, to pray is to turn our lives completely over to God so that we may be shaped and guided by his loving hands. In some respects, this is a frightening idea; there is no getting around that. But it is also true that to give yourself to God is the most exciting adventure a person can go on.
By this time, it should be clearer than ever that prayer is not a religious activity that we add to our lives to make them a little nicer; prayer is something that will transform our lives, inside and out.
“Hurry is the death of prayer.” –Samuel Chadwick, Puritan preacher