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Acts 13:26-31

 

"Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people." (ESV)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thy Will Be Done

Tuesday of Lent 5

8 April 2014

While Martin Luther was a religious genius driven by the Holy Spirit to teach and preach as he did, his ideas were often not particularly new. One of the views of the Protestant Reformation that is occasionally bruited about is that it overturned tried and true ideas with an ideology of destruction; it was bent on religious revolution. And while this might be true in the less thoughtful corners of the reformation movements in Europe, such as the Anabaptists, it was not true of the work of Luther. In fact, Luther and his adherents loved to dig through the literature of the ancient church and the church law of the Roman church (canon law) and there find support for their reforming program. In some ways Luther represented an Augustinian tradition in the church that had long been accepted as legitimate, and indeed unremarkable. Of course, that all changed when Luther questioned the validity of the popes' money-making machine in the indulgence trade. Luther stumbled onto the adage of modern investigative reporting: "Follow the money."

 

While reading the work of the church father, Tertullian (d. c. 220 AD) on the Lord's Prayer, I discovered that Luther must have been familiar with this work or might have been reading it while writing his Large Catechism, because many of the concepts and ideas that show up in the Large Catechism's exposition of the Lord's Prayer jump right off the pages of Tertullian's De Oratione. I have not checked to see if other scholars have noted this relationship, nor have I done the detailed scholarly work that would track down the correspondence of particular words and usages, that must be left for another time, but it should not surprise us that Luther was well grounded in the study of the ancient church's literature and that he borrowed, maybe even without thinking about it, from this father of the Latin church.

 

"God's will is certainly done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it would be done among us also." Luther's insight is found in Tertullian. God's will is done, no matter if we pray for it or not. When we pray we are not so much changing God's mind, but changing ours. The modern evangelicals are wont to say in their sloganeering theology, "Prayer changes things." This is true if we mean primarily that we are asking God to help us accept His will in our lives. Even Jesus our Lord, who knew God's will perfectly, prayed that he would accept God's will no matter how difficult it was to bear it (Lk 22:42). We are praying that we would live in faith no matter what would befall us. That is why the Lord's Prayer is the ultimate prayer of faith, because it sets us in the divine will, which is done on earth and in heaven.  

 

Tertullian

 

"We add, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;' not that there is some power to prevent God's will being done, and we pray the successful achievement of His will. But we pray for His will to be done in all. For, by figurative interpretation of flesh and spirit, we are 'heaven' and 'earth;' even if it is to be understood simply, still the sense of the petition is the same, that in us God's will be done on earth, to make it possible, namely, for it to be done also in the heavens. What, moreover, does God will, but that we should walk according to His discipline? We make petition, then, that He supply us with the substance of His will, and the capacity to do it, that we may be saved both in the heavens and on earth; because the sum of His will is the salvation of those whom He has adopted. There is, too, that will of God which the Lord accomplished in preaching, in working, in enduring. For if He Himself proclaimed that He did not His own will, but the Father's, without doubt those things which He used to do were the Father's will (Jn 6:38); to which things, as examples, we are now encouraged to preach, to work, to endure even to death. And we need the will of God, that we may be able to fulfill these duties. Again, in saying, 'Thy will be done,' we are even wishing well to ourselves, in so far that there is nothing of evil in the will of God; even if, proportionately to each one's deserving, something other is imposed on us. So by this expression we prepare ourselves for patience.

 

"The Lord also, when He had wished to demonstrate to us, even in His own flesh, the flesh's infirmity, by the reality of suffering, said, 'Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.' and remembering Himself, added, 'Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done' (Lk 22:42). He Himself was the will and the power of the Father. Yet for the demonstration of the patience which was appropriate, He gave Himself up to the Father's will."
 

Tertullian, On Prayer, 4

 

Prayer

Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, taught us to pray to You in His name. Grant us the courage to pray for Your will to be done in our lives as it is done in heaven. Send Your Spirit to shape us that we might conform ourselves to Your Son's cross; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For all those who are planning to attend Concordia Theological Seminary in the fall, that the Lord would provide sufficient funding for them to start

 

For those who have set their minds on the things of this world, that they would set their minds on the things which are above

 

For the Luther Academy, that the cause of confessional Lutheranism would be built up and strengthened, as the Academy seeks a new executive director

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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