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He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  And when he came to the place, he said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation."  And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."


And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (ESV)



Accepting God's Will

Tuesday of Easter 5

20 May 2014

The church and her children constantly pray that the Lord's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven in the words of the Lord's Prayer. Yet when the Lord's will is done we often grumble about it, pouting that the Lord's will does not quite square with our own opinion and will. So when we are praying that the Lord's will would be done, it is a prayer that we should receive it as such, in faith and full confidence of the divine grace. The Lord's will is done. There is no question about that. Our problem is merely one of faith. We would like God's will to look somewhat differently! "Why can't His will be more like my own?" Thankfully, the Lord does not give us what we wish for, because all too often, what we wish for would not be good for us.


It is a measurement of our human incapacity that we are so full of wishful thinking. When we say "That is wishful thinking," we are reflecting on the impossibility of the wish. It's never going to happen. The Lord's will is the precise opposite. What He wills is done on earth as it is in heaven. Notice that in English we never describe God's will as a "wish." The word is far too weak. This is why we are praying that we would accept the will of God in our lives. So it was for Christ who suffered in the Garden, asking His heavenly Father to take the cup of suffering from Him, but finally that God's will would be done in His life (Lk 22:41-44). God's will brings struggle and trial into the life of God's Son. He agonizes about what is to come and He composes His will so that it would sing harmony with the will of His Father. He accepts the cross and all of its suffering.


God's will often implies suffering for those who accept it. This is why it is no simple thing to live in the will of God. We often desire God to recompose His will to suit our wishes: "God, couldn't I hit the lottery? Just once?" The Lord's will means that our lives, present and future, are in His gracious hands. We need to recognize this, especially when that will implies our suffering with Christ and for his gospel (Mk 10:29). Yesterday's Wall Street Journal ran a review of two books critical of the power of positive thinking ("Everything will be fine, if we just think happy thoughts."). One of the authors, inveterate liberal polemicist Barbara Ehrenreich panned "the long history of positive thinking in America, which might be summarized thus: dour 18th-century Calvinism begat floaty 19th-century New Thought, which begat 20th-century New Ageism, Norman Vincent Peale and today's mega-church 'prosperity gospel'" (WSJ, 12 October 2009). Here Ehrenreich is right on track. Your happy thinking cannot trump the will of God. We don't claim to know exactly how God's will is being played out in our lives, but we pray that we can bear it when it we are set in the midst of it. Christ Himself lived this way for us.


Cyprian of Carthage


"We ought to remember that we should do not our own will, but God's, in accordance with what our Lord has bidden us to pray daily. How preposterous and absurd it is, that while we ask that the will of God should be done, yet when God calls and summons us from this world, we should not at once obey the command of His will! We struggle and resist, and after the manner of disobedient servants we are dragged to the presence of the Lord with sadness and grief, departing hence under the bondage of necessity, not with the obedience of free will. We wish to be honored with heavenly rewards by Him to whom we come unwillingly. Why, then, do we pray and ask that the kingdom of heaven may come, if the captivity of earth delights us? Why with frequently repeated prayers do we entreat and beg that the day of His kingdom may hasten, if our greater desires and stronger wishes are to obey the devil here, rather than to reign with Christ?" 


Cyprian, On Mortality, 18

O God, Your days are without end, and Your mercies cannot be numbered. Make us ever mindful of the shortness and uncertainty of life. By the working of Your Holy Spirit preserve us in faithfulness and righteousness that, when we have served You in our generation, we may finally join the saints in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (LSB)


For all who are gravely ill, that the holy angels would watch over them


For all those who are serving in active duty combat stations, that the Lord Jesus would grant them His blessings in the midst of trial and trouble


For all those who are suffering from addiction to drugs or alcohol, that they might be called to freedom 

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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