Today we come to the words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done”. God’s will means what God wishes should happen. Everything that God wishes is good. It always has and it always will be. For goodness streams from God like the light streams from the sun. It is only the Devil and human beings who wish to do what is evil and wrong. The evil in the world, the hatred and the anger and the violence which cause so much suffering, all that is caused by the people whom God has made, not by God himself.
Our God-given freedom
You may ask why God does not make people do what he wishes. Why does he not force us to do what we ought to do? He could force us, of course, but first he would have to take away our freedom and then we should no longer be real people. We should be like puppets in a toy theatre, made to do this and that as the person behind the scenes pulls the strings. But God wishes us to be real people, not mechanical figures, and so he leaves us free to do as we wish.
Good out of evil and unpleasant happenings
Living our lives as human beings involves being exposed to risks and this may sometimes result in unpleasant happenings, such as accidents. Sometimes accidents happen because of the thoughtless, reckless behaviour of human beings, for instance, a drunk driver who injures a pedestrian. But other accidents just happen, as for example when a child learning to ride a bicycle falls off and breaks a wrist.
The story of Louis
But whatever evil or unpleasant things may be done or happen, God can always bring good from them. There was once a French saddler and leather worker who had a little boy called Louis. Louis used to play in his father’s workshop making holes with an awl in pieces of leather. One day, when he was three years old, the awl slipped and went into his eye, and as a result Louis became completely blind. You might think that no good could come from such a terrible accident, but it did.
When he was 10 years old, he went to a school in Paris for blind children, and there he stayed on as a teacher. But he always remembered how to prick holes in leather with an awl, and so he invented a printed alphabet made of raised dots which blind people could read by feeling the letters with the tips of their fingers. Louis’ full name was Louis Braille, and this printed alphabet was called Braille after him. Today, thanks to the good that came from Louis’ accident, all kinds of books and papers are printed for blind people in Braille – magazines, radio programmes, books for pleasure, books for examinations and so on. In fact, it has been said that Braille is the greatest single invention for the benefit of blind people. So Louis’ terrible accident was not caused by God but God brought good out of it.
God’s will for our souls
But there is something more important than our bodily health or comfort, and that is our souls, the real you and the real I. This life lasts but a few years, the next life lasts for ever. If our souls are safe with God, we shall be happy with him for all eternity. But if, through sin, we lose God, then, however healthy or well off we may be here, we shall be lonely and miserable for ever. That is why, above everything else, God wishes to make our souls safe for him, and God knows much better than we do how to do that (1 Thessalonians 4:3a; 1 Timothy 2:4). We may not agree with the way he chooses, but God always knows best. There are many examples of this in the Bible. Let’s take two from the New Testament.
During the last few months of Our Lord’s earthly life, he began to warn his disciples how that “he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”. To Peter this seemed the worst possible thing that could happen. “God forbid it, Lord!” he said, “This must never happen to you”. But Jesus turned to him and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block (obstacle) to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (i.e. looking at this from a human point of view, not from God’s) (NRSV, Matthew 16:21-23).
Jesus knew that if he laid down his life and allowed his enemies to crucify him, then millions and millions of souls, seeing his love for them, would be drawn to him as by a magnet and would be saved (John 12:32). And this, he knew, was what his Heavenly Father wished for our sakes. So in the Garden of Gethsemane, though he dreaded the thought of the Crucifixion and prayed, saying, “Father…remove this cup (of suffering) from me;” he added, “yet, not what I want, but what you want” (NRSV, Mark 14:36).
So now, the thing that makes us love Jesus and be sorry for our sins is the knowledge that he died on the Cross to save us from them. Thus out of that terrible Crucifixion good still comes, and souls are still being saved and brought to God.
The other example of the way in which God brings good out of evil is provided for us by St Stephen, the first Christian to be killed for the Christian Faith. He was stoned to death, and the other Christians looked on it as a tragedy. As St Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles, “Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation (mourning) over him” (NRSV, 8:2). Stephen’s murder was the start of a fierce persecution against the Church, and every attempt was made to hunt the Christians down. But great good came from it because the Christians were obliged to scatter far and wide, and everywhere they went they preached the Gospel, so that more and more souls were brought to love Jesus. Thus even when God allows people to do evil, he can always bring good from it.
All things work together for good
So “Thy will be done” is a prayer that God may do as he wishes, because everything he does is good. As St Paul tells us, “…all things work together for good for those who love God…” (NRSV, Romans 8:28).
“Thy will be done” also means, “Thy will be done by me” – “May I always do what God wants me to do, however difficult or unpleasant it may be”. So this is also a prayer that we may never take the easy line and dodge doing what we ought to do.
1. “Thy will be done” is a prayer that what God wills or wishes may happen. Everything that God wishes and does is good. In particular he wishes our souls to be saved and to go to Heaven.
2. God brings good out of evil. As St Paul tells us, “…all things work together for good for those who love God…” (NRSV, Romans 8:28).
3.”Thy will be done” also means “May I do what God wishes, however unpleasant it may be”.