Practical Meditations on the Lord's Prayer

Newman Hall, 1889

The Third Petition--

"Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."

The third petition is the appropriate sequel to those which precede. As the hallowing of the Name of the Father is essential to the coming of a kingdom based on intelligent apprehension and cordial reverence; so the kingdom implies rule, and the coming of it submission. This is not strictly a separate petition, but a development of the second. We pray that the kingdom may come on earth, by its laws being obeyed. The Will of God, perfectly done in heaven, has been only partially known and obeyed on earth. We pray that this discrepancy may cease, and that the whole realm of God may be harmonized in obedience. As with all the petitions, this one, besides being related to the rest, is based on the Invocation, "Father." God says, "If I am a Father, where is my honor?" And His children pray, Our Father in heaven, let Your holy, loving, Fatherly Will be done. On Sinai the Law rang out trumpet-tongued, "Do the Will of God:" on the Mount of Beatitudes the Savior taught us to obey this Law by asking grace from the Lawgiver to fulfill it.

I—The will of God

This petition is, like the Invocation, a protest against the materialism which recognizes Power alone. Mere material forces, physical laws, have no volition. The abstraction called "a power, not ourselves, that works for righteousness," suggests ideas utterly different from those of the prayer, "Our Father! Your Will be done!" How cold, dreary, terrible, the notion of mere Power controlling us, with no loving thought, emotion, purpose! What a sense of helplessness is engendered by it, what terror of the Power which cannot be resisted or evaded, against which there is no appeal, under which we may be crushed! This would foster a Fatalism as discouraging to exertion as to prayer. It would also prevent any sense of sin. I may be unfortunate in becoming its victim, I cannot be guilty of resisting its volition. I may lament my weakness, but cannot be conscious of wickedness. But when I recognize the rule of a loving and holy Father, I acknowledge my sin in resisting His commands, and am prompt to reform what is wrong instead of pleading a resistless necessity. "Hence comes a conviction, not that we have been unable to resist, but that we have actually resisted that Power which is working for our deliverance and blessedness. A Power we shall then joyfully confess it to be, when we know that it is not that merely or principally" (Maurice).

We recognize a loving will, for He is our Father; a holy will, for He is in heaven. We need not fear the Power which executes the Will of "Our Father." We appeal to Him as developing in His Will, tender compassion, beneficent purpose, perfect righteousness. He does not reign to exhibit sovereignty; He does not decree simply because He chooses; His Will is the outcome of His Fatherhood. There must be much mysterious and inscrutable in the Will of the Infinite God. It would be presumptuous to dictate what it ought to be, or to pronounce by our unaided understanding what it is; but it would also be derogatory to our own nature, which owes to Him its origin, and reflects though imperfectly His likeness, to say we cannot in any degree conjecture what His Will is likely to be. In the light of His own revelation, it would be ungrateful and false to say that we know nothing of His Will, when He has revealed it not only in His Word but by His Son, who, being from eternity "in the bosom of the Father," has "declared Him." He is the everlasting Word, the Revealer. In all His earthly life we learn the nature of His Father's Will. And He who from eternity knew it, bids us pray that it may be done. He who came to save us would not instruct us to pray for the accomplishment of a Will opposed to His own mission. There can be no secret purpose in God conflicting with His Will as illustrated by Christ. We are therefore secure when we pray, "Your Will be done," inasmuch as the prayer is indited by our Savior, and the Will is the Will of our Father.

God's Potential Will in creation and providence none can resist. "He speaks and it is done. Who can stop His hand, or say, What are You doing?" This is done by all creatures inferior to man, everywhere, absolutely, on earth as in heaven. Our part is mentally to concur in it, to be glad that His Power is supreme. "The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice." We ask that all men may carry out the Will, either by active service or patient suffering. We pray "not in order that God may do His own Will, but that we may be willing and enabled to do what He wills to be done by us" (Cyprian). This brings us to the consideration of

II—God's preceptive will in relation to the human will

God recognizes in man, made in His likeness, a capacity of Will corresponding with His own. He is not mere Force, and we are not mere machines. We have the Divine faculty of observing, considering, judging, approving, resolving, performing. We can concur with His Will or dispute it; perform or resist it. It is frivolous to debate about foreknowledge, and preordination, and philosophical necessity, as though what will be must ever have been certain, and therefore such as no will, or act, or prayer can change. We know by our own consciousness that we possess this power of Will, which can be exercised in obeying that of God, and is as free when in harmony with it as when resisting it. But we also know that such resistance is possible, that such resistance is a sad and solemn fact. A created will can resist the Creator. Sun, moon, and stars unconsciously obey, but man stands forth amid the loyal universe, and dares to say "No" to the Almighty. This faculty is recognized in all the commands, promises and threatenings of Holy Scripture. We are not told to abrogate our function of volition, no other mind but His being active; but to exercise our will freely in accord with His. Our volition is appealed to by motives. The Son of God said to the Jews, "You will not come to me that you might have life." He declared that His own Will was opposed by theirs. "How often would I have gathered your children, and you would not!" I had the will to save you; you had the will to reject me. God sent His Son to bring our will into accord with His own. The apostles besought men "in Christ's stead, Be reconciled to God." To produce this harmony the Divine Spirit enters human hearts. "It is God who works in us to will and to do." We have still the power to cherish or resist these Divine influences. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God;" "Quench not the Spirit." "you do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you." This petition implies that God can influence our will for good without destroying our freedom of choice. For this prayed saints of old, "Teach me to do Your Will. Incline my heart to Your testimonies." And for this our Lord taught us to pray when we say, "Your Will be done."

III—Why should God's will be done?

Because it is God's. He has every right to rule; as Creator and Preserver, He gives laws to all things that depend on Him for existence; as infinitely Good, He has a moral right to the willing homage of all intelligent beings. It is reasonable that they should employ the faculties He gave in accordance with His own inherent perfections and revealed commands. We ask for the fulfillment of "that good, acceptable, and perfect Will of God." We obey it because it is His, and because it must be beneficent like Himself; for it is our Father's will, and corresponds to His Name. His precepts no less than His promises are the expressions of His love; in commanding duties, He bestows benefits; in forbidding sins, He guards from injuries. "Honor your father and your mother" implies, Receive honor in your turn. "You shall not kill" involves, None must kill you; and "You shall not steal" declares, None must rob you. His most emphatic warnings against sin mean, "Do yourself no harm;" His severest threatenings cry in the ears of sinners, "Why will you die?" Nothing is forbidden which would not be an injury to ourselves; nothing enjoined which is not for our good. He places us on an estate and bids us cultivate it for Him, asking no rent but our diligence, and promising that we shall enjoy as our own the fruits of orchards and corn-fields. He bids us dig a mine, and then take all the gold for ourselves."

But besides the benefits resulting, there is joy in the very act of performing His Will. When we obey Him, our lesser wheels revolve smoothly in harmony with the great machinery of Love, instead of grating and breaking in hopeless counteraction. There is peace in being consciously in accord with our own higher nature. We rejoice when what we will and what we do is what Truth and Righteousness require. Above all, there is satisfaction in feeling that our strongest and most habitual desires and efforts correspond with the holy laws of our Creator and the loving Will of our Father. "In keeping them there is great reward." This dignifies the humblest lot, and raises to the rank of Divine service the most menial employment. The apostle comforted those bond-slaves of the Roman Empire who believed in Jesus by this grand consideration, that however unjust or cruel their earthly masters might be, yet in obeying them those slaves were serving the Lord Christ. Physical bondage became spiritual freedom when endured patiently from love to the Lord. When the thing we do possesses in itself neither interest nor honor, if we do it in His name, it at once becomes noble and blessed.

"Teach me, my God and King,
In all things You to see,
And what I do in anything,
To do it as for Thee.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for Your laws,
Makes that and the action fine.

This is the famous stone
That turns all to gold:
For that which God does touch and own
Cannot for less be told." —George Herbert

IV—Angelic nature

As Moses when erecting the tabernacle was commanded to "make all things according to the pattern shown him in the mount," so we have here set before us an example of the way in which the will of God is to be done by men on earth—"as it is done in heaven." If for a moment the word suggests the starry heavens, we see an illustration of obedience, unceasing, untiring, exact; but it is mechanical, involuntary, lifeless. One man endowed with mind and will may render more homage than all the solar system. We must look beyond the constellations, even to "the third heavens," for the pattern of our obedience.

The resemblance of the obedience of angels to that of men suggests resemblance of nature. At the creation of the world "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." We say "Our Father," and rejoice that "now are we the sons of God." There exists therefore a near brotherhood. God made man "a little lower than the angels." This implies only a difference of degree between kindred natures. Our Lord, when He became man, "was made a little lower than the angels." He who appeared to the patriarchs as the angel of Jehovah, appeared in the fullness of time as "the Son of man." Angels are described as men. "Three men appeared to Abraham," who at first took them to be simply men. He "entertained angels unawares." "There came two angels to Sodom." "And the men said to Lot, Have you here any besides?" "There came an angel of the Lord" to Gideon, and as "he sat under an oak," Gideon thought he was a man, but afterwards exclaimed, "Alas! for I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face." Thus Daniel describes the angel Gabriel—"While I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation." Zechariah speaks of "the man that stood among the olive trees" as being "the angel of the Lord." Matthew describes "the angel of the Lord" rolling away the stone from the sepulcher, but Mark describes him as "a young man sitting" where the body had lain; and Luke says "two men stood by them in shining garments." When Jesus ascended, "as He went up, two men stood by them in white apparel." In John's description of the heavenly city, we have this remarkable expression—"He measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel." In the closing chapter the angel forbids the homage of the apostle, saying, "I am your fellow-servant."

From such statements we may infer that angels are only a higher species of man; higher in endowment; higher by actually obeying, just as we ought to obey, so that the true ideal of humanity is to be found in them; and we are restored to the true human type, by resemblance to angels, when the Will of God is done by us as by them. It is a joy to feel that if there are spirits of evil plotting to do us harm, there are holy angels, closely allied to us, only a little above us, in sympathy with us and employed in helping us. Very little has been said of the angelic nature in Scripture; but obedience is the same with all moral beings. Everywhere the same authority exists, the same wisdom and love appeal to a similar understanding and volition. Holy angels as well as good men, from love to God, give heed to His Will; perform it; delight in it; and so their obedience is a model for our own.


1. Angels do the Will of God LOVINGLYIt must be universally true that no obedience is acceptable to God which love does not inspire. Angels are highest in the scale of moral beings, and must therefore be highest in the possession and exercise of that love which is the fulfilling of all law. They are in the immediate presence of God, whose essence is love, and therefore under its most potent influence. Dwelling in His light, they reflect and share it. They are all seraphim burning with a holy fire which impels them, as their supreme delight, to do the Will of Him they adore.

Such love secures the perfect loyalty which obeys every command of God because it is His. They do not first bring it to the tribunal of their own judgment, and then comply with it in proportion as they understand the reason of it. Their faith must have been severely tried when they were bidden to overthrow the cities of the plain, to destroy the first-born of Egypt, and to slay one hundred and eighty thousand of the army of Sennacherib; when they saw their Lord insulted and tormented by His foes, and were not allowed to rescue Him; and when they have watched the persecution of the heirs of salvation, and "their angels" have not been permitted to deliver them. Their only inquiry is, "Has God commanded?"

Obedience prompted by love is sure to be cheerful. Unloving service is reluctant, grudged, regretful, sad. A willing heart makes a merry countenance, and inspires an obedience the happy spontaneity of which renders fragrant, the work done. Such "service is perfect freedom." Angels obey not because they must, but because they would. As it would be pain to birds to be restrained from singing when the flowers deck the fields; as it is cruelty to cage the lark whose loftiest flights express its greatest pleasure; so it would be a burden to angels to be spared the service which is their purest bliss. Heaven is a synonym for happiness; and there is not a truer description of its joy than this—"His servants shall serve Him." An old writer exclaims, "It is the joy, I had almost said the mirth, of heaven to obey the statutes of its King."

They therefore do it promptly. Love does not loiter. Angels are compared to winds and lightning in swiftness of service. "He makes His angels winds, His ministers a flaming fire." They never wait for a more convenient season, nor substitute a purpose to do for present doing. Gabriel, "being caused to fly swiftly," brought the reply to the prophet "while he was speaking in prayer." Love spares no pains. Angels who "excel in strength," with all that strength "do his commandments." Their capacities may vary, but each does the Will of God with his might. Nothing is too trivial for the putting forth of every needful energy, when the end in view is the Will of God whom they perfectly love.

We are taught to pray that our obedience may, like theirs, be that of love. Then will it be loyal, unquestioning, cheerful, prompt, unsparing. As children obey wise and tender parents from loving trust before they acquire from experience the conviction that their own welfare is thus best secured, so let us obey our Father in heaven, even when we cannot understand the reason and methods of His Will. Called to such obedience, we are called to noblest liberty. Our service may well be cheerful when it has become the gratification of our own heaven-born impulses; when "we love the thing which God commands, and desire that which He promises." It may well be cheerful when thereby we share the privilege and the joy of heaven; and possess a sign that we belong to Him whose example, as the Lord of angels, we are supremely to follow, and who said, "I delight to do Your will."

Then will our obedience be prompt. Alas! how often we are convinced of some evil and resolve to forsake it, or of some duty and comfort our conscience by the purpose of performing it tomorrow! whereas, in an attitude of loving obedience, we should pray, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears;" and in grateful retrospection be able to say, "I made haste, and delayed not to keep Your commandments." Then also will obedience be unstinted. We should always do our best. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might;" when God commands, inspects, rewards. "She has done what she could" is a commendation not to be surpassed, and not confined to rank or power. The very weakest and lowliest may share it with the strongest and greatest. Men on earth are accepted with cherubim and seraphim, when, with them, they do what they can. It is to be feared that some who bear the Christian name are still but as Jews, under the restraints of law. They try to do their duty, fearing to displease God and to incur penalty. But believers in Christ have not received "the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." We obey, not as slaves, but as sons. Our service is not measured by payment nor constrained by fear; "We freely serve because we freely love."

2. They do it INTELLIGENTLYTheir faith is rational, their loyalty discerning. They take pains to know whether the command is really from God and not their own imagination; and then to understand what it really means, not what their own fancy may suppose it capable of meaning. "Bless the Lord, you His angels, who do His commandments, listening to the voice of His word." They do not rush heedlessly into service. So we should pray, "Make me to understand the way of Your precepts. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law." In order intelligently to obey, we are to "search the Scriptures," which are "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."

3. They do it PRAYERFULLY—If prayer is far more than the mere asking for sorrow to be relieved, needs supplied, and sins forgiven; if it is the outpouring of a filial heart, heaven would lack one chief element of bliss if angels did not pray. The Lord of angels prayed. Knowing how surely the Will of the Father would be accomplished, He expressed His concurrence with that Will in earnest supplications. He still prays. He makes intercession for transgressors, that they may begin to do the Will of God—and for His faithful servants, that they may go on to do it. "This must surely be a law of the spiritual universe and of the heavenly world. Angels and the 'spirits of just men made perfect,' martyrs from beneath the altar, the four and twenty elders, and the principalities and powers in heavenly places, because of their thorough submission to the law and love and will of God, are the most fervent and intense of all His creatures in their prayers, and see by the piercing glances of their faith, and soar by the strong wings of intercession, on into the everlasting purposes of the Infinite and Eternal God" (H. Reynolds). Many of our petitions can have no place in heaven, but surely this one will never cease to be the desire of glorified saints and unfallen angels. Heavenly perfection must include reliance on the Heavenly Father, both for existence itself and for the purity and happiness which are inseparable from obedience. Not for themselves alone, but for all intelligent beings they pray. While they do God's Will, they pray that it may be done. So let us do it; doing it, the more we pray; praying for it, the more we do it.

4. They do ALL God's WillWe on earth are apt to make selections. Obedience is easy when the Will of God agrees with the opinions of the world, of the society in which we move, of patrons or friends; when it does not threaten property, trade, comfort; when it does not demand uncongenial exertion, the breaking of matured habits, or painful self-sacrifice. We think we are obeying the Will of God when we may be only pleasing ourselves. If we walk along the path of duty only when it is level, smooth and flowery, but turn aside when it scales the steep crag--our motive is the gratifying of self, not the obeying of God. But in heaven, inasmuch as they do God's Will because it is His, angels do it all. We cannot imagine them selecting what may be most easy, profitable, or honorable. They loyally execute every order—whether to destroy Sodom or rescue Lot; in brilliant array to proclaim the Law, or singly to withstand Balaam; to give food to Elijah, or to carry him to heaven; to form a bodyguard for Elisha, or to shut the lions' mouths for Daniel; to destroy the armies of Sennacherib, or to bear a quick reply to one lonely suppliant's prayer. So we do God's Will as they do it in heaven when we obey without preference, whether to work amid the blaze of publicity or in the shade of obscurity, whether to range the earth in unresting activity or to wait His Will in humble readiness.

After an important battle, a great general was conversing with his officers respecting the various incidents of the fight. The names were mentioned of men who had stormed batteries, held their post against fearful odds, fought single-handed against a crowd of assailants, or carried off wounded comrades amid a shower of bullets. "No (said he); you are all mistaken—the best man in the field today was a soldier who had his arm lifted up against an enemy, but who, on hearing the trumpet sound a retreat, checked himself, and dropped his arm without striking the blow. That perfect and ready obedience to the will of his general is the noblest thing that has been done today" (A. Hare). How often we feel it easier to wield the sword than sheathe it, to pursue than to retreat, to work than to wait! Yet there should be no difference in our obedience when we cannot doubt what is the Will of God. One command neglected, because uncongenial, mars the rest of our obedience. In a harp of many strings, one that is out of tune makes the whole seem discordant. Then only "shall we not be ashamed" when, like the angels, we "have respect for all" the commandments of God.

5. They do it ALWAYS"They serve Him day and night in His temple." There are no intervals of idleness; they wish no vacation. Interruption in obedience would be a suspension of bliss. Let ours resemble theirs; not by fits and starts, with intervening relapses; not needing revivals out of apathy; not dependent on novelty, which must soon lose its charm, but patient and persevering under all circumstances; not as a mountain-torrent whose rocky channel is bare and sunburned when snows are not melting and rains do not fall, but as a deep, broad river ever flowing with fertilizing tide. "O that there were such heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always!"

6. They all do it, and do it altogether—Not as here, a few among the many, and these objects of curiosity and wonder, sometimes of ridicule and hatred; but everyone does it; that countless host forming a glorious and perfect unity of obedience with endless diversity of gifts. There is not one among that great multitude who makes objection, or questions why. "Are they not all ministering spirits?" All do it in perfect harmony, each contented with his allotted service as most honorable and advantageous, because appointed by God. No time or strength is wasted on controversy. The possessor of ten talents does not despise the possessor of only one, nor does the latter envy the former. One worker does not condemn his fellow because he uses varying methods. There is no insisting on uniformity of operation where there is this grand unity of motive; no attempt to fetter the freedom the Creator gives by bonds the creature invents. There is no friction of the wheels, because each is perfectly fitted to the central power and plan. All the workers are in harmony with each other, because all are perfectly doing the Will of God.

O for such harmony among Christian workers on earth! Alas, how much time and energy are wasted in contentions between fellow-servants in imposing their preferences on others who have an equal right to their own; and in failing to recognize true service unless performed according to some standard of man's devising! The cure is an earnest desire to do the Will of God. As the structure of the earth is consolidated by every particle gravitating towards the same center, so the more our minds and hearts in all our service are directed towards God, the more we must approach each other.

7. They do it in the presence of God—The actual presence and inspection of one we honor acts as an additional stimulus to the obedience of love. The angel who appeared to Zacharias said, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God." The "many angels round about the throne do always behold the face of the Father," and the eye of Him whom they supremely love and adore is upon them. No wonder, therefore, that they do His Will earnestly, constantly, cheerfully, harmoniously. So let us do it. For is not God really as near to us here on earth as He is to them in heaven? We do not behold His face, but we may by faith realize His presence, and in holy service "endure, seeing the Invisible." If soldiers are animated by the presence of the general, if servants by the inspection of their master, if children by the loving looks of their parents, should not we serve and obey "as ever in our Great Taskmaster's eye," when He is our loving Father? Although the prayer refers to the manner of obedience, not to the kind of work, we cannot refrain from noticing how numerous and varied are the services performed by angels which are of a beneficent character. They all "minister for the heirs of salvation;" they "encamp round about those who fear God;" they have a "charge concerning" the righteous, to "keep them in all their ways;" they do not overlook "one of these little ones who believe in Jesus;" they rescued an apostle from prison, and carried a beggar into Abraham's bosom. In doing the Will of God, princes in heaven serve sinners on earth.

If thus angels act as "ministers of grace" to aid fallen men, surely we should obey that same Will in acts of beneficence to one another; ministering to the saints, protecting the weak, caring for little children, visiting the sick, tending the dying. In such service we are apt to neglect small acts of kindness while thinking to do great things, and waiting for these to present themselves. "A wise man," said Lord Bacon, "will make more opportunities than he finds." Benevolence like that of the angels will never wait for a call to some mighty act, when to give a cup of cold water is at hand. While imitating their obedience to Him whose "Nature and property is ever to show mercy," we shall never be at a loss for opportunities.

In all benevolent work we are doing the Will of God. But there is no department of such work so important as that of endeavoring to save the souls of men. Here also we may learn a lesson from the angels. They announced His birth; ministered to Him in the wilderness and in Gethsemane; appeared at the Resurrection and Ascension; came to the disciples to aid and direct then; to Philip, Acts 8:26; Cornelius, 10:3-22; Peter, 12:7-9; Paul, 27:23; and John, Rev. 1:1; and are deeply interested in the salvation provided for sinful men. "Which things the angels desire to look into." "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Possessed of lofty intelligence, with vast and accurate knowledge of truth, they understand how much is involved in the salvation of one soul. Already in possession of joy so complete, they would not burst forth into fresh gladness on account of any trivial event. We may learn from them the unspeakable reasons for joy in the salvation of one sinner. If we do the Will of God on earth as they do it in heaven, we shall feel that the repentance of even one sinner is ample reward for a life of labor, since it furnishes occasion for fresh joy in heaven. O for the time when earth shall thus resemble heaven; when all men in doing the Will of God shall best serve themselves and one another; when the varied wills of men, not destroyed nor compressed into a rigid uniformity controlled by a single dominant and all-embracing volition, but in their multiplicity of individual wills, each free yet all concurring, shall form one Commonwealth of Willinghood in the perfect service of the Eternal King!


Men have also to obey in another method unknown to angels. We are exposed to varied sorrows, all sent or permitted by God and overruled for good, but needing special help to endure them patiently. The purposes of God must be accomplished whether we assent to them or not. We here pray that we may render this assent. "Our repining hinders not His working, but it hinders our own comfort—our wrestling and fretting does but pain ourselves" (Leighton). How the character of any trial is changed when we accept it from our Father; when we are cheerfully led instead of being unwillingly driven; when we take up our burden and carry it instead of trailing it along the rocky path! God's Will may concur with our own wish; or our prayer may bring us what we ask; but there will often be times when what we wish we cannot have. But we may always relinquish our own will and embrace that of God, and so, by making His Will ours, have our own. Luther said, "I do not ask 'Your Will be done,' but my will be done, because Your Will is now my will, and I best get my own will by unquestioning acceptance of Yours." It would not be good for us to have our own will always, if it were possible. Were God to give us the liberty of choice, it would be wise to resign that liberty again to Him who is infallibly wise and unfailingly kind. Often, as we look back, we see places where we wished to take some other path than that in which God was leading us, and we perceive that our own preference would have led us into bogs or over precipices. And we also see places where we resolutely chose our own path, and God overruled our disappointment to teach us the folly of refusing to be guided by Himself!

"Lord, You are mine and I am Thine,
If mine I am—and Your much more,
Than I or ought, or can be mine.
Yet to be Your, does me restore;
So that again I now am mine;
And with advantage, mine the more,
Since this being mine brings with it Thine,
And You with me do You restore.
If I without You would be mine,
I neither should be mine nor Your."—George Herbert

How unanswerable the argument for resignation to the Divine Will in times of trial is the assurance of the apostle, "Our light affliction, which is for the moment, is working for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory"! Light compared with the weight of glory, momentary compared with the eternal result, they are always operating for our welfare even when causing us most suffering. "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God." They are active, beneficent, harmonious; they work together for good. Often our trials act as a prickly hedge which wounds, but guards us from the steep precipice or the deep river. Loss of property may enrich the soul. Trials reveal to us ourselves, "as soaking rain shows damaged places in the roof which need mending." They bring our sins to remembrance, as in the case of Joseph's brethren. They separate us from many perilous temptations and worldly snares; they draw or drive us to the throne of grace; they are a needful discipline of faith, and our patient endurance is a helpful example.

"If loving hearts were never lonely,
If all they wish might always be,
Accepting what they wish for only,
They might be glad, but not in Thee.
We need as much the cross we bear
As air we breathe, as light we see;
It draws us to Your side in prayer,
It binds us to our strength in Thee."

The brave and godly Sir John Eliot said—"In wrestling with calamities there is this advantage for all—First, yourself; the favor of God giving you this education, knowledge of yourself, confirmation of virtue. Secondly, your neighbors; profit by your example, your fortitude adding courage to them. How then in this great duty of advantage to ourselves and neighbors we should repine, as 'tis a prejudice to our happiness, so 'tis a wonder unto reason." As the destruction of Aquileia and other towns on the Italian coast caused their inhabitants to flee to the islets of the lagoon, from which there afterwards arose the temples and palaces of the queenly city of the Adriatic, so the most threatening perils and darkest trials of the believer have often been the means of erecting temples of spiritual beauty, far surpassing that palatial city of the sea. Whatever brightness there may be in any object through color of its own, this is far exceeded by the sun's own rays when reflected from it. A broken vessel, a fragment of glass, may blaze with solar splendor, when objects of perfect form, artistic beauty, and costly material may send back no heavenly radiance. The stream flowing placidly through the meadows may be beautiful; but not until obstructed by rocks, broken into rapids, tumbling over precipices, is it brilliant with all the colors of the solar spectrum, and spanned by the rainbow. Resistance to our Father's Will is opposition to our own welfare; murmuring at trials is discontent with blessings He designs. Let us then take the oar of duty and leave to Him the helm of direction. Whatever course the pilot steers, let us aid the vessel's progress, whether it bears us through smooth or stormy waters, and while pulling let us pray, "Your Will be done."

"Man's weakness, waiting upon God,
Its end can never miss;
For man on earth no work can do,
More angel-like than this.
Siding with God, I always win;
No chance to me is lost:
His Will is sweet to me, even when
It triumphs at my cost.
Ills that God blesses are my good—
All unblest good is ill;
And all is right that seems most wrong,
If it be His dear Will." —Faber


We have no examples of passive obedience in unfallen angels, but we have many in the history of those who joined their ranks when they "came out of great tribulation." Job said, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." David—"Let Him do to me as seems good to Him." Habakkuk"—"Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, yet I will rejoice in the Lord." Apostles and early Christians "rejoiced to be counted worthy to suffer shame for His name," and could "glory in tribulation also." Richard Baxter, when suffering extreme pain on his deathbed, prayed for release, but checked himself thus—"It is not fit for me to prescribe—What You will, when You will, how You will." When asked how he was, he would reply, "Almost well; better than I deserve to be, but not so well as I hope to be." Milton said, "It is not so wretched to be blind as it is not to be capable of enduring blindness. There is a way to strength through weakness. Let me then be the most feeble creature alive as long as that feebleness serves to invigorate my spirit; as long as in that obscurity the light of the Divine presence more clearly shines, then in proportion as I am weak I 'shall be invincibly strong, and in proportion as I am blind I shall more clearly see. O that I may thus be perfected by feebleness and irradiated by obscurity!" Thus our trials may become means of blessing, and seeming hindrances real helps. Climbing the mountain of God's holiness, our path is obstructed by projecting rocks which tempt the timid to despair and the indolent to turn back, but which the resolute climber grasps with his hands, and uses as a fulcrum for his feet, so making what might have become a stumbling-block a stepping-stone.

The wife of Archbishop Tait thus wrote of the death of five children within a few weeks—"We were called to part with these five blessed little daughters, each of whom had been received in prayer, educated with prayer, and were now given up, though with bitter anguish, yet with prayer and thanksgiving." The trial is spoken of as "a bright chain to draw the heart up to heaven." And when a son was cut off in the morning of his usefulness, we read that "as the benediction was pronounced over his resting place, his parents felt that their many prayers for his welfare, offered up from his infancy onwards, had been answered, though not in the way they had expected."

Mr. Fisk relates that a Grand Vizier, in high favor with the Sultan, was suddenly disgraced and deprived of all his property. He at once conformed to his new circumstances, and was seen selling lemons at a street corner, where he was sympathetically accosted by an English nobleman who had known him in his glory. He replied, "I am not at all unhappy. Allah gave me what I had—He had a perfect right to take it away—Allah is great, Allah is good!" How much more should we who know God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ pray with unquestioning submission, "Your Will be done"! To a friend of the writer, a poor man, prior to the days of chloroform, related how it had been necessary that his little boy should undergo a most painful operation. The father explained this to his child, asking if he could bear it. "Yes, father, if you will hold my hand." The hand was held, the boy was patient, and health was restored. In every trial our Father holds our hand, and recovery is certain; shall we not then be "patient in tribulation"? A woman in the writer's congregation who had been prostrate during forty years, with an active spirit but helpless body, said to him, "I would rather be in heaven; but if it be my Father's Will, I'm ready to lie here forty years longer." Her sister, during nineteen years lying helpless and scarcely ever free from pain, said to the author on the day when the preceding page was written, "Last week I was very near home, but the Lord has brought me back. I hoped He would have taken me, but it must be best." The case of the boy was related to her whose father held his hand, and she replied, "Oh, He does more for me—'His left hand is under my head, and His right hand embraces me'! I have seen more of His mercy by lying here than I should have seen if well. What a sweet text that is—'I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.'"

Thus the Father helps His children to "glory in tribulation also;" not only to be resigned, but thankful; "strengthened with all might unto all patience and patience with joyfulness, giving thanks to the Father," while from the midst of the furnace exclaiming, "Your Will be done."


He who was so high above angels stooped to become below them, that He might illustrate His own prayer. Throughout His ministry He made it manifest that He came to obey—"I seek not my own will, but the Will of the Father who has sent me." When the disciples wondered that their Lord talked with the woman of Samaria and seemed indifferent to food, He said, "My meat is to do the Will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work." His satisfaction at the close of life was this, "I have finished the work which You gave me to do." In this active service He illustrated how the Will of the Father would be done in heaven if sorrow could find entrance there. His agony in the garden was intense. The bloody sweat was the sign of anguish beyond all possibility of flesh to feel. He knelt, He bowed down, He fell on His face to the ground, "with strong crying and tears" He appealed to His Father, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." The utmost suffering was united with entire resignation, so that He said, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" And He did drink it to the dregs. When scourged and crucified, He never ceased to illustrate the prayer, "Your Will be done," until He said, "It is finished." "The cross is at once the complete utterance of the prayer and the answer to it" (Maurice). Here is the highest possible example of heavenly obedience in patient suffering—agony intense, desire strong, submission absolute. "He learned obedience by the things that He suffered." It was fitting, it was needful that the Father, "in bringing many sons to glory, should make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Our Leader in the same path of trial "is not ashamed to call us brethren." Thus we pray to be enabled to submit in the same spirit of filial trust. My Father, Your Will! Because as Father Your Will can purpose nothing which is not for Your glory in Your children's good, therefore "Your Will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven."

The example of Christ Himself is the high mark at which we are to aim. We are not to consider what other people do, nor what many Christian professors do, nor what even the best of fallible men do; we are to imitate the obedience of angels, more so, of the Lord of angels. To aim lower would make us untrue both to God and ourselves. He accepts inferior degrees of service from loyal hearts, but He cannot be satisfied with less than perfection, nor will loving children of His be content with offering less. His Will cannot be lowered to our mean attainments, but our standard must be lifted up to His perfection. Our dilatory dial must be adjusted to the true solar time. Though we fail in this life to reach the ultimate goal, we must press towards it rather than rest short of it; thus shall we run farther than if our goal were nearer. "Though an archer shoot not so high as he aims, yet the higher he takes his aim, the higher he shoots" (Leighton). "He who aims at a star will shoot higher than he who aims at a bush" (Manton). The Divine target for human endeavor is Divine perfection. "You shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."

That we may with all our heart illustrate this prayer is the purpose of God in the discipline of trial. Such obedience is the test of faith and steadfastness, for the great Teacher likened the doer of His word to "the wise man who built his house upon a rock." This secures repose, for the promise is linked with the precept—"Take my yoke upon you, and you shall find rest." This alone gives reasonable assurance of salvation, for "hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments." This is the true key of knowledge, the torch to guide into new paths; for "if any man will do His will, He shall know of the doctrine." This elevates to a dignity surpassing noblest descent or royal lineage, for it constitutes us near relatives of Him who said, "Whoever does the Will of God, the same is my brother and sister and mother;" and "If a man loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him." This secures immortality, for though "the world and its desires pass away, he who does the Will of God abides forever." This antedates heaven's bliss and allies us already with angels, for it is characteristic of the home of the blessed that "His servants shall serve Him."

With what thoughtfulness and sincerity should we offer such a prayer! How many are self-convicted as they utter it, acknowledging as the standard of conduct an example they have no intention to imitate! "In this prayer the godless man condemns himself, the sufferer comforts himself, the slothful invigorates himself, the self-willed rebukes himself, and the will of the spirit prays itself through all the impediments of an opposing flesh, to perfect victory" (Stier). The essential difference between the children of God and others is, that they place the Will of God foremost. Human depravity is alienation from the Divine Will, and may underlie great varieties of external behavior. Every true convert asks at once, "Lord, what will You have me to do?" Alas for professors who daily say, "Your Will be done," while daily doing their own! How apt we are to be content with convictions that the Will of God ought to be done, with forms of prayer that it may be done, with regrets that we have not done it, and resolutions to do it hereafter! How often we think we do it when we only do it partially, in trifles that cost nothing, in actions concurring with our own inclinations and worldly interests, or when we wait for some grand occasion for doing it, and let slip the opportunities which each day offers in little things! How often we make abstinence from one fault a palliative to conscience while indulging another! We may be temperate but avaricious, chaste but uncharitable, orthodox but irritable and unforgiving, and all the while suppose we are doing the Will of God.

"This is the great difficulty which stops so many in their Christian journey. It is like a great steep mountain, which blocks up the road to heaven—and some of us waste our time in trying to find a path round it; and some of us fall asleep at the foot of it; and some of us in despair turn our backs on it, and set our faces toward the way of sin and death—but few, very few have the wisdom and the courage to say within themselves, 'The city of our God and King is at the top of that steep mountain—unless I climb the mountain, I can never get there—so the sooner I begin the better'" (A. W. Hare). The worst doom that can overtake us is being left to our own will. "My people would not heed my voice, and Israel would have none of me; so I gave them up to their own hearts' lust, and they walked in their own counsels." Refusal to walk in God's ways results in walking in our own; and walking in our own, means following that other guide who always leads those who will not be led by the Spirit. We may fancy we are masters of ourselves when we refuse to be servants of God, but while dreaming of freedom we are becoming spell-bound by the stronger will of the devil. He promises us freedom in order to rivet on us his chain. He bribes with the assurance of securing to us our will that he may make us subject to his own. It is a terrible description of his victims—"taken captive of the devil at his will." Alas for those who are "tied and bound by the chain of their sins," and have yielded up their freedom to their soul's worst foe!

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, A.D. 252, who illustrated this petition both by active service and martyr-suffering, thus admirably summarizes what we pray to be enabled to do—"The Will of God is what Christ has done and taught—it is humility in conduct, steadfastness in faith, scrupulousness in our words, rectitude in our deeds, mercy in our works, governance in our habits; it is innocence of injuriousness, and patience under it, preserving peace with the brethren, loving God with all our heart, loving Him as our Father and fearing Him as our God; accounting Christ before all things because He accounted nothing before us, clinging inseparably to His love, being stationed with fortitude and faith at His cross, and when the battle comes for His Name and honor maintaining in words that constancy which makes confession, in torture that confidence which joins battle, and in death that patience which receives the crown. This is to fulfill the Will of the Father." This petition, like the rest, includes all mankind. As we recognize the whole brotherhood when we say "Our Father;" so we pray that His Will may be obeyed throughout the whole earth. What a reign of peace will it be when everyone will be aiming at the same object, obeying the same perfect Will? Then will earth resemble heaven, when the Will of God is done by men as by angels.