December 5 - LD 49, Day 3: Renouncing Our Own Will
by Rev. Martyn McGeown
Matthew 16:24 “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
When we utter the third petition, “Thy will be done,” we are praying thus: “May Thy will happen; may it come to pass that Thy will is performed by us, in us, in our lives.” We are not praying that God’s decrees will be accomplished—God’s decrees are always, infallibly and effectually accomplished. We are praying that God’s commands will be obeyed—by us.
This means that we do not have the natural power to obey God’s will. Augustine, the great theologian of grace in the early church, understood this when he prayed: “Lord, give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt.” The unbeliever cannot obey the will of God; indeed, he cannot even desire to obey God. When the unbeliever, who willfully disobeys God, prays, “Thy will be done,” he is guilty of gross hypocrisy. Let us never pray, “Thy will be done,” while we disobey God.
We struggle to utter the words of this third petition sincerely, because we are self-willed by nature. We want our will to be done, and only if God’s will suits our will, do we obey Him. We might never utter these words in our prayers, of course, but often our thought is: “My will be done!”
That is why LD 49 interprets the third petition this way: “Grant that we and all men may renounce our own will…” Jesus teaches us self-denial in our prayers. Self-denial is that most difficult of Christian callings. People will give up many things and they will tolerate a lot even for the sake of religion—but they will not deny themselves. Self-denial means that we say “no” to ourselves. Jesus graphically describes this as taking up our cross. On that cross we are called to crucify ourselves—our desires, our plans, our ambitions, our pride, and everything which would hinder us in performing God’s good will.
Can you do that? Can I do that? That is why we need to seek God in prayer.
When we pray in a way acceptable to God, we say something like this: “O Father, I am so weak, so sinful. I can hardly manage to think a good thought. O Father, the desire is there, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. O Father, give me Thy grace and Holy Spirit. Incline my heart to keep Thy commandments and to fear Thy name. I know that Thy will is better than mine, but my flesh wants to assert itself. I find it so hard to give up everything, to account all things as dung, that I might have fellowship with Thee. Crucify within me, O Father, the lusts of my flesh, my evil desires, and enable me to perform Thy will—not mine—for Thy glory.”
If you know that struggle—your will versus God’s will—then pray the third petition.
Let God’s will be done in us.
- Date: December 5
Rev. Martyn McGeown (Larisa)
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010; Providence PRC (Hudsonville, MI), Sept. 2021Website: www.prca.org/current/news/churches/usa-canada/providence-prc-hudsonville-mi
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