When we pray for God’s will to be done on earth, what exactly are we praying for? Are we praying for God’s will to be done in our own lives? Are we praying for God’s will to be done in our lives and the lives of people we know and love? Are we praying for God’s will to be done in the lives of Christians all over the world? Are we praying for God’s will to be done in the lives of people all over the world? Are we praying for social and global structures to be changed so that they reflect more of God’s will? Or are we actually praying for the Earth, the entire planet?
I was in a conversation with someone the other week who believed that ‘God’s will on Earth’ meant ‘God’s will for all Christians.’ He thought it quite obvious that we wouldn’t be praying for the Earth, as in the actual Earth. His reasoning was that because we say ‘Our Father’ at the beginning of the prayer, it must be Christians that are talking and therefore the prayer only applies for Christians.
As I pointed out to him, I use the term ‘Our Father’ because that is how Jesus taught us to address God, but that doesn’t mean I am praying only for myself. I am asking ‘Our Father’ to do his will in all the Earth. I care about the Earth and so I want God’s will to be done in it. My friend responded that just because I care about the Earth doesn’t mean that God does.
However, doesn’t the fact that Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth show that, yes, he does care? After all, Jesus could have taught us to pray ‘Your will be done in our lives.’ He didn’t. He taught us to pray, ‘Your will be done on earth.’
The Lord’s Prayer is so well-known that it’s easy to say the words, without really thinking about what they mean. I usually say the Lord’s Prayer with my children just before they go to bed. And I must admit that there have been times when I may have been saying the Lord’s Prayer, but I was thinking, ‘God, please let them go to sleep quickly tonight so I can get some study done.’ It’s so easy to slide into praying for our will, rather than God’s.
But the line from the Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we are praying for God’s will - not ours. Just because we are the ones addressing God doesn’t mean that he has to confine Himself to what interests us.
Earth is a very big place. And God’s will for Earth - that’s too big for any human to get their head around. So even if we’re not actually praying for our will, it’s hard not to limit God’s will to what our idea of earth should be. And honestly, I think that’s okay. I think it’s better to pray for something specific and actually mean something by those words than it is to pray more generally and have no concept of what you’re praying for.
But I do think we need to remind ourselves that we are praying for God’s will for earth - not just our lives, not just individuals, not just people - but the whole Earth. And because we were taught to pray for it, that must mean God has a will for Earth. We don’t need to understand it. We don’t need to figure out what His will might be. God is perfectly capable of figuring out His will without our help. We just need to pray, as Jesus taught us, that God’s will be done on earth.