When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Matthew 8:1-3
When asked, on this unique occasion whether it was his will to heal the man with leprosy, Jesus had no hesitation in declaring “I am willing.” And then he doesn’t even pray for the guy, and the man is healed!
Isn’t it striking that the Son of Man never prayed with the words if it be your will and he never taught his disciples to end their petitions with any such phrase! Believers sometimes pray, tacking on these words in resignation, asking with a sigh of doubt: Lord, if it’s your will … We seem to do this often when praying for someone’s healing.
Sure, he taught them (and us) that their praying must always be undergirded by three most important petitions:
Your name be hallowed
Your kingdom come
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
And then he suggests a series of petitions and undoubtedly these are the will of God for us.
The first believers did not appear to ask the Father in any sheepish manner. Look at their approach in their recorded prayers in Acts. The author of The Letter to the Hebrews frequently tells his readers to ask boldly, persistently. The will of the Father must be done – absolutely!
It’s a fact that we believers do not ask the Father, like tentatively, for things such as
Lord, if it’s your will, give me love for others
Lord, if it’s your will, I will give thanks
Lord, if it’s your will, I will follow your ways
In fact these are things we do not ever need to ask for! Rather we give thanks. Again, it is absurd to sincerely pray …
Lord, if it’s your will, make me a disciple of Jesus
Lord, if it’s your will, let me serve you to your glory
Lord, if it’s your will, let me share my wealth with others
Lord, if it’s your will, teach me to bear witness about Jesus
There are things we do not even need to pray about. Just do them! And there are things we do need to pray for. We are promised wisdom from the Lord. The apostle Paul declares that we (note the plural) have the mind of Christ. When we do not know how to pray, Paul instructs us to pray in the spirit with the Helper’s help (Romans 8:26): the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. So in the spirit we are enabled to pray “Your will be done, for sure!”
But if Jesus has instructed his disciples, taught them what he expects, what he commands, is it not unbelief or procrastination or maybe disobedience, when we trot out that little formula, if it be your will? Are we wanting to have two dollars each way?
What are the commands of Jesus? Receive the Holy Spirit. Make disciples. Teach the things I have commanded you. Be in the world but not of it. Preach the good news. Heal the sick. Drive out demons. Be my witnesses. Do the works that I have done.
He gave his followers a commission and he expects us, his disciples, to carry it out. Do we really have to pray about whether to get involved with these? To do these things?
We look around us and we grieve that his will is not being done. Ought not this observation charge us with a holy indignation, a desire to confront the powers that pretend to rule the world, the minds of men? And declare firmly “Your will be done! And we will do it!”
Then perhaps we can act with renewed minds and with sure confidence as the disciples did, as recorded in the gospel accounts and later in the Acts of the Apostles.
Think of a little child asking her father for good things, things that parents are expected to do for their children. What child asks a parent with if it is your will? Then we may ask with confidence and expect to receive, knowing the things of the Kingdom are the will of God. For sure.
“Your will be done! Here! Today!”