This week we are studying the third and fourth petitions of the Lord’s Prayer – “Thy will be done on earth as it is Heaven” and “Give us this day, our daily bread.” The six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer can generally be divided into two parts: the “Thou” petitions of Thy Name, Thy Kingdom, and Thy Will, and the “Our” petitions of Our Bread, Our Trespasses, and Our Deliverance. This week we will end the Thous and begin the Ours. Please read the remainder of chapter 9 of Bailey.
On one level, when we pray the third petition, we pray that our will on earth be brought in accordance with God’s perfect will as carried out in heaven. As St. Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258) writes: “We say this not so that God might do as he wishes, but that we should be able to do as God wishes.” In chapter 15 of his Treatise on the Lord’s Prayer, he lists what the will of God is for us as fully expressed in the acts and teachings of Christ: Humility in conduct; Steadfastness in faith; Modesty in words; Justice in deeds; Mercifulness in works; Discipline in morals; To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when done; To keep peace with the brethren; To love God with all one’s heart; To love Him in that He is a Father; To fear Him in that He is God; To prefer nothing whatever to Christ, because He did not prefer anything to us; To adhere inseparably to His love; To stand by His cross bravely and faithfully; In any debate on behalf of His name and honour, to exhibit constancy in faith; In torture, being defiant by fidelity; and In death, exhibit that patience whereby we are crowned.
It is this will of God, as shown by obedience not to the letter of the law which brings death (2 Cor. 3:6) but to the carrying out of the two-fold commandment of love (Matt. 22:36-40), for which we pray.
On a deeper level, however, this petition represents the completion of our salvation as contained in the three Thou petitions. If you remember our discussion of On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius writes that God created humanity out of nothingness, but created us to partake of his own image including eternal life. However, because of sin and corruption, that image had been effaced and therefore instead of rising towards God, our very nature was returning to non-existence. These first three petitions take us through the process of salvation and of re-obtaining that image of God.
As we have looked at over the last two weeks, “Heaven” in the preface doesn’t refer to a place that contains God, but rather refers to God’s Dignity and essential nature. Within the first petition, it is the name of God whereby he reveals and discloses to us who he IS. His Name is Hallowed as we become purified of the works of the flesh which lead to death and corruption and non-existence. In the second petition, His Kingdom comes upon and within us through the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and illuminates our very being, turning it towards God and filling us with his Fruit. And in this third petition, our salvation into life becomes completed as it is not our will but his will that governs us, and thereby we become partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). As Athanasius says in section 54 “God became Man so that we may become God.” Or as Charles Wesley writes in a forgotten hymn:
Heavenly Adam, Life divine,
Change my nature into thine!
Move and spread throughout my soul,
Actuate and fill the whole!
Be it I no longer now
Living in the flesh, but Thou.
It is within this first part of the Lord’s Prayer that we ask that our nature be perfected and deified.
This Sunday, during the Eucharistic Prayer, please read the Lord’s Prayer from the BCP and intentionally engage each of the petitions. See how each of the first three petitions relates to the full sanctification of our nature immediately prior to our partaking of our true daily bread.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is homemade Chinese. Discussion about 6:45. Compline a little before 8. Hope to see you here, and please bring a friend.
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.Matt 26:38-39