Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
124. What is the third petition?
“Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven;” that is, grant that we and all men renounce our own will, and without disputing obey Your will, which alone is good; so that everyone may fulfill his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels do in heaven.
God’s will refers to His commands revealed in His Word. Doing God’s will means obeying His commands out of thankfulness for salvation. “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3); “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18); “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). To know God’s will we must know God’s Word (Eph. 5:17).
It is God’s will that we fulfill our office and calling, that is, our daily work and responsibilities (1 Cor. 7:24). “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecc. 9:10). Our daily work is a divine calling. It is part of subduing the earth for God’s glory (Gen. 1:28; 2:15, 19). Sometimes we struggle to know which line of work to pursue. Scripture gives us general principles. First, we cannot miss God’s plan for our life (Ps. 33:11; Acts 17:26). God told Jeremiah, “Before you were born I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5). Even Jonah, who tried not to fulfill his calling to go to Nineveh, still did! Second, God has many different ways of directing our steps (Prov. 16:9). Moses was right that he was the one to lead Israel out of Egypt, but he was wrong about how and when. He didn’t know he needed desert training for 40 years!
It is God’s will that we learn to be content with His sovereign (providential) will, without complaining (Phil. 4:11). We need to be faithful today, right where we are, trusting God to do what is good for us (1 Sam. 3:18; 2 Sam. 10:12). “So when Paul would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, the will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14). “If the Lord wills, we shall live” (James 4:15). Jesus is our perfect example. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34). “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
God’s will is not being obeyed on earth as it is in heaven. “The will of God is done in heaven in such a way by the angels, that every one of them stands before God ready to do whatever He commands [Ps. 103:20-21; Heb. 1:14] … No one declines or refuses to do the service which God requires from them” (Ursinus, 640).
By praying, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” we are asking for God’s help to do His will as faithfully as His angels do in heaven (cf. Matt. 5:48). The Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts a desire to do God’s will. David said, “I delight to do Your will, O my God” (Ps. 40:8). But we still have to fight against our old sinful nature which is against God’s will (Rom. 7:18-23). Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny [renounce, forsake] himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). We cannot renounce our own will and do God’s will unless God helps us; which is why we pray, “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it” (Ps. 119:35).
Notice how the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer fit together. The name of God is sanctified only when His kingdom comes to our hearts; and His kingdom makes progress only when we do His will. Only when Christ returns will God’s will be done perfectly on earth as it is in heaven. For earth and heaven will be one (2 Pet. 3:13).