The belief that prayer makes a difference, that it achieves marvelous
results, is continually being verified by experience, however difficult it
may be to explain how and why it does so. (Alec Vidler)
Prayer is a significant aspect of Christian life. Jesus emphasised in his teaching the
importance for persistence and perseverance in prayer. He himself rose early to
pray, and invariably, at key moments in his ministry, the Gospel writers record that
he spent time in prayer. Prayer was a natural part of his close relationship with
We are all familiar with the prayer Jesus taught his followers. It is debatable whether
he ever intended this prayer to be locked into a fixed form, or whether his purpose
was to teach the essential elements and trigger points of prayer. I’ve been reflecting
recently on one particular phrase, ‘Your will be done on earth’, and asking what this
means for me.
We can discern the will of God clearly through the teachings of Jesus and we know
there is a great deal that happens on earth that is sad, abhorrent, unjust, tragic and
contrary to God’s will—and it continues despite our prayers. Words from Proverbs
come to mind, ‘The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the
good’ (15: 3), as well as those from the last Shakespeare play I saw at The Court
Theatre, ‘Did heaven look on and would not take their part?’ We can all understand
the anguished cry of the Psalmist, ‘Look upon the world you have made; see how full
it is of darkness and how violence inhabits the earth … why do you hold back your
hand?’ (Psalm 74). We struggle at times to comprehend how God responds to our
prayers when nothing seems to change.
Bishop George Appleton, a very wise spiritual thinker, writes, ‘God is powerless to
change the external conditions except through people involved in them.’ He adds,
God ‘works within the spirit of individual believers and in the unitive, co-operative
relationships of people.’ We have to discern our part in bringing about God’s will on
earth and what we can do to fulfil it. As we pray this petition in the Lord’s Prayer we
need to be prepared for consequences, because it requires a commitment to align
our wills with the will of God. This will have a changing effect on the way we see,
and so on the direction and behaviour of our lives.
Thanks be to God.
Canon Craufurd Murray