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God’s Word for You

Luke 11:2d Variant: The Third Petition

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, July 2, 2018


Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This petition of the Lord’s Prayer was the one Jesus returned to in the Garden of Gethsemane during his Passion. This was the part of his work that the man Jesus Christ struggled with; not that he failed or even faltered, but it was not easy for him. In both of his prayers in Gethsemane, this petition is the whole summary of what he said. First: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42). Second: “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42). As we study these two prayers, we see that Jesus explores in prayer every possibility, examining the task ahead from different sides, and he asks for his Father’s help in any eventuality. “If it is possible,” he says, and then, “If it is not possible.” He does not make any demands; he does not make any bargains. It’s a perfect example of the way we should pray, especially in times of great trouble and difficulty.

We don’t know what lies ahead, but God does. We must learn to trust that what he does, he does for the good of his kingdom and for the souls he calls to faith. Like a general on a battlefield or an admiral at sea, his will may put any one of us in harm’s way, but it is for the good of the whole kingdom that he does these things. We are his servants, and we are at his disposal. He can and will accomplish what he needs to accomplish in the world. Luther said simply: “God’s good and gracious will certainly is done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.”

And Luther added: “How is God’s will done? God’s will is done when he breaks and defeats every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh, which try to prevent us from keeping God’s name holy and letting his kingdom come. And God’s will is done when he strengthens and keeps us firm in his Word and in the faith as long as we live. This is his good and gracious will.” (Small Catechism).

About the text:

There are two versions of the Lord’s Prayer in the Bible, and another version matching Matthew’s text but including the doxology is in “The Didache,” one of the earliest Christian documents written after the completion of the New Testament (c. 150 AD).

This sentence, the Third Petition, is present in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10 and in most of the Greek witnesses and versions of Luke 11. Three ancient (third or fourth century) Egyptian witnesses do not have it here in Luke 11: Papyrus 75, Codex Vaticanus and the original text of Codex Sinaiticus (a corrector added the words later in that manuscript). In the estimation of Bruce Metzger, “the great majority of witnesses interpolate γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς (your will be done on earth as it is in heaven) from Matthew 6:10. If the [text here in Luke] had originally contained these words, no good reason can be suggested that accounts for their absence….”

While this one a valid interpretation of the evidence, other ancient witnesses do not agree. Greek copies from the same period (A, C, D, W, Theta, and others) include this sentence. What we must remember as most important is this: “Your will be done (etc.)” belongs in the Lord’s Prayer and is in the Lord’s Prayer presented by Matthew. If it isn’t part of Luke’s text, that doesn’t need to trouble us or affect our understanding of the Prayer our Savior taught us.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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