I am now continuing this series of Tim Keller's thoughts on the Prayer of Prayers, with part four below.
I think this may be one of the most mis-understood and mis-prayed sections of the Prayer of Prayers. It may seem quite understandable on its face, to pray "Thy will be done." But do we really mean it to the extent that Jesus does? For, to pray this prayer means to truly lay down our kingdom aspirations, and pray for his. The implications of his will being done are not merely external - the culture, the world around us, other people we know - but internal. To pray "thy will be done" means fundamentally that our will and desires must change.
Luther is the most vivid and forthright about the meaning of the third petition. He paraphrases like this: "Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize that in this your divine will is crucifying our will."
We may be reticent to make such a bold statement, but now we can discern the importance of our initial address. Unless we are profoundly certain God is our Father, we will never be able to say "thy will be done." Fathers are often inscrutable to little children. A four-year-old cannot understand many of his father's prohibitions - but he trusts him. Only if we trust God as Father can we ask for grace to bear our troubles with patience and grace....
If we can't say "thy will be done" from the bottom of our hearts, we will never know any peace. We will feel compelled to try to control people and control our environment and make things the way we believe they ought to be. Yes to control life like this is beyond our abilities, and we will just dash ourselves upon the rocks. This is why Calvin adds that to pray "thy will be done" is to submit not only our wills to God but even our feelings, so that we do not become despondent, bitter, and hardened by the things that befall us....
George Herbert expressed it with beautiful economy:
For my heart's desire
Unto thine is bent:
To a full consent.