In what we term the Our Father Jesus used to teach his Apostles (and us) how to pray. In the final clause of Luke 11:2 Jesus tells us to pray, “thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” I believe one of the keys to understanding Jesus’ teaching at this point is to remember the disciple came to Jesus, confessing his ignorance and asking Jesus to teach him and the other disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1). After all, if he knew how to pray, or how to hollow God’s name, or how bring the Kingdom of God to fruition etc., why would he come asking Jesus to teach him and the others how to do these things?
All believers could rightly assume that Jesus knew these things, yet even he confessed that he did not come to establish his own will but the will of his Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). In fact, when fellowship between Jesus and his Father was hidden from Jesus during his Gethsemane experience (Matthew 26:39, 42), Jesus still prayed for his Father’s will to be brought to fruition, even when Jesus desired the same thing as his Father. Gethsemane is the only place in the Gospel narratives where Jesus seems ignorant of the Father’s will—if it be possible… and if the cup may not pass away from me except I drink it… Nevertheless, Jesus refused to act upon his own will. Rather, he waited for his Father’s direction (Luke 22:43). In other words, Jesus refused to do the work of God according to his (i.e. Jesus’) own understanding.
When Saul, Israel’s first king, waited for the word of the Lord, but it didn’t come in the time he assumed it should, he acted foolishly, meaning, according to his own thoughts (1Samuel 13:8-14). Therefore, Saul was rejected by God. Consider the fact that he fought the Lord’s battles, but he was rejected! Why was he rejected? He was rejected by God, because he fought the Lord’s battles according to his own understanding and didn’t wait for the word of the Lord to be made clear.
Jesus told us to pray for the Kingdom of God to come (Luke 11:2). However, our efforts to bring that to pass must be according to the will of God, not what we presume is the correct way. For example, I was once the leader of a prayer group at my church. During the prayer time, men would go out to visit people who in one way or another had contacted the church for some reason. Many people were brought to a saving understanding of the Lord during those times of prayer. However, at one particular time the people went out canvassing neighborhoods to get people to come to a certain special event that would occur at the church in the then near future. The idea behind the canvassing was that studies showed, if one knocked on X number of doors a certain percentage of X would respond favorably, and we would be successful according to our faithfulness to knock on many doors. If this logic is true, why pray? Why pray if we already know the outcome of X? If we can be successful without prayer—without God’s input—why pray at all? I felt very uncomfortable be a part of that project, even though all I did was pray for its success.
I cannot serve the Lord according to my own understanding, because I am ignorant of what it means to serve the Lord (cf. Luke 11:1). If I have to come to Jesus to ask how, I need Jesus to tell me how. If Jesus refused to do the work of God without the input of his Father (cf. Luke 22:42-43), how could we ever hope to do the work of the Kingdom of God, if we endeavor to do so without considering the will of heaven (Luke 11:2)? Jesus told us to pray: “thy will be done, AS IN HEAVEN, so on earth.” This is a request for God to guide out thoughts, and efforts in doing the work of God. We cannot successfully do it otherwise.