In the model
prayer Jesus gave to his followers, Jesus urged us to talk with God about,
among other things, how the world isn’t yet the way God wants it to be: “Thy
kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Latin American theologian Leonardo Boff said:
“Anyone who prays this presupposes that our present world is not doing the will
of God and that humanity is rebelling against God’s will.”

When it
comes to how people understand God’s will, I hear a lot of really bad theology
flowing from sincerely loving hearts.  Because we want to feel safe, to be able to
make sense out of hard things, and to understand more than we actually do or
can about how God works in the world, we glibly  say things like, “Everything happens for a
reason” or  “God’s in control,” or “It
must be God’s will.”  Actually, not. 

Some things
happen for no reason at all; they are random, absurd, and irrational.  The apostle Paul said as much when he said,
“the creation has been subjected to futility” (Romans 8:20).  Some things are just awful and there is no apparent
reason for them. 

While I
certainly affirm that God will one day redeem everything and everyone, will heal
all the torn world and its troubled people, and will transform the bitter and brutal
realities of the life into beauty, it is not the case that God manages the
world in a way that is anything like “control” as we usually understand it.  “Control” would mean that Hitler would not
have been Hitler, that tsunamis would not wipe out whole villages, and that the
murdered children of Newtown would still be alive. 

And there
are plenty of things that happen which aren’t God’s will.  When her husband, the actor Hugh Franklin was
dying of cancer, Madeline L’Engle said:

do not have to make the repulsive theological error of feeling that I have to
see cancer as God’s will for my husband. 
I do not want anything to do with that kind of God.  Cancer is not God’s will.  The death of a child is not God’s will.  The deaths from automobile accidents during
this long holiday weekend are not God’s will. 
I would rather have no God at all than that kind of punitive God.  Tragedies are consequences of human actions,
and the only God worth believing in does not cause the tragedies but lovingly
comes into the anguish with us [
The Two-Part Invention, p. 172.]


We pray for
God’s kingdom to come because, though we see its healing and saving presence
among us, it has not fully arrived.  We
pray for God’s will to be done on earth, because it isn’t always.  We talk to God about all places and people
who are shattered and struggling because the earth isn’t yet fully a theater of
God’s goodness and glory.

And, while
we long and work for the kingdom fully to come—while we lament and struggle
with the brokenness of the world and our own lives—we trust that God is,
somehow, with us, that “nothing ever separates us from the love of God” (Romans