Thy Will Be Done

When my son was about four years old I was teaching him the Lord’s Prayer, and after spending several evenings before bed going through it, I asked him if he knew it well enough to pray it himself out loud. He nodded his head and he closed his eyes and began like this: “Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, my will be done.”  It was of course an innocent mistake on his part, a slight reversal of pronouns, but it illustrates the inner battle that we face each day as followers of Christ. Only one will can be done at a time. Will it be God’s will or my will?  In this section of the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:10b – “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This phrase is loaded with implications.

First, God has a will concerning my life and the choices I make.

Second, I have a will for my life that is sometimes in conflict with God’s will.

Third, when there’s a conflict, only one will can be done: God’s or mine.

Fourth, when I pray, “Your will be done” I am asking that God’s will triumphs over mine.

What is interesting about this part of the Lord’s Prayer is that Jesus wants us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth “as it is in heaven.”  How exactly is God’s will done in heaven? The angels carry it out perfectly!.

Psalm 103:20 – Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

So, in all likelihood, Jesus is inviting us to pray that we would carry out God’s will more like the good angels, as opposed to the fallen angels who never do God’s will.

When it comes to God’s will, I find the analogy of the upright posts in football to be a helpful one.  The kicker has two boundaries that he must kick the ball in between. Similarly, there are two important “posts” to consider:

POST 1 = The Sovereign Will of God (will of purpose).

This is the will of God that will take place no matter what.  For example, when God decides it is time for Jesus to return to earth, it will happen whether a person wants it to happen or not.  It doesn’t matter whether you believe it, have faith for it, or pray against it, it is the sovereign will of God that will happen no matter what.  And there are certain things about our life that God sovereignly wills.  He had a start date, and he has an end date.

Psalm 139:16 –“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

This verse brought a lot of comfort to Erin and I each time we went through a miscarriage because the verse tells us that God knows and decides how short or long our life will be. His will of purpose is expressed in

Isaiah 14:42 – “The LORD Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.’”

POST 2 = The Moral Will of God (will of desire)

This is essentially God’s moral will for us no matter where we live and what job we have. Unlike his sovereign will, his moral will is not always followed perfectly. For example, Jesus desired that the people of Israel would be saved and he preached, healed, and prayed to that end. But only a few of his own people believed in him. Most rejected him. When he was entering Jerusalem just prior to the crucifixion, he prayed…

Luke 13:34 – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

Jesus willed that they come to trust him and be under his authority. But they were not willing. God’s will, in this sense, isn’t always done on earth. Ultimately, God’s moral will is revealed to us in the Bible. As long as we are within the boundary of those two posts, we can be said to be within:

The Specific Will of God (His will of direction)

The specific will of God is God’s personal will for us. It is the details, if you like, that aren’t laid out clearly in Scripture. When it comes to the specific will of God, God gives us a lot of freedom in life to do things. Whether it be choices like what we do as a career, or who we marry, or where we live, there’s lots of space and freedom for us to choose so long as our choices are within the upright posts of his moral will and within his sovereign will. We can see some of how this worked out in the apostle Paul’s life. He said to the Christians in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 16:7 – “For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.”

Paul was careful to say, “If the Lord permits.” I have this plan. But, I submit it to God’s will. Ultimately, I am not fully certain about it right now, but I will trust God to make his will of direction known.

If you read letters that passed between Christians 100 years ago, you’ll notice a common postscript: D.V.  These two letters stand for the Latin words: Deo Volente—which means “God willing” or “if the Lord wills.”  That’s essentially what Paul is saying here in verse 7. “If the Lord wills.” Meaning, we should live in the recognition that He, not us, is in control. 

So, when we pray, “Your will be done” it is a prayer of surrender, that God’s will would prevail over our (sinful/selfish) will, and that we would let him call the shots, because life is most joyful and fulfilling when we obey his will.  Moreover, when we pray, “Your will be done” it acknowledges that there is going to be a cost for doing God’s will.  On the eve of his crucifixion, in the garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus laid down his life for us on the cross, to pay for our sins, and provide for our salvation, he prayed

Matthew 26:39 – “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

These aren’t the words of unbelief. They are the words of faith. They are the words of someone who understands fully what it will cost to do the will of God. The cup Jesus is referring to is the cup of suffering he was about to undergo.  And as the time of death drew close, he asked that the suffering might be removed from him. But then in the next breath he prays “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He knew that obedience to the will of God couldn’t be accomplished without the suffering of the cross. So, he surrenders to His Father’s plan

God has a good plan for us (Romans 12:2). Doing his will isn’t always easy, and often it is very costly. It certainly was for Jesus. Yet, the benefits (to us and others) of doing the will of God always outweighs the cost. May the example of Jesus inspire us to follow in His footsteps. May we pray, “Thy Will be done.”

Categories Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on September 25, 2023

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