Your Will Be Done
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
In Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus teaches His disciples about prayer. We are not to pray to be seen by others like the hypocrites; nor are we to pray with empty, repetitive words like the heathen. Instead, His disciples are to pray to their heavenly Father in secret knowing that our Father knows what we need even before we ask. Then, in Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gives us a pattern, a model prayer, that we often call the Lord’s Prayer. It is meant to be the Christian’s primer and pattern for prayer.
The invocation of the prayer, “Our Father in heaven” sets the atmosphere. We are praying to our all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful Father. We pray based on a love relationship with our Father; we are trusting His goodness, His power, and His love. This intimate relationship that we have as the children of God was purchased by Christ on the cross—therefore, we can come boldly before the throne of God as His dearly loved children.
We have seen that the first three petitions of this prayer concern the Father’s name, kingdom, and will. Perhaps too often, we mistakenly enter prayer selfishly—as though the priority is our name, kingdom, and will. It is not. In fact, when we truly pray, prayer conforms our desires to the Father’s. Therefore, prayer is an important part of our sanctification process. True prayer delivers us from our sinful selfishness.
The petition that probably delivers us most from the rule of self is “oYour will be done.” As we pray through this petition, we bend our desires to that of our Father. It is here where we choose to trust the goodness of God, to know the wisdom of God, and to obey the commands of God—even when circumstances are difficult and don’t make sense.
What does it mean to pray “Your will be done”?
Many Christians are confused about the will of God, maybe you are also. You may have questions like: “What is God’s will? How do I find it?” There is good reason for this confusion: When considering Scripture’s teaching on God’s will, it is clear that there are different aspects of it. Many Bible scholars observe three aspects of God’s will. The thought is not that God has more than one will, but that we can see God’s aims and purposes of God’s one will from three perspectives. There is:
1. God’s sovereign will.
Some theologians call this God’s secret will or God’s will of decree. God’s sovereign will is the aspect of God’s will that is always done. It is what God has sovereignly decreed will take place. Paul writes in Ephesians 1 about “the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,” (Eph. 1:11). This corresponds to what we said last time about the kingdom of God. There is a sense in which God rules over everything in creation and providence as the King. God’s sovereign, eternal purposes will be accomplished for the glory of His name.
We are able to know some of God’s sovereign will because He has revealed it in His word. We know that God has decreed that certain things will take place. Nothing and no one can change that. For instance, God spoke through Isaiah about the destruction of Assyria and Babylon, “The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand.’” (Isa. 14:24). To Jeremiah He said, “For every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, To make the land of Babylon a desolation without inhabitant.” (Jer. 51:29). God has revealed to us in the scriptures that His eternal plan of salvation will be accomplish. Satan, sin and death will be judged and done away with forever. The redeemed saints of God will go to Heaven. Things will go just as God has determined they will, and nothing will derail His purposes!
Some of God’s sovereign will is a mystery to us. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29). Notice the important distinction that is made here between what is secret and what is revealed. What is revealed belongs to us and our calling is to do it, but that which is secret belongs to God, and we cannot know it. This would include God’s allowing sin and evil to take place. This is a mysterious aspect of God’s will because, at the same time, Scripture says that God does not commit evil, nor can He be blamed for evil. God allowed Satan to afflict Job (Job 1:12); to tempt David (1 Chr. 21:1); and to test Peter (Luke 22:31).
Again, this is a mystery to us, but it is not a mystery to God. Finite creatures cannot fully comprehend an infinite God. What he has revealed about Himself, we must believe even if we do not fully understand it. The doctrine of God’s sovereign will is always taught in such a way as to give believers comfort. Evil people are not in control; Satan is not in control, and neither are we. God is in control, and he works all events, even the sins of his creatures, for the good of his people and in accordance with his sovereign will (cf. Rom 8:28, Eph 1:11). Nothing in your life is outside of God’s purpose or beyond His control.
Exactly how the events of our lives are woven into the Father’s plan we cannot always tell because God has kept that to Himself and not revealed it to us, “The secret things belong to the LORD.”
How should we respond to God’s sovereign will? We must trust God both in what He has revealed and what He has kept secret. We walk by faith and not by sight, until the day when we are in His presence in heaven. Then what was kept secret will be revealed, and what was a mystery to us, we will see with new eyes. So, here’s how you pray when you are staring into a mystery that you do not understand, when you cannot see what God is doing: “Lord, strengthen my faith, and may Your will be done.”
2. God’s prescriptive will.
This might also be called the ethical will of God or God’s will of command. God has clearly revealed how we are to live according to the commands of scripture. God’s prescriptive will for us includes things like the Great Commandment, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … And … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37-39). The will of God for us today is also revealed in the Great Commission: It is God’s will that we “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The Bible is full of direct commands to God’s people regarding their relationship with Him and with other people. God has not been ambiguous when it comes to ethics. He has clearly revealed His will in this area. This is God’s prescriptive will. He has revealed it clearly, prescribed it to us, and commanded us to obey it.
You and I know that this aspect of God’s will is not always done, even by those of us who are children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. So, when we pray “Your will be done,” we are asking that God’s prescriptive will would be known and obeyed. Of course, a prayer like that has to begin with us. We must pray that we would obey God’s commands. Kent Hughes said this about praying “Your will be done,”:
In praying this we invite God to conquer us, and that is why this petition is so scary. When we pray this prayer, we are asking God to do what is necessary to make his will prevail in our lives. And God then comes with gracious, kind violence to root out all impediments to our obedience. To pray this prayer may terrify us, but it will also deliver us from ourselves. It can truly be said that we have not learned to pray at all until every request in our prayers is made subject to this one.
Therefore, to pray “Your will be done,” we cannot pray for anything that clearly goes against God’s commands. We cannot pray for grace to cheat on a test or not to get caught in a lie. Prayer is about God’s will, and therefore, true prayer is always moral and conforms to God’s will. James 4:3 says, 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” 1 John 5:14 says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” That’s really what Christ meant when he called us to pray in His name (John 14:13-14). It doesn’t mean to tack His name on the end of our prayers. It means that we pray in line with His character and purpose. Therefore, to pray outside of God’s prescribed will is to pray amiss.
So, we pray, “Father cause me to live in obedience to your commands and bring others in conformity to Your commands as well.”
When we pray, “Your will be done,” we are praying for God’s sovereign will to be accomplished and for faith to trust Him in it. We are praying for God’s prescriptive will to be done as people obey God’s commands. And third, we are praying for,
3. The discerned will of God.
Paul writes in Romans 12, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:1-2). When he writes that we may “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” the word “prove” means to test, examine, scrutinize, discern as genuine.
There is a will of God that can be discerned. This is neither secret nor revealed, but somewhere in between. It is discerned. All of us make life-changing decisions and we wrestle with life-changing questions. What college should I attend? Where should I live? Should I marry and if so, who should I marry? What work should I pursue? What money should I spend, what should I save, and what should I give? What church should I join? What responsibility should I take on my shoulders? Every time you come to a fork in the road of your life, you will find yourself asking, “What is God’s will?” but there isn’t a verse in the Bible that tells you a detailed answer to any of these questions.
How do we pray for God’s discerned will to be done? How do we discern God’s will in these things? Paul gave us the answer right there in Romans 12: by surrendering ourselves to God as living sacrifices; by not conforming to this evil world; by being transformed by the renewing of our minds with the word of God. God’s word may not tell me what car to drive—but as I surrender my life as a living sacrifice I discern that I must have a car that reflects that surrender and sacrifice to the Lord. God’s word may not tell me where I am to live—but as I refuse to be conformed to this world, I discern that where I live cannot be determined by a desire for earthly wealth, fame, or sin. God’s word may not tell me what church to join—but as I renew my mind with the word of God, I discern the characteristics of a healthy church are to be and I can look for one that is like that.
So here’s how you pray when you are faced with a major decision: “Lord give me discernment; cause me to be wise, to live according to the principles in Your word, and may Your will be done.”
When we pray “Your will be done,” we are asking for faith in what God has kept secret, obedience in what God has prescribed, and wisdom in what God calls us to discern.
How is God’s will to be done?
Our Lord gives a model of how God’s will is to be done. “Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” How is God’s will done in heaven? Psalm 103 says,
19 The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. 20 Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word. 21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. (Psa. 103:19-21).
In heaven, God’s will is done completely, consistently and constantly. It is done without complaint, without murmuring, without discussion and it is done quickly. It is done with joy and excitement. In the Lord’s Prayer we are asking we may do the will of God as the angels do in heaven: “Lord, let us do your will, fully, gladly and immediately.”
But, as Colin Smith points out, angels don’t know the realities of life in the body. They don’t experience temptation to sin. They don’t know what it is to suffer. So God has given us a closer model. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Has God’s will ever been done on earth as it is in heaven?
It has in the life and ministry of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38). Jesus loved doing the Father’s will. He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34). Jesus did nothing on His own. He said, “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” (John 5:30).
Paul writes about Jesus, “For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.’” (Rom 15:3). Hebrews says about Jesus, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Heb. 5:8) and quoting Psalm 40, “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come–In the volume of the book it is written of Me–To do Your will, O God.’” (Heb. 10:7).
Jesus embraced God’s commands and obeyed them completely even through suffering. He did it to please His heavenly Father, not Himself. Jesus specifically prayed this request, “Your will be done,” as He faced His death on the cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane on the night He was betrayed, Matthew records, “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’” (Matt. 26:39) and again “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matt. 26:42).
He that taught us this prayer used it himself in the most unrestricted sense. When the bloody sweat stood on His face, and all the fear and trembling of a man in anguish were upon Him, He did not dispute the decree of the Father, but bowed His head and cried, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
Here’s what it looks like for God’s will to be done on earth. Jesus submitted to the Father’s will because of His love relationship with the Father. He submitted to God’s will because the Father had clearly revealed His purpose. He submitted to God’s will confident in the eternal joy that it would bring. Gethsemane shows us that this third petition is the hardest of all to pray, and it will change the way you think about prayer. Our first thought about prayer may be that prayer is a way to get God to do our will, but Jesus makes it very clear that it is completely the other way round. The purpose of prayer is not that God should do our will, but that we should do God’s will, “Your will be done.”
 Hughes, R. K. (2001). The sermon on the mount: the message of the kingdom (p. 177). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Gregory Brown, 23. May Your Will Be Done (Matthew 6:10b), https://bible.org/seriespage/23-may-your-will-be-done-matthew-610b#_ftn2
 Smith, ibid.
 Charles Spurgeon, A Heavenly Pattern for Our Earthly Life, https://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/HEAVPAT.TXT