STUDIES IN THE LORD'S PRAYER
Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2002
STUDY FIVE: YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
'This , then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."'
Here we come to the third section in the first concern prayer: here the God-centred focus of our prayer is for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
A. WHAT IS THIS WILL OF GOD FOR WHICH JESUS CHRIST COMMANDS US TO PRAY?
The seven tables below list examples of the seven aspects of the will of God identified in the Scriptures. In studying these we find that 'the will of God' is something far greater than the common tendency to confine God's will to a personalized 'what is God's will for my life?' decision-making question. These Scriptures reveal that:
1. God's will is his over-riding sovereign purpose which no one can abort or change:
'The Lord Almighty has sworn, "Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand." ... This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations. For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?' See also Jeremiah 51:29.
'I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please ... what I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do'
'He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?"'
' ... the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father'
' ... according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ ... according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will'. See also 1:5,11.
' ... according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord'
' "I have come to do your will." ... And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all'
'God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled'
God has an agenda, a sovereign purpose to which he is committed and towards which he guides and governs the whole of history. This cosmic purpose of God is centred in Jesus Christ and his eternal kingdom. God will bring this purpose to its telos, its appointed goal and end. Nothing can stop this: neither our moral sin nor our disobedient and foolish choices. When we pray 'your will be done on earth ... ' we are praying that God will bring his cosmic purpose to pass, and we are committing ourselves to God's integrity in fulfilling that purpose, despite the times when we haven't the ghost of an idea how he is operating in the circumstances that surround us and our world.
2. It is the incorporation of individuals into this over-riding purpose
'Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.'
'A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?
'The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.'
'I summon ... a man to fulfill my purpose ... ' See also 45:1-7.
'If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?'
Acts 13:22, 36 - KJV
'I have found David, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will. ... David served his own generation by the will of God '. See also Acts 26:16 KJV.
'God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.'
'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.'
1 Corinthians 1:1
' ... called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God'. See also 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 2Tim 1:1.
1 Peter 3:17
'It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good that for doing evil'
1 Peter 4:19
' ... those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.'
When we pray 'your will be done ... ' we are also committing ourselves to availability to be used by God in his cosmic purpose, and in the other aspects of his will listed below. We are telling him that we so want his will to be done that we are willing to be used by him, with or without our knowledge. We are telling him: 'you are the potter, I am the clay' - whatever vessel you make of me, use it, use me, for your grand and glorious plan and purpose.
3. God's will is the honour of his Son:
' ... the Father ... has entrusted all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him'
'Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father'
Here we are praying that in the present time people will give to Jesus Christ the honour due to him, and for the coming of the day when every one - when all creatures on heaven and on earth - will acknowledge that he is the Lord of lords and the King of kings. [It is easy to see at this point how the three aspects of this God-centred concern all hold together and support each other - the honour of his name, the coming of his Kingdom, and the effecting of his will.]
4. God's will is that we believe in Jesus Christ:
'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent'
'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth'
In this aspect of our praying for the will of God to be done, we focus on both the honour of his Son and the salvation of the lost. Here, in God's will that people believe in his Son, both  and  are involved. This also, like the previous point, embraces the honour of God's name and the coming of his Kingdom.
5. God's will is the salvation of the lost:
'... your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost'
John 1:13 KJV
'which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God'
2 Timothy 1:9
'God ... has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace'
James 1:18 KJV
'Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures'
2 Peter 3:9
'The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance'
Whenever we pray for someone's salvation our prayers are in line with this phrase of the Lord's Prayer: 'your will be done' - 'bring this person to salvation, Father - don't let them reject your word, bring them to repentance'.
6. God's will is the eternal security of all who believe in Jesus Christ:
John 6: 39,40
'And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day'
'Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory ... '
It is God's will that those who believe in him should keep on growing in their knowledge and faith, that their faith will endure through all the stresses and strains of life. Whenever we pray for Christians who are struggling with the temptation to give up their faith because of persecutions and pressures of various kinds, we are praying 'your will be done', for their perseverance is his will. Many of Paul's prayers in his letters come under this aspect of God's will.
7. God's will is his revealed commands recorded in the Scripture - that is, our sanctification
' ... do whatever seems best ... in accordance with the will of your God'
' ... if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law ... '
' ... do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is'
' ... like the slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart'
'Epaphras ... is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured'
1 Thessalonians 4:3ff
'It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality ...'
2 Timothy 1:9
'God ... has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace'.
'May the God of peace ... equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ'
1 Peter 2:15
'For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men'.
1 Peter 4:2
' ... he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God'
Here we are telling God that we are committed to obeying his commands - we are asking him to help us to keep them, to live our lives according to his directions, to do the things that please him, and to avoid the things that grieve him. We are here also giving him the 'permission' to correct us when we disobey - because we want his will to be expressed in our lives.
B. GOD'S WILL IN THE PSALMS
The Psalm writers use a variety of different words - teach, guide, lead, instruct, path, counsel, direct, light, watch, know, sees - in their repeated references to the will of God and their many prayers for guidance, leading and so on. In the vast majority of these the writers are concerned with living in accordance with God's commandments, not with 'decision making' guidance.
Go to Worksheet 5 to check out these references.
C. COMMITMENT AND SUBMISSION TO THE WILL OF GOD
To pray 'your will be done on earth as it is in heaven' is meaningless and hypocritical unless this will of God is the desire of our hearts and minds. Consider the following expressions of the attitude in which the will of God is the dominant desire:
'I desire to do you will, O my God; your law is within my heart'.
'Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground'.
'Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done'.
'My food ... is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'.
'I seek not to please myself but him who sent me'.
'For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me' .
'When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done"'.
'I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you'.
' ... so that by God's will I may come to you' [see also Acts 18:21; 1 Cor 4:19].
' ... you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."'
In these verses we see the commitment of the human heart and will to the will of God; here a submission to God's purpose and sovereign rule is expressed - in the big things, and in the little things, both in amoral choices and moral choices. The over-riding passion is to please God.
Some of these refer to 'decision making' and the will of God, but they are not asking for specific directions. Rather they are acknowledgements that God has the authority and the power to change circumstances and over-rule and alter our decisions, so that we know that things we plan and desire may be over-ridden by his will and purpose, and we are happy with that, indeed, that is what we want God to do, if our decisions are not wise or appropriate.
The example of Jesus Christ's submission to his Father's will instructs us as to what our attitude should be as we seek to follow him. When we pray 'your will be done on earth as it is in heaven' we are saying 'God, here I am, I want to do your will, just like Jesus. Not my will, Father, but yours be done - in my living, in my choices. I delight to do your will.'
'For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father ... ' [Colossians 1:9-12a]
'Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will'
STUDY FIVE EVALUATION: How often do I pray that his will be done?
I pray that God's over-riding purpose will come to pass
I tell him I'm available to be used in that purpose
I pray that Jesus Christ will be honoured
I pray that people will believe in Jesus Christ
I pray that the lost will come to repentance
I pray that Christians will remain faithful to Jesus Christ
I pray that Christians will obey God's word/be sanctified
I pray that I will obey his Word and be sanctified (holy)