In this post I am continuing a series on the Lord’s Prayer. What follows are my teaching notes on the text in Matthew. I hope the blog’s readers will find it helpful.
Introduction: Quote: George W. Truett once taught that, “To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge! To do the will of God is the greatest achievement!” (Quoted in “Toolkit,” Cell Church, Winter, 1996, p. 10 [Bible.org]).
I would add to Truett’s observation one of my own, namely that to pray for the will of God is, perhaps, the greatest prayer. Now, we have seen in earlier messages that one cannot pray “hallowed be Your name” without also praying “your kingdom come,” because God’s name is hallowed where He is honored as King. But neither can one pray “Your kingdom come” without also praying “Your will be done,” because God is not honored as King where His will is not obeyed. And it this third petition – “Your will be done” – that will be the focus of our attention here.
NKJ Matthew 6:10b “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
When we pray this prayer, we are basically asking for two things: 1) that God’s will be done on earth, and 2) that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
I. We are Asking that God’s Will Be Done on Earth
In earlier messages we have seen that praying “hallowed be Your name” and “Your kingdom come” is praying both for the whole world and for ourselves at one and the same time. Such is true of praying “Your will be done” as well.
1) We are praying that God’s will be done in the whole world.
This prayer will ultimately be answered with the coming of God’s Kingdom in the future, but it is also answered as others come to know Christ and submit to Him as Lord. For example:
NKJ Romans 1:5 “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name….”
Or, as the ESV translates this verse: “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations….”
Application: When we pray that God’s will be done on earth, we are praying that people will obey Him through acceptance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
NKJ 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
Application: When we pray for God’s will to be done on earth, we are praying for the ultimate victory of the Lord Jesus over all His enemies. We are longing for the day when all is clearly seen to be subject to His rule.
NKJ Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Application: When we pray for God’s will to be done, we are praying for the day when all will bow the knee to Jesus and acknowledge Him as Lord.
2) We are praying that God’s will be done in our own lives.
Jesus is, of course, the greatest example of this:
NKJ John 4:34 “Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.’”
Application: What about you and me? Can each of us honestly say that, just as our bodies hunger for and crave food, so we crave the will of God? For example, is the desire that God’s will be done the first thing in our thoughts and in our prayers each day, or do we think of breakfast first?
NKJ Matthew 26:36-39 “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ 39 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.’”
Application: There may be many times when praying for God’s will to be done means that we must suffer for His sake. In such cases, can we pray, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will”? What kind of difficulties face you right now in your own life? Can you pray – after asking for God to take them away – “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will”? If not, then I submit to you that you haven’t yet learned to pray “Your will be done” as Jesus would have you pray it.
NKJ Hebrews 5:5-8 “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ 6 As He also says in another place: ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek’; 7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”
Application: Are we servants greater than our Master? If He who was perfect learned obedience to the will of God by the things which He suffered, how can we think it should be any different for us?
Sadly, we may often plead with God for what we want first of all, as if we can somehow conform His will to our own. And we may often do this in order to avoid suffering. But instead of avoiding suffering, we may sometimes only delay it or make things even worse for ourselves by our refusal to accept His will … like Jonah, who thought he could run away from God’s will and ended up fish food.
Illustration: William Moses Tidwell offers the following illustration:
The carriage was being driven along the road. The mother sat on the front seat and the maid, caring for the spoiled baby, on the back seat. The child began screaming for something. The mother impatiently said, “Why don’t you let him have what he wants?” The nurse let him have it. What he was crying for was a wasp on the window. Then he screamed vociferously when he felt the terrible sting of the wasp. The mother then called out to ask, “What is the matter with him now?” The maid quietly replied, “He got what he wanted.” How often have we seen this! It is better to seek the will of God first. (Pointed Illustrations [elbourne.org])
Illustration: On the other hand, we could learn the lesson of Jesus’ life, as the missionary David Livingstone seems to have done:
David Livingstone tells how he was chased up a small tree and besieged by lions. He said the tree was so small that he was barely out of reach of the lions. He said they would stand on their back feet and roar and shake the little tree, and that he could feel the hot breath of the lions as they sought him. “But,” he states, “I had a good night and felt happier and safer in that little tree besieged by lions, in the jungles of Africa, in the will of God, than I would have been out of the will of God in England.” (William Moses Tidwell, Pointed Illustrations [elbourne.org]).
I submit to you that this is the kind of attitude Jesus wants us to have when we pray to our heavenly Father “Your will be done.”
II. We are Asking that God’s Will Be Done As It Is in Heaven
Here we must think about how God’s will is done in heaven. David gives us some insight
NKJ Psalm 103:19-22 “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. 22 Bless the LORD, all His works, in all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!”
David wanted everyone in all the places of God’s dominion to praise Him and obey Him even as the angels in heaven do. But how do the angels in heaven obey God? Perhaps one example will suffice:
NKJ Luke 2:8-14 “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”
These angels can’t help but praise God when carrying out His commands! They are filled with joy at the unfolding of His plans as they see His will accomplished!
Application: Have you ever read in the Bible of one of God’s holy angels in heaven disobeying him? Have you ever read about any of these angels complaining about the will of God rather than doing it immediately and with joy?
Quote: Wayne Grudem highlights this same point in his Systematic Theology:
In both their obedience and their worship angels provide helpful examples for us to imitate. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). In heaven God’s will is done by angels, immediately, joyfully, and without question. We are to pray daily that our obedience and the obedience of others would be like that of the angels in heaven. Their delight is to be God’s humble servants, each faithfully and joyfully performing their assigned tasks, whether great or small. Our desire and prayer should be that we ourselves and all others on earth would do the same. (p. 404)
Conclusion: Jesus wants us to pray daily that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. He knows that we need to align our wills with the Father’s will every day, and He knows that we can best do this through prayer. What about each of us? Can we honestly say that we desire that God’s will be done so earnestly that it takes precedence in our prayers even over our own needs? Does such a desire make us willing even to suffer so that His will may be done? And does such a desire show in our own immediate and joyful obedience to His will?