Jesus, in His third petition of the Lord’s prayer, teaches us to pray to God saying, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). But what exactly does it mean to pray this? And why is Jesus having us pray in this way? As we look through the Scriptures, we observe that the “will of God” is not a single concept, but has several facets or dimensions to it. Let’s looks together at the options available for what Christ could have meant.
The first understanding of the will of God has to deal with His eternal decree. The will of God in this sense speaks of God’s sovereignty; namely, whatever God ordains, or decrees will come to pass. In other words, whatever God decrees to come to pass, will inevitably and without failure come to pass. Nothing can stop God. Scripture provides countless examples of this dimension of the will of God. For example, when God said, “Let there be light” there indeed was light! There was not a momentary pause where God perhaps chewed on His fingernails wondering if the light would come. God was not anxious hoping that somehow the darkness would produce the light of its own abilities and accord. God said “let there be” and by necessity “there was”.
If you have children, you know that just because you tell them to do something, does not mean they are going to listen. It’s not like that with God. When God says something is going to happen, nothing can stop Him. When God says light will come from darkness, light is going to come. When God the Son speaks over the grave of Lazarus in the Gospel of John and calls him out, nothing is going to stop Lazarus from coming out alive. God’s will of decree is His sovereign control over every single particle of existence, from stars and comets, to the very heart beating within your chest. Paul affirms this in Ephesians 1:11, “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (ESV) Even the brutality of the cross is the result of God’s will of decree from before the world began, and yet, man and their sin find themselves only responsible for sin itself. (cf. Acts 4:27-28)
The second sense of God’s will can be called God’s will of desire. This sense is focused upon God’s commandments and precepts. The real focus in this manner is what God desires from the world; this is what the world should look like. This second sense is highlighted in 1 John 2:15-17, and it is this sense in particular which is in view in the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus is teaching us to pray that all men in all places would submit to God’s Law. Unlike the will of decree, the will of desire can and indeed is resisted every day; by you and me whenever we sin. But we must remember that God has spoken and revealed what He expects from us and we are required as His creatures to obey Him. Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (ESV) This means that nothing but a life ripe with the fruit of God will demonstrate one’s status as a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
Are you trusting in God’s will today? Are you trusting that His will of decree is really guiding all things in your world? Is such knowledge providing you with great comfort? Are you trusting that His will of desire is better than your desires? Are you submitting all of yourself unto His Scriptures found in the Old and New Testament? We cannot remain barren spiritually and expect to reap anything on the Day of the Lord other than His condemnation. Let us pray for ourselves and those around us to heartily submit to God’s Word, and trust that He who holds the future in His hands is worthy of our trust; that His ways are better than ours. And one way we can exemplify the most basic requirement from God is unite ourselves to a faithful church that proclaims the Gospel.
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