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Please open your Bible at Matthew 6. The Lord’s Prayer has six petitions that are like pegs on which you can hang your prayers. Everything you will ever ask of God belongs under one of these petitions.

We’ve seen that there is order and progress in the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. It all begins with a relationship in which you know God as your own, loving, heavenly Father, and you come into that relationship through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever receives him, whoever believes in his name is rightly called a child of God (John 1:12). As God’s children, the place for us to begin is not with ourselves and with our own needs. When Jesus teaches us to pray, He teaches us to begin with God and with His glory. God’s name is honored in heaven, but it is blasphemed on earth, and it’s into that great chasm that we pray the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). But how will God’s name be honored in this world? God’s name will be honored where His kingdom comes. And how will His Kingdom come? It will come in the live of those who do God’s will.

So today we come to the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We’re going to focus on two things today. First, we will focus on the meaning: what exactly is God’s will? Then secondly, we’re going to look at the model: there is a model in heaven, and there is a model for us on earth.

1. The Meaning of Doing God’s Will

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

What is meant by God’s will? If you are confused about the will of God you are not alone. One reason why many Christians find this confusing is that we speak of God’s will in three different ways. You can think of these as three spheres of God’s will.

Three Spheres of God’s Will

1. God’s Secret Will

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.  – Deuteronomy 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.  What is God’s secret will? The Bible speaks about…

The purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will– Ephesians 1:11

Think about that: everything that happens is woven into the purpose of God, and nothing that happens is outside of His will. God works all things according to the counsel of His will. God is sovereign and that means His plans always prevail. You see this supremely at the cross. Satan stirred up the events that led to the crucifixion of Jesus. But through this, God accomplished His plan to redeem the world. This is a wonderful comfort to Christian believers. Nothing in your life is outside of God’s purpose or beyond His control.

Now, exactly how the events of our lives are woven into the Father’s plan we cannot tell, because these things are ‘secret,’ and the secret things belong to the Lord. They are a mystery us to us, and so we often find ourselves asking, ‘Lord why?’ Why did you allow this in my life Lord? Why did you save her and not him? What are you doing in the coronavirus? What good can possibly come from this? These are all questions about God’s secret will, and the secret things belong to the Lord.

How should we respond to God’s secret will? We must trust God in 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 Discerned Will

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

There is a will of God that is 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 the answer to any of these questions. It is not revealed. But on the other hand the will of God in these things is not secret or unknowable either. What is good, acceptable and perfect can be ‘discerned.’

Later this year, I hope to do a series on the twenty-third Psalm. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd. He leads me beside still waters.’ That means you are not alone in the decisions that shape the direction of your life. Your Shepherd walks beside you, and He will lead you.

How should we respond to God’s discerned will? When making decisions that require discernment, we must seek the path of wisdom, and notice that we discern wisdom by testing.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

Testing involves our experience, the wisdom of others, the fruitfulness and effectiveness of things we attempt, open doors of opportunity, etc.  So here’s how you pray when you are faced with a major decision: ‘Lord give me discernment; cause me to be wise, and may Your will be done.’

3. God’s Revealed Will

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.  – Deuteronomy 29:29

God’s revealed will is found in the Scriptures. The revealed will of God for us today includes the Great Commandment: It is God’s will that we ‘love the Lord with all our hearts, and that we love our neighbors as ourselves’ (Mark 12:29-31). 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 will of God for us today includes the Ten Commandments: God’s will is that you should not commit adultery even in your mind or heart. God’s will is that you should be content. God’s will is that you should tell the truth. God’s will is that you should have no other gods before Him. There is a marvelous snapshot of God’s will in 1 Thessalonians 5.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

Here is God’s will for us this week. Despite difficult circumstances, that we will rejoice in all that is ours in Him, that we will pray continually and that we will always be thankful for every mercy of God. That’s God’s revealed will for us, and we must pursue it. We must be very careful to not repay evil for evil with regards to anyone, but to do good towards others at at every opportunity. This is God’s will, and it’s absolutely clear.

Now of course God’s revealed will is not limited to verses that use the words ‘God’s will.’ All that God has called us to in Scripture is His will for us. God’s revealed will should always be our first concern. God will not hold us accountable for what He has kept secret, but He will hold us accountable for what He has revealed.

This should come as an enormous relief if you have been worried that you might have ‘missed God’s will’ because of a bad decision in your life. On the last day, God is not going to say to you, ‘You went and lived in Alabama when you should have gone to Michigan.’ God has not revealed whether you should live in Alabama, Michigan, Illinois or anywhere else, but He will hold you accountable for how you lived in Alabama, Michigan or Illinois or wherever you may be. Did you pursue the Great Commandment and the Great Commission? Did you pursue a holy life? So when you find yourself saying, ‘I just need to find God’s will,’ remind yourself that ‘God’s will is that I should live as He has described in the Bible,’ and for the rest, make the wisest and most discerning decision you can.

How should we respond to God’s revealed will? We are to walk in obedience. We respond to His secret will with faith, trusting in what He has made known. We respond to His discerned will in seeking the path of wisdom by testing. We pursue His revealed will by obedience.

The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. – 1 John 2:17

It is important to distinguish the three spheres of God’s will because we are called to respond to each of them in a distinct and different way. God’s secret will, we cannot know and we must respond with faith. God’s discerned will we can test, and in this we seek wisdom. God’s revealed will in Scripture we can know for sure, and in this we are called with absolute clarity to obey.

We cannot test what God has kept secret. We dare not test what God has revealed. We do not come to what God has revealed in Scripture and say, ‘Well lets test this: What do other people think?  Where does this fit with my experience?’ We open the Bible to see what God has revealed, and then we rule out what God forbids, and we rule in everything God commands. So here’s how you pray when God’s revealed will and your desires pull in different directions, ‘Lord help me to obey You. Your will be done.’ When we pray ‘Your will be done,’ we are asking for faith in what God has kept secret, wisdom in what God calls us to discern, and obedience in what God has revealed. This is the meaning of God’s will.

2. The Model of Doing God’s will

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

Notice that our Lord gives a model of how God’s will is to be done. ‘Father, let it be done as it in in heaven.’ Now who does God’s will in heaven? The angels.

1. In Heaven

Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word! – Psalm 103:20

Angels are God’s heavenly servants who do His will. In the Christmas story we read that angels announced the birth of Jesus (Luke l:26, 27). Angels announced His resurrection from the dead: “He is not here; He is risen” (Matthew 28:5, 6). Angels promised His glorious return. “Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same was as you saw him go.” (Acts 1:11). Angels are the model of doing God’s will in heaven. So what does their obedience to the Word of God look like?

The angels do God’s will fully. The angels are  ready to obey the command of Christ, and there is no mission on which they will not go. Jesus said, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). Christ only needs to speak the Word, and the angels do what He says.

The angels do God’s will gladly. Hebrews speaks about the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, where thousands upon thousands of angels gather in ‘joyful assembly’ (Hebrews 12:22 NIV). There is no reluctance in their service. They do what God commands gladly.

The angels do God’s will immediately. Hebrews tells us that God makes his angels winds (1:7). The wind moves fast. The angels do not hang about deciding if they are going to obey. When God speaks, their response is immediate. They fly like the wind to do God’s will. So here is what Jesus teaches us to pray: “Father, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” How is God’s will done in heaven? It’s done Fully, gladly and immediately. In the Lord’s Prayer we are asking we may do the will of God as the angels do in heaven: ‘Lord, let me be one who you’re your will, fully, gladly and immediately.’

But 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?

2. On earth

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 accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Jesus found doing the will of the Father nourishing. Like a good meal, it left Him satisfied. Doing the will of God will be nourishing to you. The more fully you obey Him, the happier you will be. The more you pursue His will, the more satisfied you will be. So what did it mean for Jesus to do the Father’s will, and what does it mean for us to do the Father’s will on earth?

1. Embrace the commands God has called you to obey

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. – Matthew 12:50

The evidence that we belong to Jesus, that we are part of His family, will be seen in our obedience to the Father’s will. By their fruits you shall know them (Matthew 7:20). Whoever does the will of the Father belongs to Me! “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Knowing the will of God will be of no value to you if you do not do it. Knowing the words of Jesus will not help you if you do not do what He says. Here’s what knowing the will of God and not doing it is like: Jesus said, that a person who hears His words and does not do them, is like foolish man who build his house on the sand (Matthew 7:26). He has a beautiful beach view but his life is a disaster waiting to happen. When the storm comes, his house will collapse completely. But the person who hears the words of Jesus and does them, is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. And when the storm comes, his house stands firm.

When you pray, ‘Your will be done,’ you are committing yourself to follow Jesus in obedience to all the Father’s commands. You rule out what God forbids, and you rule in what He commands. Now for Jesus, doing the will of the Father meant not only living that perfect life which, in complete righteousness, He fulfilled all the requirements of God’s Law wonderfully, perfectly and completely. It also meant something else.

2. Submit to the burden God has called you to carry

Jesus prayed each petition of the Lord’s Prayer for Himself or for others, and if we ask, where Jesus prayed, ‘Your will be done,’ the answer is in the Garden of Gethsemane. Our Lord’s experience was unique, because the Scriptures revealed the precise events that would take place in the life of the Messiah. Imagine what it must have been like for our Lord to read Psalm 22 that speaks about the suffering Savior. “All who see me mock me” (22:7), “They have pierced my hands and feet” (16), “All my bones are out of joint” (14). Then to read that the One who suffers all this will cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (1). Jesus knows as He reads these words, this is what will happen to me. The is the burden that the Father has given me to carry.

What must it have been for the Savior, knowing that He was the promised Suffering Servant, to read from Isaiah 53 that, ‘It was the will of the Lord to bruise Him’ (53:10), that our sins would be laid on Him, that He would bear the punishment that was due to us. Jesus knows as He reads these words, this is the will of the Father for me.

If you want to know how hard it is can be to pray ‘Your will be done,’ take a look at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. As He stared into the abyss that lay before Him, our Lord was given a terrible burden to carry, and there was a great battle in His soul to say, ‘Your will be done.’ Matthew records that He fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed,  “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” – Matthew 26:42

Here’s what it looks like for God’s will to be done on earth. It means that you submit to the burden God has called you to carry as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. Your will be done. None of us will ever be called to carry what the Savior bore, but God has given to each of us burdens that we must bear. Things we would rather not have to face. Things we wish were not so. But when you pray, ‘Your will be done,’ you are asking God to give you the strength to carry these burdens.

How did Jesus do the will of the Father? How did He carry the burden He was called to bear? And how can you carry the burden you are called to bear? He did it in love for the Father. In the Garden, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.’ On the cross: Father forgive them. Father into your hand I commit my spirit.

The greater your love for the Father, the stronger you will be under the burden He calls you to bear, and your love for the Father will grow as you see in Jesus more of His love for you. Jesus did the will of the Father for the joy set before Him. Hebrews calls us to look to Jesus who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). It was His love for the Father and His confident anticipation of the eternal joy that lay on the other side that enabled Jesus to say, “Your will be done.”

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.”


Our Father, we bow before You and ask that, by Your Spirit, You will bring us to the place where we are truly able to pray from the heart, ‘Your will be done.’ You know how strong our own wills are. You know how hard we find it to submit to Your way for our lives. Lord, strengthen us to desire and to do Your will.

We pray in regard to what You have kept secret. We look at our country and our world, and we wonder what You are doing. In the noise of contradictory voices, advance our redeeming purpose even as You did through the clamor around the cross. Help us to trust You where it is hard to understand what You are doing. Help us to know and believe that You reign supreme in all things, including the things we do not understand.

Father, we pray that You will help us to grow in discernment. Lead us on the path of wisdom, and guard us from making foolish decisions. Help us to think clearly and to weigh correctly. Give us the humility that seeks and hears the wise counsel of others. Help us to be vigorous in ruling out what You forbid, and ruling in what You command.

Father, we thank You that our Savior knows the intensity of our struggle, when Your will conflicts with our desires. Give us strength to embrace Your commands, and give us grace to submit to the burdens You give us to carry.

We pray that You will help us to do Your revealed will, like the angels, fully, gladly and immediately. Help us to love you will all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. Help us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Help us to make disciples of people from every background, and to seek the good of people from every race. Save us from being unhappy Christians. Deliver us from the sinful habit of complaint. Help us this week to rejoice in You, to be constant in prayer and to give thanks in all circumstances. Save us from thinking of prayer as a means by which we can get You to do our will. Make us more like Jesus. Teach us to pray, “Your will be done,’  through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, in whose name we pray, Amen.



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