“Not as I will, but as You will.” These are among the most significant and powerful words ever uttered by human lips. The words were part of a prayer by Jesus to His Heavenly Father as He faced His last hours on earth. They were uttered in the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was preparing Himself to go to the cross.
Jesus and the will of God. Luke 22:41-42
As Jesus faced that awful prospect He prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And a little later He repeated the words, “ (42) … “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
Jesus as a human had the free will to choose to do God’s will or His own will. But His will was always to do His Father’s will. He expressly indicated that during His ministry in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
Nevertheless the prospect of becoming sin for humans would have been repugnant for Him except He knew it was part of His Father’s eternal plan for Him. As the writer of the letter to the Hebrews put it, Hebrews 12:2 “… For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Why should we pray “Your will be done?” Because we need to! We need to focus on what is the most important thing for us to do in life. That is, as creatures to obey our Creator and to do His will for us. Or to obey our loving Heavenly Father as grateful children who have been adopted into His family. .
1). What is the Father’s will?
The Bible Writers Have Told Us Much About His Will
i). God’s will meant that the Messiah had to suffer. (Isa 53:10 “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand”. There is also a lot of foretold detail about the crucifixion scene, in Psalm 22.
ii). God’s will was fulfilled by Jesus as He came as the Messiah, Heb 10:9 “Behold, I have come to do your will.” By fulfilling God’s will through His sacrificial death, Jesus set believers apart to belong to God, Heb 10:10 “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
iii). Believers are destined for adoption as God’s children as part of God’s will for His people. (Eph 1:5 “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
iv). His will is to distribute the Gifts of the Spirit as He wills, (Heb 2:4 “…God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to His will.”
v). Answers to prayer come when prayer is offered according to His will. (1 John 5:14 “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
vi). Suffering may be in accord with His will. (1 Pet 3:17 “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.” AND 1 Pet 4:19 “Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.”
2). God’s Will Can Be Known And Should Be Obeyed
i). God’s will means that His people should be set apart (sanctified) for His purposes, 1Thess 4:3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality”.
ii). God’s will means giving thanks to Him always, 1 Thess 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (An Attitude Of Gratitude)
iii). God’s will means that we should do what is right throughout our lives. (1 Pet 2:15 “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” AND (1 Pet 4:2 1Pet 4:1-2, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”
iv). Transformation by the renewing of the mind is necessary to know the will of God. Rom 12:2 “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.”
v). It is expected that believers should come to know the will of God. Eph 5:17 “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
vi). We can pray that people are filled with the knowledge of God’s will, Col 1:9 “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
vii). God’s will has to be done sincerely from the heart. (Eph 6:5-8, “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man. 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”
viii). It needs endurance to do His will. (Heb 10:36 “For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”
ix). God gives us grace to do His will. (Heb 13:20-21, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
3). The Blessings On Those Who Obey The Will Of God
i). The blessing of answered prayer. (John 9:31 “We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.”
ii). The blessing of eternal life. (1 John 2:17 “And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.”
iii). The blessing of knowing the authority of Jesus’ words. (John 7:17 “Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.”
iv). The blessing of belonging to the family of God. (Mark 3:35 “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
v). Transformation by the renewing of the minds is necessary to discern the will of God. But it leads to the discovery that His will is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
4). The Danger Of Resisting The Will Of God
i). Humans can use their free-will to resist the will of God for them. We have these tragic words from the lips of Jesus as He approached Jerusalem. He knew what was going to happen to the city because of their rejection of Him as God’s Messiah. Mat 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
ii). He was offering them His blessing and protection but they refused Him. Calamity would follow. And it was just so unnecessary. All they had to do was to accept Him as their Messiah and follow Him but they refused. He wanted to gather them into His fold but they were not willing. They were accountable for their rejection of Him. They were accountable for their rejection of God’s purpose through Him for their salvation.
So What Are We Praying When We Pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”
i). There is no resistance to God in heaven. His will is done all the time. What we are asking for in this prayer is that God would work in the hearts of every person so that His will, and only His will, is done on earth. We know of course that there are many people around the world and throughout history who have had and have no intention of doing only the will of God. They want to do their own will. So it is worthwhile praying when we know it’s not going to happen any time soon?
The answer is of course is “Yes!” When we pray the words “Your will be done” we are affirming before God that we want to do His will and His will alone. The words are part of the total commitment we are meant to make to God for every moment of every day. As we pray we are saying to the Lord, “I am yours and I want to be everything You want me to be. I want to do what You want me to do. I want to say what You want me to say. I want to pray what You want me to pray. I want to be where you want me to be. Please cleanse me, direct me and empower me to live for You today, for every moment of the day, so that I can do Your will to Your glory.”
ii). As we pray the prayer we are also crying out to God in utter sincerity that we want Him to work in our lives to enable all this to happen. God’s grace in terms of His unmerited favour was needed through Jesus’ death and resurrection to enable us to come into the family of God in the first place. His grace in terms of His enabling is also needed to enable us to live for Him throughout our lives in a way that will bring Him glory. We know that as we get closer to the centre of His will for us we will be wonderfully blessed. But the blessing is not the goal. The desire to please Him is the goal. The blessings which follow are the result of our giving ourselves totally to Him.
iii). AND of course as we pray “Your will be done” we are praying that the Lord would work in the hearts of all people so that they too desire to love and obey Him. We want Him to be honoured and loved. We want Him to be experienced and willingly obeyed. We want Him to be at the very centre of every person’s life. So as we pray “Your will be done” we are saying that we want Him to manifest His love and power in His world so that He may be glorified in all the world (and especially in our own hearts.)
Questions for individuals or groups to consider. (Added on Wednesday 25th May 2016)
Ques 1). Do you think that in the introduction to the notes the writer to the Hebrews minimized the sufferings of Jesus on the cross by saying “for the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross.” Why or why not?
Ques 2). In section 1 what did the will of God entail for Jesus? What does it entail for us?
Ques 3). In section 2 what is said explicitly to be the will of God? What implications should that have for our own lives?
Ques 4). In section 2 what does it say about believers and the will of God?
Ques 5). What are some of the conditions we see in section 3 that are necessary for experiencing God’s blessing?
Ques 6). What do you learn from section 4 about people’s decisions to choose NOT to do the will of God? Do you think that people today make the same sort of decisions?
Ques 7). As you look at the concluding section what sort of thoughts do you think should be in our minds as we pray the Lord’s Prayer? Why do you think that?
Blog No. 176. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Thursday 10th March 2016. Revisited 25th May 2016