How many times have you heard someone say something along the lines of, “I wish I knew what God’s will for my life was?” If your background is anything like mine, I’m guessing you’ve heard it a lot. You’ve probably even said it. Growing up, I thought of the will of God as this mystery that is up to me to figure out. I was always on the lookout for a burning bush. I spent many summer camps praying that God would tell me which third-world country He wanted to send me to or which girl He wanted me to marry.
Now, there are a myriad of deep theological questions concerning the will of God that are far beyond the scope of this blog post. Theologians have killed many trees with their musings on the will of God. My hope in this post is to clear up this misconception that you might have about God’s will so that you can confidently pray as Jesus taught you to pray, “Thy will be done.” I believe there are primarily two ways that we pray, “Thy will be done.” We pray that God’s will be done in our lives, and we pray that God’s will be done in the world.
Many well-meaning Christians lose a lot of sleep over trying to figure out God’s will for their life. When they use the phrase, “God’s will for my life,” they’re usually talking about which job to take, which person to marry, where to move, etc. Now, God certainly does give us guidance in those things. And those things are important. But what if God is much more concerned with who you are than with what you do? The most direct statement in Scripture about the will of God for your life is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “For this is the will of God: Your sanctification.” God’s ultimate purpose for your life is to make you more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). The starting point to living in God’s will is to consistently fight sin and pursue a relationship with Christ through prayer, studying His Word, and living in community with your brothers and sisters in Christ. So, when you pray “Thy will be done,” you are asking that God will conform you more into the image of Christ.
Second, when we pray, “Thy will be done,” we are praying that God would carry out His purposes in the world. We are praying that God’s law would be gladly obeyed. We are praying that the true God would be worshipped above all idols. We are praying that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is done perfectly in heaven. Our asking for God’s will to be done in our lives and in the world is an acknowledgement that God is God and we are not. That’s a reminder that you and I need as often as we need our daily bread.
That’s why we can pray, “Thy will be done,” when life doesn’t make any sense. As I type this post, I can’t help but think of the 50+ killed and 500+ wounded in the shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night. Many have been asking where God was when this happened. The truth is that the Lord was seated on His throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe fills the temple. We don’t understand why God, in His providence, allows these things to happen. But we know that we live in a broken world, and we serve a loving God who will one day make all things new, to the praise of His glorious grace. In the midst of confusion and pain, we can look to heaven and whisper, “Thy will be done.” And as we do that, we remember that our Great High Priest knows what it’s like to pray this prayer in the face of chaos (Hebrews 4:15).
Our Lord taught us in the Sermon on the Mount to pray, “Thy will be done.” But this was not the last time that He prayed that prayer. “And going a little farther 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). Jesus, facing the cup of the wrath of God for the sins of His people, begged God for any other way. But in the midst of anxiety and despair that you and I will never know, Jesus prayed, “Thy will be done.” May we all follow in the footsteps of our Savior by praying that the will of our Father in Heaven would be done.