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What It Really Means to Pray ‘Thy Will Be Done’

A powerful reminder of why “my way” isn’t the best way.

Thy will be done
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Maybe you’ve said it. I know I have: “If I had my way….”

Sometimes it’s prompted by dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs—which has been pretty often so far this year. At other times, it has more to do with a disappointment I’ve faced or a fear I have. And most of the time (maybe all of the time?) it’s an arrogant endorsement of my own wisdom and righteousness. 

That’s why it’s a good thing that I pray. And even better, that I pray daily. And still better, that the Lord’s Prayer is always a part of my prayers because it includes an important reminder to me in the phrase, “Thy will be done.” It’s a reminder that “my way” isn’t always, or even usually, the best way. It’s a prayer that, when I’m most attentive and aware, says at least three crucial things: 

1)  I Belong

Andrew Murray wrote, “Because the will of God is the glory of heaven, the doing of it is the blessedness of heaven. As the will is done, the kingdom of heaven comes into the heart. And wherever faith has accepted the Father’s love, obedience accepts the Father’s will.” 

Praying “Thy will be done” is an affirmation that I belong to God’s kingdom, and His kingdom belongs to me. Just as His kingdom is undisputed and unimpeded in heaven—where the angelic host does His will instantly, constantly, completely and worshipfully—so I get to play a part in bringing that heaven to Earth. 

2)  I Surrender

Implicit in the prayer for God’s will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven” is the praying soul’s submission to God’s will. It makes no sense to pray for God’s will to be done everywhere but in me. Thus, “May Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means “I will do what You say.” It is an act of surrender and willingness, an eager and obedient intention.

3)  I Choose Love

If the way of Jesus is the way of love—and it is, for He emphasized the commands to “love God” and “love your neighbor” as the sum of all the commandments—then sincerely praying for His will to be done on earth means obeying His command to love all and love always.

It means rejecting “all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31, NIV). It means acting in humility, gentleness, patience, love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness (see Ephesians 4:2, 32) toward others. 

It may also mean personal sacrifice; after all, the words of the Lord’s Prayer were tried and tested, proven and polished, in the Lord’s passion. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39, NIV). 

Jesus not only taught, “May Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” He prayed it Himself, and lived it “to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8, NIV).

“Thy will be done” reminds me daily that having “my way” is an infinitely inferior way to think and live. “Thy will be done” re-orients me to the One whose “good, perfect and pleasing will” (Romans 12:2, NIV) is the one path worth following.   

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