I have a problem. Or rather, a struggle. A deep and abiding struggle that will not go away. I find myself fighting it daily, yet it persists more strongly some days more than others. What is it, you ask? What is so hard for me? Upholding the will of God instead of my own. Doing what God wants me to do instead of what my flesh longs to do.
Are you shocked? No, I know you’re, not because if you’ve trusted in Christ for salvation, you have the same struggle. There’s a continuous tug of war between our flesh and the Spirit. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:17).
The good news is we’re not alone. The apostle Paul (of all people) felt it too. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:15, 18–19).
Basically, we’ve got issues. We fight against God’s way and God’s will, even when we don’t mean to.
So the Lord Encourages Us to Pray
Specifically, in Matthew 6:9–10 Jesus says,
“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’”
Apart from the work of Christ in us, we will not accomplish God’s will this side of heaven.
Did you catch what the apostle Paul said in Romans 7:18? He so desperately wanted to do the will of God, but on his own, in his flesh, he did not have the ability to carry it out. He echoed what Jesus said in John 15:4, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”
And we can be sure that producing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) and not the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19–21) is absolutely God’s will for every one of His children. To be filled with peace instead of anxiety, love instead of hate, patience instead of anger, goodness instead of immorality, self-control instead of covetousness, is God’s way, whether we’re in heaven or on earth—because God is the same, whether we’re in heaven or on earth.
So when we pray, “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we’re first of all agreeing that God’s ways are better than our own. No matter what I want or what I think is best or what I’m feeling, may it be God’s will that is done.
Because God’s Will Is Always Best
The Bible tells us that God’s commands are “holy and righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). And when we follow God’s commands, we seek for the better way, the way that leads to joy and fulfillment—a life lived in Jesus Christ. But when we follow our own ways, we’re choosing paths that inevitably lead us away from God and the fullness of joy available to us by living life in the presence of God.
Knowing this, it’s God’s will that we live every day rooted in Christ. With every thought taken captive for Christ. Every desire given over to Christ. Doing all things for the glory of Christ and in His strength and through His power that God might receive the glory due His name.
But it’s a hard-fought battle to bring our flesh-filled thoughts shackled and surrendered before the Father to exchange for worthy ones. So we pray for God to help us! For His kingdom to be the place that our minds dwell, for His name to be what we honor foremost, and for His will to be done even now on earth as it is in heaven.
Nevertheless, Not My Will but Yours Be Done
Feeling the tug of the flesh and yet surrendering to the will of God invites the kingdom of God to have victory in enemy territory. Jesus did this very thing in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion praying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39).
And as a result, the kingdom of God eternally invaded the hearts of sinful humanity forever. What once belonged to our adversary, the devil, is now stamped forever by the King of heaven.
Our decisions have eternal impact. God’s will being carried out here as it is in heaven begins with us. It’s not someone else’s job—it’s my job. It’s not just a global hope (as I’d sometimes like to pass it off as), but a personal responsibility. And though it may feel like a never-ending battle to resist my flesh, we can be sure one day the fight will be over, and the will of God will be the ordinary, everyday choice of God’s people.
But until then, as citizens of God’s kingdom, we implore God to achieve His purposes instead of our own. Though the temptation is to beg God to accomplish our own will—Father, please do this this for me and this and this, and oh yeah, this too—we surrender to the will of God by faith, in hopes of spreading the kingdom of God instead of building our own.
And God Has the Power to Do It
To pray for God’s will to be done is to know and agree that He has the power to accomplish His purpose and plans, in spite of current circumstances (or my feelings for that matter). It’s a battle cry of trust that God hears and honors.
It’s not to be taken lightly. It’s not to be repeated without conscious thought, because it’s not just a prayer for God to work in the remote parts of the earth, but it’s a prayer for Him to work in the remote parts of my heart.
It’s a prayer that God’s will be done in my mind today and in my house today and in my children’s hearts and my husband’s decisions and my friendships and my church and my yes’s and no’s. Of course, I’d like to see God’s will being done all over the world, but it starts with me. It starts with us—with surrender and trust and obedience to God’s Word and God’s way, even when the flesh wants something different.
Lord Jesus, have Your way in me. Your kingdom come and Your will be done and Your name honored, on earth and in my heart, just as it is in heaven. Amen.