Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Thy Will

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re not praying to a stranger. We’re not handing over the reins of our life to someone who doesn’t know us; but when you’re praying to your Father who knows and loves you, and you have a relationship with Him—a Father who cares for His children, who loves us, and who can be trusted—that helps us to say to that Father, “Lord, Your will be done.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, October 15.

Last week, Nancy did a great job explaining the first words of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” That phrase is an important step in getting to a more difficult phrase to pray and believe. She'll take you what that phras is as she continues in a series called, The Lord’s Prayer, Part 2.

Nancy: We come today to the next petition in the Lord’s Prayer, which I think may be the hardest four-word prayer to say and mean it. Because as we pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” there rises up in some of our hearts that fear that says, “What might happen if I really prayed and meant it, ‘Thy will be done?’”

On the other hand, it’s a part of this prayer that is easy to pray glibly without thinking about it and without really meaning it, as I’m afraid millions of people do, and all of us have done at times. How often do we just breeze through the words of the Lord’s Prayer?

Perhaps some of you in your church pray this prayer every week. Somebody was telling me today that they pray this prayer as a family at night. I think that’s a good thing if you’re praying it and thinking about it.

But how often do we just pray through these words, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Did we think about it? Did we mean what we were saying?

When we pray, “Thy will be done,” it implies that we’re asking God to overrule our will if it’s not the same as His, and that’s tough. That’s tough to pray because we’re born wanting our way, wanting our will. Just ask your two-year-old. The first word they learn—and they don’t have to be taught—is, “No!”

There’s this conflict of wills. We’re born with this will that wants to have it our way; and to come to the place where we bend or bow our will in subjection to the will of God and say, “Lord, Your will be done,” is not an easy thing to say. It’s not an easy thing to pray and mean it.

Now, as we come to this petition—and we’re going to spend a few days on this—I want to focus in this first session on the aspect of submission to God’s will in our personal lives as we pray, “Thy will be done.”

As we pray this, it’s important for us to remember where we started in this whole series. We’re praying to whom? To our Father. This is a relational prayer. It’s a family prayer.

We’re not praying to a stranger. We’re not handing over the reins of our life to someone who doesn’t know us or to someone that cannot be known, to someone who doesn’t care about our lives.

I wouldn’t walk up to a man on the street, a stranger, and say, “Thy will be done in my life.” But when you’re praying to your Father who knows and loves you, and you have a relationship with Him—a Father who cares for His children, who loves us, and who can be trusted—that helps us to say to that Father, “Lord, Your will be done.”

Now, praying this prayer doesn’t mean that we will not face pain and suffering. You know, “If I just pray, ‘Lord, Your will be done,’ I’m surrendering to God’s will and everything will go okay in my life.”

Everything will go okay in your life as God defines okay but not always as we think of okay. Jesus prayed, “Thy will be done,” and within hours, in essence, was hanging on a cross.

He knew, when He prayed that prayer, that that was where it would lead. That’s a scary thought, but we’ll see as we get into this subject and look at the Word of God that it is the only way to live as a child of God.

As we’ve said about this prayer, the Lord’s Prayer is not just a way to pray; it’s a way to think about all of life. It’s a way to live all of our lives, with this heart attitude of submission to the will of God.

Let me start by addressing the second part of this petition: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I think to help us know how to pray, “Thy will be done,” it helps to know how God’s will is done in heaven, because that’s the way we’re praying that God’s will be done on earth.

How is God’s will done in heaven? You remember, perhaps, Psalm 103:20. It says, “Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!”

That’s a wonderful description of what is taking place in heaven at this very moment. There are angels around the throne of God. John says in the Scripture at least 100 million—myriads of myriads of angels.

They are mighty ones. They are powerful ones. They are created beings. They are not as powerful as God, by any stretch; but they are mighty ones. And what do they do? They do God’s word. They obey the voice of His word.

The angels exist to do God’s pleasure. They’re His messengers. They’re His servants. When God says, “Be still and wait,” that’s what they do.

Can you imagine at the cross, as the angels watched the beloved Son of God? They had known and loved Him in heaven, and now they see Him, without a word, as a lamb going to its death, the sacrificial Lamb of God being hung on a cross.

Can’t you imagine those angels were just chafing at the bit? “Let us go down and destroy the Romans!” Just imagine God holding them back: “Wait. This is part of the plan. Don’t go down yet. It’s not time. Don’t rescue Him from the cross. I care about redemption so much that I’m willing to give up My Son at this moment.”

God said, “Wait.” The angels waited. The angels have no will of their own. To do God’s will is the reason they live. It’s what they delight in doing.

So, how do the angels obey God? How is God’s will done in heaven? In heaven, God’s will is done always, instantly, gladly, joyfully—not reluctantly, but cheerfully.

Phillip Keller, in his book on the Lord’s Prayer, says, “In heaven, it is no hardship to do the will of God, but a joy.”1 Do you want to know how God’s will is done in heaven? Look at Jesus—not just the angels, but Jesus.

This was the ruling principle of His life, as He demonstrated here on earth: “Thy will be done.” In all of eternity past, every moment He spent on this earth, and for all of eternity yet to come, this has been, is, and will be the ruling principle of Jesus’ life. Whenever His will as a man was contrary to the will of God, He didn’t insist on His will, but He surrendered His will to the will of the Father.

Ladies, that’s what makes a cross in your life. When your will crosses the will of God, and you say, “Not my will, but Yours be done,” you go to the cross. You die to your will, as Jesus demonstrated for us.

Jesus said in John 5:30, “I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” More than that, Psalm 40:8 says, speaking of Jesus, the coming Messiah, “I delight to do Your will.”

That’s the heart attitude I want to have about the will of God. I usually end up doing the will of God sooner or later, sometimes kicking and screaming, dragging my heels. I see some looks that maybe some of you relate to that.

You know, it’s good to do God’s will, even if it’s later than sooner; but how much better to delight to do the will of God!

I want to have a heart attitude that doesn’t wrestle with God; that says, “Lord, this is hard, and this is not what I would want; but more than what I want, I want to do Your will because You are my Father. You are my Savior. You are my God. You are my Lover. You are my Lord.”

It’s the glad acquiescence to the will of God, the will of the one that we love. Jesus always wanted to do His Father’s will. It’s a characteristic of children who have a healthy relationship with their father to want to please their father.

That’s why these words of Jesus in John 8:44 are so sobering. Jesus said to the Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

Listen: If you do not have, deep down in your heart, a desire to do the will of God, then you need to ask the question, “Am I a child of God?” Jesus said your will is to do your father’s desires, based on what you really want in life.

I’m not saying you’ll never struggle with the will of God; but if you don’t have, deep down, this desire to please God, then you need to say, “Do I even have a relationship with God as my Father?”

We can’t pray “Our Father” and claim to be His children, and then say, “I’ll have it my way.”

  • To pray this prayer is to pray, “Not my will.”
  • It’s to relinquish our own will, our own sense of how things should be done.
  • It’s to put self-will to death.
  • It’s to align our hearts to His will, asking,
    • “Lord, what would please You in this situation?
    • What would please You in our family?
    • What would please You in relation to my children’s lives?
    • What would make You happy?
    • What is Your will?”

It’s not telling God what I would like to see happen. It’s not asking God to bless or to fulfill my will. It’s seeking to know God’s will on a matter and then praying and asking for that will to be done.

Amy Carmichael said, “And shall I pray to change Thy will, my Father, until it accords to mine? But no, Lord, no; that shall never be. Rather I pray Thee blend my human will with Thine.”2

She’s saying, “I’m not going to say, ‘Lord, would You adjust Your will to fit what I think will be to my pleasure,’ but, ‘Lord, adjust my will to fit according to Yours.’”

So as you pray these words, as you pray The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done,” is it your intention to know and to do the will of God? Is that what you want? Is that what you really want?

Is God’s will being done in your life? Do you gladly, wholly obey God? If not, then when we pray this prayer, we’re praying vain repetitions—mindless, mechanical repeating of words that we don’t really mean. We’re not thinking about it.

In so doing, we profane the name of God. We can’t love God and ignore or reject His will. Those just can’t go together. If you love Him, you will want to do what pleases Him.

I love seeing couples who have been married for a long, long time, and they’ve worked hard on their relationship over the years, and they’ve come to really love each other in a deep, intimate way. I’ve talked to some of those wives, and I see there’s just this delight in pleasing their husband.

Now, they had to work hard to get to that point, and they had some bumps along the way. Every marriage does. But they’ve come to the place where they just want what will please their mate, because what will make them happy is to know that their mate is pleased.

If you love God, if you’ve been walking with Him, you want to do what pleases Him. To pray for God’s will to be done, we need to know something about what His will is.

For “Thy will be done,”it means we need to be on a life-long search. “Lord, I want to know Your will.”

“Show me your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God, my Savior.” That’s a prayer from Psalm 25:4-5 I’ve prayed many, many times over the years. “Lord, I’m ignorant. I don’t know. I know what I want, but show me what You want.”

Let me remind you that the Word of God is the will of God. We don’t need more than what God has given us in this Word that He illuminates and applies to our hearts by the power of His Holy Spirit in order to know what the will of God is.

If you’ve got a Bible, you’ve got the will of God. How many of us, even as so-called Christians, regularly make choices and decisions that are contrary to the Word of God; while claiming to be Christians, praying this prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” but making choices that are not consistent with the will of God as it’s expressed in His Word?

The will of God is the Word of God. The Word of God is the will of God. The Scripture says, “Rejoice always . . . give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). That’s the will of God.

So if I’m not rejoicing in a circumstance, I can’t pray, “Thy will be done.” I know what God’s will is. Now I need to do it—to make the choice to submit my will to God’s. It’s not enough to just pray, “Thy will be done.” Then I need to exercise my will to submit it to the will of God.

First Thessalonians 4:3 says, “This is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality.” That’s the will of God. You know what it is; so are you playing around with an emotional affair in your workplace, on your email or IM, playing with fire, saying, “I can survive this”?

God says, “The will of God is that you abstain from sexual immorality,” and anything that would lead to sexual immorality cannot be the will of God for your life. So we see that’s God’s will. Therefore, we surrender. We say, “Yes, Lord,” to His will in that matter.

As you pray for your children, pray for God’s will to be done in their lives. I was hearing a conversation the other day with a parent whose child is sensing that the Lord may want them to go to the mission field, and for a parent, that’s a struggle, to lose their child to another part of the earth that may be perhaps a dangerous place.

I know parents who have had to walk through that. As a mom or dad, would you want to stand in the way of God’s will being done in your children’s lives? Don’t push your children to choose a career where they can just make more money if that’s not God’s will for their lives.

That’s a very freeing thing for a son or daughter to know, “My parents want God’s will for my life, and they’re willing to support me as I seek God’s will.” I don’t necessarily mean financial support, though it may involve that as well.

Are you intentional about seeking to know what would please God? You can’t know God’s will if you’re not in God’s Word, if you’re not reading it, studying it, meditating on it, asking God to apply it to your heart.

God’s will isn’t just something that comes to us like a flash, or like God just gives signs and wonders generally to communicate His will. Why should He need to do that when He’s given us His Word?

Are you seeking to know what would please God? Is there anything that you know to be God’s will that you’re not obeying? Think about it. Is there anything in the aspect of God’s will that you’re holding back on, saying, “I want to have it my way rather than God’s way”?

People sometimes write to us at Revive Our Hearts, and they say about this situation or that, “How can I know what God’s will is? Should I marry this person? Should I take this job? Should we move here?” Or, “My husband and I have different opinions now about what God’s will is; how can we resolve this?”

You know what I’ve discovered in my own life? More often than not, the problem isn’t that we don’t know God’s will; the problem is that we don’t want to do God’s will. We wish God’s will were something other than what it is.

So the question is, “Are you willing to do God’s will?” Can you say that your heart is wholly surrendered to His will, no reservation, no holding back?

When we say that, and when we pray this prayer, I know that in many of our hearts there’s a fear: “What might that mean if I really said and meant it, ‘Thy will be done’? Am I going to be miserable? Is God going to make me do something I don’t want to do? Am I going to have to be one of those missionaries in one of those dangerous parts of the world?”

Or (a fate worse than death to some women), “Will I have to stay single? Does that mean I’ll never get a husband?”

Or for some women struggling with infertility, “If I really pray, ‘Lord, Thy will be done,’ does that mean God might not give me the child that I long to have?”

Or for a mom who has a little baby she’s holding in her arms or a teenager that she’s sending out of the nest, “If I pray, ‘Thy will be done,’ might I lose this child? Might my husband die?”

We have some older listeners. Perhaps you deal with the fear, “Will I have to go into a nursing home? How will my needs be met? Will I be alone at the end of my life? Might I lose my health?”

“Might God require me to give my life savings away or to take a job in a ministry that would require a major cut in pay?” At different seasons of life, we have different fears about what God’s will might mean.

Can I just remind you that, according to Romans 12:2, the will of God is good; it’s acceptable; and it’s perfect. Do you believe that? Do you really believe that? If the will of God really is good, acceptable, and perfect, why would we ever reject it?

To want anything, to desire anything other than God’s will is to desire less than the very best for my life or the lives of those I love. We can’t always see how that’s true, but it is true.

It’s the character of God that will help us to delight and to trust in His will. His wisdom, the fact that God knows everything. One commentator on the Lord’s Prayer said something I thought was very true. He said,

The root reason why we find it so difficult to accept the will of God is that we so often in our heart of hearts think that we know better than God. . . . That is why so many people would really rather pray, “Thy will be changed” than “Thy will be done.”3

Do you in your heart of hearts trust that God knows, really knows, what’s best? Someone has said—and you’ve heard me say it before, and I’ll probably say it many more times, I think it’s so gripping—“God’s will is exactly what we would choose if we knew what God knows.”

One day we will see and we will know, and we’ll look back and say, “Why did I insist on having it my way?” I know women today who are in miserable marriages, in some cases because they chose to marry someone outside of the will of God.

They knew it was not God’s will. It could not have been God’s will based on Scripture, but they said, “I want to be married (or remarried) worse than I want to know or to do the will of God.” And they’ve ended up miserable!

Now, you may choose your own way and end up happy for a while, because sin does have pleasures for a season. But in the long run the only way to be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey.

Trust His wisdom. Trust His love. If we really believe that He is wise and loving and trustworthy, then there’s nothing to fear in the will of God.

Can I remind you that ultimately, God’s sovereign will will be done? It will be done. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases,” Psalm 115:3 says. Ephesians 1:11 tells us He “works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

One writer said about this phrase of the Lord’s Prayer, “No man [or woman] can violate and resist the gracious will of God without in the end being broken by that will.”4

Remember that when you’re wanting to go your own way. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (we talked about in the last session) learned the hard way. Remember how he pursued his own will?

He was given a chance to repent and to humble himself, but he wouldn’t do it. Ultimately, he ended up a madman, a crazed man. I don’t know what his mental disorder was, but he went crazy, out in the fields eating grass, living like an animal.

When finally he was brought to repentance and humility and came back to his senses, here’s what he said:

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored Him who lives forever, for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the hosts of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35).

God will have His will. God will have His way. It’s a good will. It’s a good way. It’s right.

Choose it. Say, “Lord, Your will be done,” and then thank Him that He will do it.

Leslie: Every time you say the Lord’s Prayer, you pray, “Your will be done.” Maybe you didn’t quite realize what important words you were saying. I’ve been saying this prayer all my life, but Nancy’s teaching has been helping me appreciate the deep meaning this phrase contains.

You know, praying heart-felt extemporaneous prayers is great. But there is also a lot of value in praying prayers that have been written down like the Lord’s Prayer. 

Nancy’s a big fan of a book of these kinds of prayers. The book is called The Valley of Vision.  Now, these prayers aren’t Scripture. But they are based on Scripture, and they’ve endured through time to offers us some powerful models to pray.

When you pray through the Puritan prayers in The Valley of Vision, I think you’ll find yourself approaching the Lord in fresh ways. You’ll also appreciate the depth of these prayers.

When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of $20 or more, we’ll send you Valley of Vision.  Get all the details at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.   

When you share Christ with someone and they are saved, it’s more than just a one-time decision, like casting a vote. It’s the entrance into a lifestyle, a day-by-day exploration of God’s kingdom.

The Lord’s Prayer presents this idea, and Nancy will explain it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

1Phillip Keller. A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer. p. 89.
2John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary – Matthew 1-7. p. 383.
3William Barclay. The Lord's Prayer. p. 70.
4 Phillip Keller, p. 99.

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