The Lord’s prayer is not a magical prayer which we recite meaninglessly but it forms the content of our prayer from our understanding of who God is from all of scripture. Each week we see one phrase from the Lord’s prayer and the more we understand what it means, the more we experience the power of prayer in our lives. The purpose of prayer is not primarily to get things from God but to sync our hearts before God. When we pray, we align our hearts, purposes and desires according to God’s heart. When we pray, we don’t just affirm God is central but we make God central in our lives. In this passage from Matthew 26:36-46 we will see the meaning of this phrase “Thy will be done” and the model of how to pray this prayer.

A. Meaning

What does this mean when we pray “thy will be done”. If we really understand what this means, it is one of the hardest prayers to pray. But before we understand the meaning there are couple of questions that can come up in our minds.

Firstly, doesn’t God’s will always happen? If so, then why pray “thy will be done”? We can understand God’s will in two ways. One is the sovereign will of God and the other is the revealed will of God.  

The sovereign will of God is also known as the decreed will or the secret will of God. God’s sovereign will always happens. Nothing stops his sovereign will or can thwart it. Whatever happens in this world is ordained by God. God sustains what he ordains and nothing happens in this world without his permission. God accomplishes all his plans and purposes.

The revealed will of God is also known as the desired will or the pleasing will of God. This has to to with his commands in scripture. God desires that we joyfully and wholeheartedly obey and follow him. But unlike the sovereign will of God, man chooses to obey or disobey the revealed will of God. God desires that we act justly and love mercy and walk humbly (Micah 6:8) but we often times do not. God desires that we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), and that we rejoice in our suffering (James 1) and that we do not lie or cheat (Exodus 20) and that we love God with all our hearts, mind, strength and soul (Matthew 22).

When we pray “thy will be done”, we are praying about the revealed or desired will of God. We pray that we will earnestly seek to obey what God desires and commands.

Secondly, does this mean we don’t have to pray? This could be a simple prayer we can always pray and don’t worry about asking anything else. Just say, “thy will be done” in all circumstances instead of asking for God to do things. This does not mean we don’t ask. In fact, Jesus teaches us to pray thy will be done and the very next phrase he says pray for your daily bread. What Jesus is teaching is that when our hearts are in the right place, god invites us to ask anything, in faith, even for the minute details of life like your daily bread and even for the impossible.

Praying “thy will be done” does not mean we don’t ask but rather it means we begin to ask with the right heart, right posture, right attitude. It is from this posture that God then begins to unleash his power, resources and do all kinds of things for us. The reason why our prayers are not answered is because we ask with wrong motives (James 4:3). Do you want to ask with a right heart and posture, then  come to him and say “thy will be done”.

This is a prayer of submission, a posture of surrender and also a place of discipleship. When we submit and surrender, God begins to transform us, change us and disciple us.

Jesus teaches, come to God as your Father. And when you come know that his name is hallowed, meaning sacred, that his kingdom is sovereign and his will is superior especially to our wills.

But there is a problem. By nature we resist submitting to God. We are strong willed and seek to be independent and in control of our lives. We think the more control we have, the more happier we will be. The more our desires are fulfilled, the more satisfied we will be. This is what we believe and this prayer goes against everything we believe and desire.

The secular modern mind finds this prayer dangerous and too risky. How can one give up their control like this? The religious person also struggles. Though on the one hand they know they have to please God and obey him, on the other hand the struggle is with their own desires. So often times we pray “thy will be done” out of resentment or resignation. This prayer sounds like defeat. We give up God! We know you won’t bless unless we pray this way, so I just give up and pray “your will be done”. What else can I do? It seems like we are shrugging our shoulders when we pray this prayer.

Are you struggling to pray “thy will be done”? It can be easy in some areas but it can be really hard in certain areas of life. Some of us want to know the answer to our “why” questions before praying this way. I want to know why God has allowed this into my life, why me, why is he making me wait, why is he not answering me, why is he not removing my pain and suffering? So our submission and surrender is based on whether God reveals to us his plans. This is a posture of insolence and arrogance.

Some struggle to pray this prayer especially in areas where you are hurting, disappointed, dealing with unmet expectations, struggling with some form of injustice, going through pain and suffering. We cant let go. What if I pray “thy will be done” and God does not do anything, or things get worse or God lets me down. I don’t want to experience more hurt and pain. So we stubbornly hold on out of fear and not able to trust a loving God. Some of us simply want to be in control, want to control others for our  benefit or control the outcomes of situations.

What area are struggling to pray this prayer? Is it to do with your marriage, future, career, relationships, children? God calls and desires that we joyfully submit and surrender because that is the place of true delight, peace, joy and rest for our souls.

Elizabeth Elliot in her book “Through Gates of Splendour” says, “If He is God, He is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere but in His will, and that will is infinitely, immeasurably unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to."

Will you pray “thy will be done” even if you don’t fully understand, even when it means discomfort, or pain or that you have to die to yourself or that maybe your dreams have to end, or that it threatens your personal happiness?

Praying “thy will be done” is a place of discipleship. As I submit, God lifts me to a place of healing, restoration, transformation and change. We begin to experience his power and his provision.

How can we pray like this? Where do we get the power? Who prayed like this?

B. Model

Jesus was the model for this prayer. Jesus is also the power for this prayer. Look at Jesus and what he has done for you.

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 

What’s happening here? Why did he begin to be sorrowful and troubled as he began to pray?
Why did Jesus lack poise and peace when he was going to die? Was he afraid? His disciples went to their deaths joyfully and courageously. Why is Jesus so horrified?

39 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.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

Jesus was not surprised that he was going to die because he kept telling his disciples about his crucifixion. So what happened here? Is he having doubts?

Jesus is talking about the cup of judgement. The cup refers to the wrath of God and his punishment on human evil and sin. Ezekiel 23 refers to this as the cup of horror and desolation. Isaiah 51 refers to this as the cup of fury, wrath and staggering horror.

When Jesus started praying, he’s beginning to experience horror of God’s wrath, the withdrawing of God’s presence and the agony and pain of divine judgement on our behalf.

Why did this begin in the garden and not on the cross? This was perfect place for Jesus to slip away, to escape and leave. Jesus had all right and reasons to walk away. He could have said, these people wont understand, then dont care or will love me back. They will reject and mock me. They dont deserve my sacrifice. But he did it voluntarily and out of love.

He knew what he will get when he says “thy will be done”, cosmic abandonment, pain, anguish of eternal proportions which no man has ever faced or will face. Jesus is carrying the sins of this whole world. He was physically, emotionally, psychologically weary and broken. But Jesus said “thy will be done”. He didn’t shrug his shoulders, or say it with resentment or bitterness, he didn’t do it because he had to do it but he did it out of delight and joy set before him.

Jesus is the model for us. Jesus is the power we need. Only when you see Jesus do this for you will you be able to say what Jesus is teaching you. Only when you see Jesus die for you, will you be able to die to yourself. Only when you see Jesus submit and surrender for your sake, will you be able to submit and surrender to him.

Jesus is the model for us. He was honest about his struggles and he invites us to be honest abt your struggles, emotions, doubts, hurts, fears and frustrations. But in the end he invites us to rest in his will, to surrender and submit.

Will you pray “thy will be done” no matter the consequence, your feelings, whether you agree or not, whether it results in discomfort, pain or loss? Will you pray “thy will be done” with sheer joy and delight submitting to a loving God, to a saviour who gave his all for you?

Will you pray this prayer when it comes to your marriage, your children, your future and say let your will be done, I surrender, I trust, I don’t want to control, I don’t want to hold on, I don't want to push my agenda, I don't want to manipulate but I surrender my will to yours.

Father, your will is right, beautiful, good, acceptable and perfect. Your will is righteous, pleasing and satisfying. Your will is marvellous and it is my delight. Your will is life and that’s where I want to be.

Ranjit David

Ranjit has been in Pastoral Ministry for the last 10 years in various settings. Coming from an Engineering background, he is passionate about working with young professionals in Delhi, using their gifts, teaching from God’s word, and having an open home. His training from Dallas Theological Seminary and Redeemer City to City has equipped him to serve strategically in an urban context.

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