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Matthew 6:10b "Jesus' Example of Prayer, Part 3: May Your Will Be Done"

This post continues the exposition began in Part 1 and continued through Part 2 of Jesus' example of prayer.


May Your Will Be Done


A final third-person imperative (γενηθήτω) requests for the will of God to be accomplished, done, come into being. The imperative from γίνομαι indicates anything from “to be born” to “to be manufactured.” The point of the request is to ask that God’s will come into being, become manifest, or brought from concept into reality.


As with the first two, there is an assumption that the Father is the one accomplishing these requests (i.e., sanctifying His own name and bringing about His own kingdom). He will certainly bring His own will to pass. The emphasis therefore rests on the result of the request (the holiness of God’s name, the coming of the kingdom, and now the accomplishment of God’s will). A final similarity between this request and the previous two is the fact that Jesus’ words are pointed, precise, and specific. Just because the will of God is a broad topic is no reason to conclude that Jesus is speaking in broad general terms. There are at least three questions we should ask in order to being wrap our arms around Jesus’ intention.


What is “the Father’s will”? – Because God is sovereign, independent, immovable, and good (Ps. 115; 1-3; 119:68; Is. 46:9-10; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 12:2) His will is over all things, controls all things, cannot be removed, altered, or abridged and is therefore all encompassing (Jn. 1:1-3). To put it simply: The will of God is all that has been, is, and will be. There is nothing that has happened, will happen, or is happening without God’s knowledge, permission, and original decree. The term used by Jesus (θέλημα - will) expresses what is desired or designed to occur. We understand the difference between wanting something to happen and making something happen. Yet with God, there is no difference between what He wants to happen and what will occur. By tracing the various uses of the noun θέλημα and the verb θέλω, we can not only see what it is that God desires but, in some cases, we also see how He will accomplish what He desires. Broadly speaking, there are at least three categories to be explored regarding the Father’s will


First, accomplishing the Father’s will is a major part of Jesus’ first advent. In John’s gospel, Jesus is recorded several times as specifically stating that He has come to accomplish the Father’s will (θέλημα – Jn. 4:34; 5:30; 6:38, 39, 40). Taken with John’s purpose statement (that his readers believe that Jesus is the Christ and in believing have eternal life – Jn. 20:30-31), we can surmise that Jesus came to accomplish the will of the Father which includes the life of John’s audience. Elsewhere the gospels record that it was Jesus’ will (θέλημα) to cleanse the unclean (Matt. 8:3) and to gather the nation of Israel to Himself (Matt. 23:37). The means by which both realities will be accomplished is through the sacrificial and substitutionary death of Jesus as per the Father’s will (Matt. 26:42). Because the first coming of Jesus accomplished the Father’s will, it can only be assumed that the second coming of Christ will also accomplish the Father’s will. In fact, when praying for the Father’s will to be accomplished/brought about to completion, the second coming of Christ must be in view. Like the first two requests, this request has an unmistakable eschatological bent to it.


Second, while the Father’s will is incompatible with the will of man, the Father often allows men to pursue their wicked desires in order to accomplish God’s righteous purposes. While the will of God is perfect (Rom. 12:2), the will and desires of man are evil and wicked (Jer. 17:9; Eph. 2:3). Because God is not only sovereign, but also omniscient, He uses the evil and even the good intentions of man to accomplish His design (Gen. 50:20). Pilate had no desire/will (θέλω) to put Jesus to death (Lk. 23:20) while the crowds very much desired/willed (θέλω) to kill Jesus (Lk. 23:25). One might argue that Pilate’s intentions were good, and the crowds were evil. Yet it was the predetermined plan of God for Jesus to suffer at the hands of men and die on a cross (Acts. 2:23). In other words, though his intentions seem far better than the Christ-hating crowd, Pilate’s desires were not in line with the desires of God and thus did not come about.


Finally, the Father has specific desires for His people which (a) will be accomplished and (b) demand that we submit to and pursue this revealed will. These two truths summarize why we believe in a monergistic sanctification by faith alone; God calls His people to be sanctified (1 Thess. 4:3) and He promises that He will certainly sanctify them (Rom. 8:28-30). The obedience to pursue the will of God rests upon faith and trust that God’s will is sovereign, independent, immovable, good, and all encompassing. This faith to pursue the will of God is far from a blind faith. Repeatedly, believers are commanded and encouraged to know the will of God (Col. 1:9-12) because God Himself has revealed this will to us (Eph. 1:9). Through the writings of the prophets and the apostles (the Bible) God’s will/desire/plan for His people is revealed. This will can be summarized as follows: God’s people will be as Christ is and as/when they do the works of God from the heart (Matt. 7:21; Mk. 3:35; Jn. 1:12-13; 4:34; Eph. 6:6).


What is the extent of the Father’s will? – The concluding phrase ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπί γῆς (as in heaven also upon earth) has been understood in two different ways. Some understand this phrase as modifying the whole first half of the prayer, that is, the first three requests (for God’s name to be sanctified, kingdom to come, and will to be accomplished) are now given the heavenly standard when they are realized upon the earth.[1] Others link this phrase only with the last request for God’s will being accomplished.[2] Syntactically speaking, the second option is correct yet logically it makes little difference because the will of God includes both the holy treatment of His name as anticipated in the fulfillment of the New covenant and the establishment of His kingdom. God’s will being accomplished upon the earth to the extent that it is instantly and steadfastly realized in heaven would include all three God-centered requests. It is as if each request grows steadily more eschatological in focus while rising higher and broader in scope. This final phrase works as something of a bookend for this first section as it begins with an address to our Father who is in heaven and concludes with a request for God’s will to be done in heaven as it is on earth.[3]


What specifically are we to be praying for? – The prayer for God’s will to be done is not a request that creation would be brought into conformity to God’s desires and nature in the sense that there is a possibility that it will fail to do so unless we pray for it. Rather, this prayer anticipates the climax of God’s realized desire and design for creation in time and space. There is no doubt that creation will be bent to God’s will. This prayer anticipates the climax and execution of that precise event. In short, this request summarizes the first two by asking God to make this world like His heavenly domain in every conceivable manner. The request is for the earth to be free from the curse of death and pain (Zech. 14:11; Rev. 22:3) where perfect harmony and peace replaces tension, violence, and fear (Is. 11:6-9; 65:25). The request anticipates the new heavens and the new earth (Is. 65:17; 66:22; Rev. 21:1) that will come after the wicked have been removed to the lake that burns with fire (Zech. 14:21; Rev. 19:19-21; 20:10-15; 21:8) and those made right through faith will live with God and the Lamb in their midst (Rev. 21:5-7; 22:3-5). To pray for God’s will to be accomplished/ completed on earth to the extent that it is in heaven is to pray for heaven to come down to earth. The prayer looks past the millennial kingdom where the last Adam will reign and execute righteousness upon the earth (Ps. 72; Rev. 19:11-20:6) to the initiation of the eternal state when the kingdom is handed back to the Father (Is. 66; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Rev. 21:1-22:5).


If after all this consideration there remains a need for explicit application it is this: If one honestly, earnestly, and intelligently prays for God’s will to come to fruition, then it stands to reason that one’s life is in submission to that same revealed will. It is the will of God that His people be separate from the world and conformed to Him (Rom. 12:2), to give of themselves to the ministry of the saints (2 Cor. 8:5), to avoid pleasing men but rather please God from the heart (Eph. 6:6), and to abstain from sexual perversion and immorality (1 Thess. 4:3). The kingdom of heaven is occupied by those who do the Father’s will, not by those who make boastful claims (Matt. 7:21).


One final note should be added. If we were to flash forward to the end of Matthew’s gospel we will notice that Jesus makes a connection back to this very scene. What is called “The Great Commission” (Matt. 28:16-20) is a post-resurrection event that takes place on a specified mountain in Galilee. It is not out of the question to assume that Jesus appeared to His disciples on the same mountain then as He is instructing them here. Before commissioning them to go out into the world and make disciples, Jesus establishes the authority by which He issues the command. He says that all authority is given to Me in heaven also upon the earth (ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς). Jesus uses the same phrase from this prayer requesting the will of God to be accomplished to describe the extent of His own authority. In other words, the will of God is not accomplished upon the earth until the whole world hears the gospel of the coming King. Making disciples is part of accomplishing God’s will and God’s will cannot be said to be accomplished until every last disciple is made. Those who pray for the Father’s will should be those who even now submit to the Father’s will.

[1] Turner, p. 187.

[2] Broadus, p. 135.

[3] Nolland, p. 288-9.

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