10 “…your will be done,”
Jesus instructs us to pray for the ultimate manifestation of his Father’s kingdom: a world where God’s will is fully honored and obeyed. So what is the relationship between doing God’s will and being a citizen of his kingdom?
Contrary to what we may have been told, our status as God’s children is not determined by our behavior. We can’t earn God’s acceptance simply by doing his will. If we could, there would be have been no need for Christ to die on the cross. Rather, God accomplished our adoption into his family by sending his Son to pay the ransom for our unrighteousness. Most religions, including some factions of Christianity, teach that we only belong to God if we believe and behave. In contrast, the Bible tells of a Father who sent his Son to die for us “while we were yet sinners” (John 3:16-17, Romans 5:8). God’s forgiveness not only precedes our repentance and obedience, it actually facilitates it (Romans 2:4).
The only biblical condition for salvation is to receive Christ’s redemptive work by faith (Acts 4:12, Acts 16:30-31, Ephesians 2:8-9). We accept his acceptance. We receive the free gift of God, given because of and in spite of our disobedience: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Christ does not impose a “works” standard we have to meet to be saved. Rather, a vibrant faith produces healthy fruit. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). This is why Paul calls the new spiritual traits in transformed believers the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).
As we understand what it means to belong to God, our new beliefs will produce corresponding behaviors that please our heavenly Father (James 2:20-24). Although our fleshly nature initially rebels against his authority in our lives, we gradually recognize that no one in the entire universe cares more about our welfare than God. The Lord, having purchased our pardon (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), is equally committed to transforming us from defiant adolescents into mature sons and daughters. This process is called “sanctification.” The apostle Paul writes about the tension between our old lives and our new ones:
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)
The crucifixion delivers us from sin’s bondage, beginning with our spirit and in due course freeing our minds and bodies. The apostle Paul rightly uses the imagery of war, imprisonment, and rescue to describe the internal spiritual conflict that will ultimately result in our being able to pray “your will be done.” The apostle John sums this up beautifully:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:1-5)
So how can we know and do God’s will?
The answer is through two supernatural resources: God’s Holy Word and God’s Holy Spirit. God’s Word directs us to the saving work of Jesus. Once we’ve surrendered our lives to him, Christ promises to empower us to do God’s will through his Holy Spirit. Not only can we know his will; but we can also experience his will-power. Here’s how…
The Bible is unlike any other book ever written. Though its 66 books have many writers, Christians believe it has but one Author:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Holy Spirit revealed God’s truth to its writers and continues to reveal God’s will to its readers. The Bible is a living book:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
If we want to know God’s will, then we must read, study, memorize, meditate on, and obey his Word. It’s almost impossible to open a page of Scripture and not discover the Lord’s plan and purpose for our lives. But the challenge isn’t only how to find God’s will, but also how to obey it. For throughout the Bible, we find men and women who knew God’s commands but couldn’t keep them.
At the cross, Christ dealt a deathblow to the power of sin in our lives. As he prepared to return to heaven, he instructed his disciples to return to Jerusalem and pray for the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit. He promised that this third person of the Trinity would supernaturally empower them to be his witnesses throughout the whole world (John 15:26, Acts 1:8):
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. (John 16:13-15)
This passage tells us that the Holy Spirit will reveal God’s truth, prepare us for what’s coming, help us glorify Christ, and be the conduit of Jesus’ blessings from the Father. We desperately need the Holy Spirit to know and obey God’s will.
Are you experiencing the person and power of the Holy Spirit in your life? You can, first by receiving Christ and then by asking him to empower you to follow him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The Holy Spirit is the answer to this prayer.
Following God’s will doesn’t mean trying to perfectly obey an impossible set of rules. Rather, it means receiving Jesus’ perfection on our behalf and then allowing his Holy Spirit to perfect Christ’s character in us. The apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
As we surrender our broken wills to him, he not only gives us the power to pray, “your will be done,” but also the power to do his will.