“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
The second half of Matthew 6:10 parallels or fleshes out the first half. First we ask for the kingdom of God to come, then we pray more deeply into what that means.
On the surface this is a pretty simple request. Yet, few things seem to trip us up as much as the “will of God”—understanding it, finding it, fulfilling it.
We tie ourselves into knots, paralyzed by the idea of a “perfect will of God” that we just can’t seem to find, and fearing that if we live our lives “outside” of that will, we’re going to wreck everything—not so much because our hearts are wrong, but because we’re clumsy.
I suggest this is not at all what Jesus is teaching here. Rather than restricting our lives, the will of God frees them.
On my fireplace mantelpiece there’s a little plaque given to my roommate and I when we bought our (big) house. It quotes Psalm 18:19 (KJV):
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
Our friend didn’t know it, but this is actually one of my life verses. And one of the key areas where I’ve experienced its truth is in this whole idea of “the will of God.”
The Will of God Is Good
First off, it’s really really key to understand that the will of God is good.
Why am I even bothering to say that?
Because I think most Christians don’t believe it. I certainly didn’t. For years most of my associations with “God’s will” were predominately negative.
My 1:11 teammates and I wrote an email course in which we address this issue. The lesson is called “The Good Will of God”:
We make these jokes because as Christians, we think that serving God for REAL would mean preaching in a dump in the middle of a Third World country and dying of typhoid fever (unless you manage to get martyred first. Major brownie points if you do!).
For many people, a subconscious belief underlies statements like this, and it’s not funny at all.
The belief is that if you surrender your life completely to God, he’s going to hand you an iron-bound rule book and a one-way ticket to a war zone. He will take your freedom and your life away from you and give you a life you really don’t want …
Is this what keeps us from selling out 100% to Jesus—that we think he want us to suffer, to be miserable, to live in this tiny little box with a bunch of rules and nothing else, rather than understanding that he wants us to be full of life, receiving and transmitting his love everywhere we go?
(By the way, you can sign up to receive the full course, for free, here. It’s 11 lessons, one per week, delivered straight to your inbox.)
There is suffering involved in following God. This is true because our world is broken and at war with God. But the will of God for our lives is good.
God’s will, as he has expressed it over and over in the Scriptures, is that we prosper and be at peace. His will is that we be fruitful, multiply, and exercise dominion over the earth. It is that we experience righteousness, peace, and joy through the fellowship of his Spirit indwelling us.
It is that we love him and that we be loved by him. This is abundant, eternal life. This is what we are asking for.
The will of God is not a narrow, only-one-choice-is-the-right-choice, prescribed and predestined box in which we must fit ourselves. It’s a wide country, a beautiful, abundant, and light-filled way of life.
At times it will involve specific steps and instructions; at other times it is simply about doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
We Are at War
The historical kingdom of David and Solomon contains a key to understanding our present. In typological terms, we’re in the first half of the kingdom establishment, the era of David—which is the era of war. The era of Solomon, of peace, is still coming.
This is why the will of God must be sought and prayed for, and why we must also fight for it. Jesus has taken the throne, but much of the world is still in darkness or in active rebellion. Other spiritual powers are actively battling against the kingdom of God.
For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. (1 Corinthians 15:25)
Our enemies are not flesh and blood. They are spiritual forces: what Ephesians 6:12 calls “the world powers of this darkness … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.”
Help from the Mountains
As God’s earthly kingdom council (aka his “church”), it’s our job to represent him, to know his will, and to carry his will out. Because the will of God is good, that’s a marvelous and wonderful task! We are called to flood the dark world with light.
But we can’t do it on our own, and we will face opposition.
This is why we pray.
In Psalm 121:1 (NIV), David wrote these beautiful and familiar words:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
In the ancient world, mountains were understood as places where the heavens met earth. The gods lived in the mountains, and they would use mountains to descend from heaven to earth. David’s psalm declares that Yahweh, the one God who is Maker of heaven and earth, is his help, and will descend from the mountains to help him.
Jesus’s prayer is much the same. “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is a call for supernatural help. We are accepting God’s will as good and best, proclaiming that we desire it, and asking that help will descend to us.
Earth is our realm. It was given to us in the very beginning. It has suffered, and still suffers, under the twisting and corruption of everything that runs counter to the will of God.
As children of the kingdom, we can ask for things to change. We want life abundant, not only for ourselves but for this entire realm in which we have dominion.
The enemy won’t like your prayer. It’s an act of warfare. A line in the sand.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
(This is Part 63 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)