Knowing the Will of God

In Matthew 6:10, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray that the Lord’s will would be done. It’s a simple command, yet frequently misunderstood. We often think that praying for God’s will to be done is simply saying, “Lord, do your will. I don’t really know what your will is, I don’t know how your will involves me, but I resign myself to your plan, so go ahead and do it.”

If we closely examine this passage, we will find it doesn’t say we are to pray for the Lord to do his will; rather it indicates we are to pray that the Lord’s will would be done. Done by whom? Done by God’s people.

Jesus is telling us to pray that the will of God would be done by God’s creatures. Look at how he says it, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Just as the heavenly angelic beings do the will of God, we should pray that all creatures on earth would do the same. Psalm 103:20-21 gives a beautiful picture of how the Lord’s will is done in heaven:

Bless the Lord, you his angels, who excel in strength, who do his word, heeding the voice of his word. Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his, who do his pleasure.

How do the angels of heaven perform the will of God? They heed the words of God, they do as the Lord commands, and they do it all for the sake of his pleasure.

Most of us have likely patronized a Chick-fil-a at some point in our lives: we’ve walked in, given an order, said thank you, and the worker probably said, “My pleasure.” Heaven is nothing like this. I’ve had friends that worked at Chick-fil-a, and trust me, they do not always mean it when they say it. Sure, they’ll serve you well, but if they had the choice between serving you and lying in a hammock, sipping lemonade, and reading their favorite book – well, let’s just say that your pleasure would no longer be their pleasure.

This is not true of the inhabitants of heaven. The angels do the will of God not out of duty as unwilling slaves to a harsh master, but rather because they love the Lord. Performing the will of God is not secondary to them, it is what brings them the highest possible joy.

We are to pray that the will of our heavenly Father would be done on earth as in Heaven, and that all creatures would long to do his pleasure.

But what is this will we are to pray for? What does the Lord desire of us? What does the Lord command of his people? Is the will of God knowable?

The will of God is clearly knowable because God has revealed it to us in his Word. There are two aspects of God’s will that we find in the Bible – things we are commanded to do and things we are commanded not to do. Fairly simple, right?

According to 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, it is God’s will that we are sanctified. The word “sanctified” in this context simply means “purified.”  Paul says this purification includes abstaining from sexual immorality, disciplining oneself and not living in lustful passion as those who do not know God. If you have been saved, live as one who has been saved, putting to death the deeds of the flesh. We are not to walk as we once walked, but rather to live by the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23).

Really, you can summarize the will of God in these two commandments: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and you shall love your fellow man as yourself. This is the will of God in all of its simplicity, but the implications are far-reaching. It is through continued study of God’s Word that His will is more fully understood.

You may be thinking, “That’s all well and good, but the Bible doesn’t tell me who I should marry. It doesn’t tell me whether I should buy this car or this house. It doesn’t tell me whether I should take this job or if I should become a missionary to Africa.

It is true that the Bible does not fill in all of those specific details for our individual lives. But if we, with sincerity of heart, earnestly seek and practice what the Lord has revealed in Scripture, many of those details tend to fall into place. Many people think that the difficulty of God’s will is the unknown details, but I would suggest that this is a flawed view. The real difficulty is taking what God has revealed to us and applying it to our individual lives.

It is difficult to lay aside your own preferences in favor of someone else’s. But that is what the will of God calls us to do. It is difficult to love your enemy and feed him if he is hungry, give him drink if he is thirsty, clothe him if he is in need, and pray for him. It is difficult to confront a brother or sister you know is living in sin and exhort them in a spirit of love and gentleness to repent and humble themselves before God.

Doing the will of God is hard because it is very costly to us. Scripture says if you follow the will of God, the world will despise you even as they despised our Lord and Savior.

Jesus knew the cost of following God’s will. He also knew how to pray in the face of the greatest possible loss. He sweated drops of blood in agonizing anticipation of the highest cost any man has ever had to pay. The wrath of God was poured out on him for crimes he never committed. The punishment for our sins was laid on him. Christ’s agony at this time was beyond anything that we can ever comprehend. It is at this time that Jesus prays to the Father, “If you are willing, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”

This is what it looks like to pray that the will of God be done. In the midst of difficulty or persecution, when our flesh and instincts of self preservation are screaming don’t do it, we pray not my will, but Yours be done. Ultimately, we pray that our wills would be conformed to the will of the Father. No matter what the cost is to ourselves, whether we live whether we die, by the power of the Holy Spirit we will perform his will.

Specifically, since it is God’s will that his people are sanctified, we pray that the Lord would continue his work in our hearts, that he would reveal his will to us through his Word, and that he would give us a love for himself that compels us to do his good pleasure. We should also pray that the Lord would hasten his return and establish his kingdom. On that day, the will of God will be done by all creatures on earth even as it is done in heaven.

Adapted from a sermon by Edgar Kinsinger


Eddie and Stephanie Eddie Kinsinger and his wife, Stephanie, are currently living in Elnora, Indiana. He runs a small online business and is enrolled in a pastoral apprenticeship program under the direction of Truth and Grace Mennonite Church. He enjoys sugar, with a small drop of coffee as a garnish, and is greatly annoyed when forced to write a bio–in the third person. He enjoys reading and good conversations with friends.


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