It struck me with renewed force this week how easy it is for us to delude ourselves about our true desires. I wanted a particular outcome to a problem but when it was resolved I was actually disappointed. What I thought I wanted was completely different to what I found in my heart when the whole episode was over.
We've talked before about the Lord giving us the desires of our hearts and how He works with us to transform our desires so that they conform to His will. But that is only part of the story. Sometimes we simply have to make an active decision to submit our wills to the will of God.
The concept, "thy will be done," occurs in more than one place in scripture and the circumstances are quite different.
The Prayer That Jesus Taught
It appears as a line in the Lord's prayer where Jesus instructs as to pray, "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10). Though we shouldn't treat this prayer as a ritual, it is intended as a guide for us of the bases we should cover in our personal devotions.
In this context, "your will be done," indicates an ongoing attitude of heart. We are to pray continually that God's sovereign will should be fulfilled in our own lives and the lives of the people around us. To pray this prayer is to put ourselves in a place of submission to God for it says, "Lord, reign in me and in my world, day by day."
We sometimes use this little phrase when we pray because we don't know whether what we're asking for is, in fact, the will of God. We have to be careful about what we mean when we say it. If we mean, "this is what I would really like but if it's not what's best for me, please don't let me have it," then that is a mature approach to prayer. But if we mean, "it would be nice to have this but I don't really expect you will give it to me," then we are being childish and not praying in faith.
The Prayer That Jesus Prayed
Having taught this little prayer to the disciples Jesus Himself makes use of it in Gethsemane where he is battling to submit His will to that of the Father in a very specific set of circumstances, "yet not my will, but yours be done," (Lk 22:42). None of us will ever understand what it cost the Lord Jesus. But He was able to make that one-off act of submission and say, "your will be done," precisely because He had been practicing living in the will of God all His life.
If we are to take the difficult situations in our lives and submit to the will of God ourselves, we will have to develop a lifestyle of submission in the details of daily life. If we don't do that, when the crisis hits us, our instinct will be to rebel and we will have a really hard time getting our flesh to do the right thing.
It's all about learning to trust God (Prov 3:5). My experience this week has shown me my need to trust that God does work all things together for our good (Rom 8:28). I don't even know my own heart so how can I possibly know what is best for me? That's why God reveals Himself to us as our Heavenly Father. It really is a case of, "Daddy knows best."
Prayer College Assignment
We sometimes struggle to know what God's will is and consequently, how we should pray. But living in submission to Him should be our main priority. That may be hard to do but it is not complicated, "what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Mic 6:8). Determine that you are going to develop a submissive lifestyle so that when the real challenges come you will be able to pray, "thy will be done".