Sunday sermon 4 September 2016: The Lord’s Prayer part 4 – Thy will be done.

Readings: Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 6:9-10; Matthew 26:27-42


YOUR WILL BE DONE – On earth as it is in heaven. Another one of those lines we pray without thinking. And we pray about the will of God quite often in other ways.

“If it be your will” is a standard line when praying for difficult things. I am sure you have heard it many times over the years – or prayed it yourself.

When the prayer is not answered – we are let off the hook to some extent.  “It’s not his will to answer this prayer,” we may say, as we watch a loved one die, or someone suffer.

At a basic level – “Your will be done” in my view is really a parallel thought, another way of expressing the previous line “Your Kingdom come” in the prayer.

Your kingdom come, 

your will be done

– where? – on earth of course (as it is in heaven.)

You’ve heard me say that often before – I am sure. But it’s much more than that of course.

Just as the concept of “Kingdom” is much more than the ideas we talked about last week so too the will of God. We could spend weeks looking at the Kingdom through scripture.

Jesus clearly wrestled with the will of God – from his temptations in the wilderness to his prayers in Gethsemane.

At his temptations he keeps the devil in check by quoting scripture – which is what the devil does first – he’s always so deceptive is the evil one. A master of doubt who twists the truth. Knowing our bibles also helps us stay in God’s will.

In Gethsemane Jesus prays for a way out – and look at the progression as he wrestles with the prayer and the issues at hand:

Mat 26:39  Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

If it is possible – may this cup be taken from me. YET not as I will, but as you will.

And then this:

Mat 26:42  He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

This time – if it is NOT possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it….

May your will be done.

If it was like that for him – we should not be surprised that this is a tough one for us too.

God’s will for Jesus was clearly a painful difficult journey with a good outcome!

What about us?



 So that’s a good place to begin – with God’s will for us as individuals.

And like Jesus –  there is often some wrestling to do.

Paul understood that – he gives us this powerful passage in Philippians 2 – after the most profound hymn about Jesus emptying himself and taking on the form of a servant – humbling himself and going to the cross – and being raised and exalted and given the name that is above every other name (we talked about this last week as we looked at Jesus becoming King in the Kingdom of his Father)

When he has said all that, he gives us this amazing verse: Php 2:12  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  Php 2:13  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

It’s the ultimate paradox – you work it out, because God works in you.

  • It’s that lovely contradiction – an apparent contradiction which is what a paradox is – like we had when I had burn out and needed time off to recover.
  • My dear wife and I were in the doctor’s room and he was saying that I needed to relax more and have time out. Rest etc.
  • Her comment – “he needs to put more effort into relaxing!”

I love it. It’s one of those things I can keep reminding her off – it was very funny at the time and still us.

Paul says: Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  Php 2:13  for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

You have to put work into it – like the 15 people who came here on  Wednesday night to learn together about hearing God.

And he works in us – how does he work? To WILL and to ACT according to his good purpose.

Now the word WILL which is a noun (we pray for his will be to be done) becomes a VERB – he wills and acts.

He WILLS – he wishes or determines that things will happen in our lives. According to his good purpose. (Like Romans 8:28-30).

It’s a huge debate for people who want to ward off the possibility of faith and believing in God – they say  – WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING.

We as Christians say that there are two aspects of God’s will.

His permissive will –  the things he allows.

And his active will – the things he causes.

You can’t understand the theory of this without the relationship. Like a human father when he says “no!” – it’s the relationship that makes a child listen and accept. And not be like the little boy at school told to sit down. He did, but said “I’m sitting down on the outside, but I am standing on the inside!”

Knowing God is everything.

  • He does not cause sickness. He does not tempt us. He does not bring about earthquakes and volcanoes. They are part of the natural world.
  • He does not make crazy suicide bombers blow people up. Or fly planes into buildings. Sin and evil cause that – inspired by the evil one.
  • And he does not cause us to get sick. But he does allow it. Sometimes to make us rest. At other times – I have no idea why he allows it. I have some suspicions. But as in my case at the moment it’s not that easy.

So yes – we wrestle with him on this too: Why do you allow it Lord?

Perhaps we should be saying “what can I learn from this God? You’re at work in me.” And probably this: “how do I work this out? How should I respond? Can I trust you God?”

His WILL to be done in our lives now – while we are between the coming of the Kingdom in Christ and the final consummation of the Kingdom (expressed in Revelation 21:4 where there are no tears and no pain), is no different from the will of God in Jesus life in Gethsemane.

We have to pray it through and face it with faith and courage – knowing that this is only part of the picture. Remember – Keep your fork in your hand – the best is yet to come!

So when we pray “Your will be done” for ourselves, as individuals, we are praying

  • that He will have his way
  • whatever that means
  • whatever he allows for our good – to grow our faith
  • what every he wills for us directly – to teach us
  • whatever he sends us specifically for us to wrestle with in faith

His will is that we remain faithful and say in the words of that great hymn by Adelaide Pollard (from Jeremiah 18:3):

Have thine own way Lord, have thine own way, Thou art the potter, I am the clay.

Mould me and make me, after thy will, While I am waiting, yielded and still.

That’s our individual growth path with God. It helps to know Him well. The relationship is everything.

Then there’s our life together. His will for us as a church family:



 Praying for His will to be done on earth “as it is in heaven” has greater implications for us together.

“On earth” is not just about our individual lives – what we suffer, how we succeed or fail, in relation to whether we feel happy or not, successful or not. The individual quest to achieve is not at the centre of God’s will. Listen to Phil 2:3 again: “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…”.

God’s will is always for us together – to be what He wants us to be together. Christians are by default in the body of Christ. We can’t do it alone.

What is clear about heaven is that God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are in perfect unity and love. You see it in Jesus’ prayers – he is doing what the Father wants. John’s gospel is rich with these images.

And the Holy Spirit too gives glory to Jesus.

Just two verses to unpack this a bit. You will know others:

Joh 17:1  After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

And this one: Joh 16:13  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. Joh 16:14  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.

It’s about one another in heaven – and it should be so on earth if God’s will is to be done.

Unity is everything.

Let this be a reminder to those who may be cliquey or divisive in church. Read Psalm 133 again! God bestows his blessing where there is unity.

You can’t just hang out with your mates, folks. As an aside, the whole point of name tags is that you can meet new people and take an interest in their lives.

We are to be united together – that’s the will of God. To be one body, interdependent.

The New Testament is full of “one another” sayings, and suggestions that we care for others and not ourselves.

The reading in Philippians 2 today begins with this – before the hymn about Jesus being given the name that is above every other name:

Php 2:1  If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, Php 2:2  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Php 2:3  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Php 2:4  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Php 2:5  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

And off he goes with that powerful hymn about Jesus making himself nothing – you know it already.

That’s the will of God that we pray to be done on earth.

And thirdly:


 There are huge implications that apply to the wider community too. They are very obvious and come out of our wider sense of stewardship since Genesis 1 and 2. We are to care for creation. It’s not negotiable. It’s a gift to care for well. And for people in need.

  • God’s will is for peace, not war.
  • Love, not hate.
  • Care for the world he made, and not destruction.
  • Support for the poor, not indifference.

But you know this. These are the easy bits.

It is his will for Christians is to take an interest in community issues, pray for those in authority, and sometimes get involved in local and national politics when he calls us.

Our prayer life together is essential – and if we follow Paul in 1 Timothy 2 – well listen to what he says:

1Ti 2:1  I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 1Ti 2:2  for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1Ti 2:3  This is good, and pleases God our Saviour1Ti 2:4  who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.


When we pray for his will to be done – for ourselves, the church family, and the community and world beyond these walls, we often are part of the answer to our prayers. Particularly beyond these walls.

  • His will is for us to be salt and light in the community.
  • Centres of disturbance of hope and joy.
  • People with answers. This time it is Peter who comes to our aid:

1Pe 3:15  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1Pe 3:16  keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1Pe 3:17  It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

So keep praying “Thy will be done” and listen to God.

  • He will show you what to do when there’s nothing to be done about the situation you find yourself in – he’s there and he will help and guide you. He will work in you if you work out your salvation with fear and trembling – if you put some effort into it.
  • He will work out his will in the unity and well being of the church family.
  • He will work through you if you make a real decision to be a centre of hope and joy where you go each day – as you do his will in the world.

His will be done.



About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on September 4, 2016, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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