Thy will be Done
“Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.”
What does it mean when we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven”?
The “will of God” can have two different meanings. In the first instance, God’s will refers to God’s precepts (or His revealed will in Holy Scripture). This includes God’s moral commands, summarized in things like the Ten Commandments, the law of love and the Sermon on the Mount, etc. Second, God’s will can also refer to His decrees (that is, the way God allows things unfold in history). We might think of this as providence—or God’s plan as He orchestrates it. We might say, for instance, that it must have been “God’s will” if we didn’t get the job for which we interviewed or if our high school sweetheart married someone else. Or, for a positive example, we might retrospectively say it was “God’s will” that we serendipitously met our spouse at that work event or friend’s party.
When we pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,” during the course of the Lord’s Prayer, it is proper to have both of these senses in mind. First, we ought to pray for all people to choose to align their lives with God’s moral will. It would be a good thing, for example, if more people (and our wider culture) embodied “faith, hope and love,” the fruits of the Spirit, and Christ-like humility, etc. Second, when we ask that God’s will be done, we are also asking that our decisions (and desires) comply with God’s plan. This entails praying that God would perform His will through the decisions we make: which career path to pursue, whom to marry, where to live, how to raise our children, how to use our gifts and how to spend our time.
There is a one more aspect to our petition “thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven,” and that is our longing for a future time when Christ will return. Concurrent with Christ’s return will be the perfect implementation of God’s will on earth. A day in which every “tear will be wiped away,” and “there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4) Until this glorious day, we pray that God’s will would visibly infiltrate our present, and bring with it the liberating power of His love.