“Your will be done,”
Key Word Analysis
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου
This significance of this second declarative phrase may be seen in part by where these exact words were used by Jesus. They were used twice. The first is in this passage spoken directly to his disciples as an example of how to speak to The Father. The second time was in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before the cross. Jesus spoke directly to the Father himself. “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) His example in the earlier Matthew passage was clearly an example meant for direct communication to The Father in normal, daily times. The second was provided as an example to be used in extraordinary times of great importance and stress.
The same word for your in your kingdom come was used in this passage, a very common of the personal pronoun of the second person singular, thou. It was used thousands of times in the New Testament and many times daily by any Jew of that day. Its use shows the simplicity of the idea Jesus wished to express: the kingdom and the will belonged to the Father. They were and are each available for the believer, but they belong to The Father.
Will/θέλημά is used fifty nine times in fifty four verses of the New Testament. It is used to express “what God wishes to be done by us” or “the purpose of God to bless mankind through Christ.” Jesus was quoted using the word. It was also used in the narratives written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and Peter. The will of God is one of the most important concepts to the Christian seeking a closer walk with the Heavenly Father.
Here are some of the New Testament examples of the use of θέλημά by Jesus:
“but he who does the will of My Father…” Matthew 7:21
“For whoever does the will of my Father…” Matthew 12:50
“it is not the will of your Father who is in Heaven” Mathew 18:14
“Which of the two did the will of his father?” Matthew 21:31
“unless I drink it, your will be done.” Matthew 26:42
“For whoever does the will of God” Mark 3:35
“And that slave who knew his master’s will” Luke 12:47
“remove this cup from me, yet not My will but yours be done” Luke 22:42
“the will of Him who sent me.” John 5:30
“For this is the will of my Father” John 6:40
“If anyone is willing to do His will” John 7:17
Here are some other New Testament examples of the use of θέλημά:
“but he delivered Jesus to their will.” Luke 23:25
“nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13
“if anyone is God-fearing and does his will” John 9:31
“The will of the Lord be done!” Acts 21:14
Be done/ γενηθήτω follows the established pattern of the use of common language in the words of Jesus. It is used almost five hundred times in the New Testament in almost every book by almost every writer. It can be translated as to take place, to come, to be made or to become. Here are some examples of its use:
“Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken” Matthew 1:22
“his garments became white as snow” Matthew 17:2
“I will make you become fishers of men” Mark 1:17
“until the day when these things take place” Luke 1:20
“all things came into being” John 1:3
“there came from Heaven” Acts 2:2
“for it we have become united” Romans 6:5
“so that he may become wise” 1 Corinthians 3:18
“we might become the righteous of God” 2 Corinthians 2:21
“having become a curse” Galatians 3:13
“I was made a minister” Ephesians 3:7
“Christ has become well known” Philippians 1:13
“for we have become partakers of Christ” Hebrews 3:14
The word analysis of your will be done shows the intent of Jesus in his choice of words. He was not requesting or desiring that The Father’s desires would become reality, but declaring that it would occur. His words do not say we should live in hope of the will of God becoming fact but should live in anticipation of that ultimate conclusion. The next question to be considered is what was heard by the disciples based on their personal perspectives of the language used.
Historical Theology Analysis
The disciple’s understanding of these words of Jesus may be seen though the historical analysis. Based on their backgrounds and experiences, how did the disciples hear the phrase your will be done?
The will of God was a subject of much focus in the Jewish culture of that day and today as well. The disciples’ perspective of this concept would have been formed from both their current culture and the teachings of the Old Testament. First will be an examination of the Old Testament passages followed by a discussion of the Jewish culture of that day.
There are only two instances of your will in Old Testament referencing the will of God.
“I delight to do Your will, O my God, Your Law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8
“Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God” Psalm 143:10
The is also an indirect reference in Jerimiah, using different language while implying the same idea of the will of God in a person’s or the world’s experiences.
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord” Jeremiah 29:11
Both of the Psalm references were written by David from the perspective of a servant of God, seeking to please The Father. David spoke of “delight” and desire for The Father to “teach” his will to the follower or servant. In these scriptures, working toward, contributing to and desiring to fulfil your will is the mission of the servant or seeker of God. The believer seeks “not what we want but what God wants” as God’s servant. David’s teaching to the disciples was that the follower of God would seek to learn his will.
And David goes further. He “delights” in seeking to do God’s will. The disciples would have looked up the King David as the ultimate authority. His “delight” in seeking God’s will would have driven them to do the same, as well as seeking that God would “teach” them that will. In the Psalm 40 passage, David also connects this concept with the “scroll of the book”, a reference to Deuteronomy 17:14-20. In that passage, David is established as the King. In the first Psalm passage, David sets the example for his subjects to follow with the desires of their hearts. In the second Psalm passage, David sets the example for his subjects to follow with the pursuits of their minds or personal will. To learn and do the will of God is the duty of any good believer based on the words and example of King David.
The passage from Jeremiah is from a different perspective. It states that there is a will of God, it is known in advance by The Father and that is for the believer to have a prosperous and happy life. For the disciples to pray or seek to live in the mission of your will be done is to align themselves with the preordained will of God and find their destiny in that will. Disciples familiar with this passage would seek to know and live the will of The Father if for no other reason than because it would serve to give them prosperity and happiness.
The will of God was more to Jews of Jesus’ day than just a theological concept. It was deeply embedded into their culture. To know and to follow that will was their ultimate desire and destiny. God the Father’s will was preordained and to know and to follow it was the desire of every Jew since Abraham.
God spoke to Abraham telling that he would protect and prosper if he followed God’s way. For Abraham, your will be done was a path to success and properity.
“Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward will be very great.” Genesis 15:1
“To your descendants I have given this land” Genesis 15:18
God had preordained that Abraham would inherit and land and grow to a great nation and the Father would be his shield and protector. Abraham has simply to learn God’s will and follow it. The world had given man free will. The Father gave man the opportunity to use that free will to follow God’s plan with promised rewards.
The historical pattern of following God’s will would have been clear to the disciples. From Abraham to David, there was a pattern of the great Jewish leaders to seek, know and follow the will of God. David said it plainly.
“I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”
Following the will of God was the essence of being a Jewish man in that culture. It would have seemed a natural point of curiosity and spiritual pursuit to the disciples listening to Jesus that day.
“I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it. I will be their God and they shall be My people.” Jeremiah 31:33-34
Jews of that day would have taken for fact that the will of God was part of the Jewish culture, their ultimate fate. It was only up to them to discover that will and follow it. It is their destiny. God will lead their willing nation. It began at Mount Sinai, where God revealed his laws and commandments in written and oral form. It is just up to them to follow that law to be within the will of God. His desire to lead them in his way applies generally as well as to specific trials or even battles.
“The Lord loves him; he will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon, and his arm will be against the Chaldeans.” Isiah 48:14
God also taught that he would support the life of individuals, provided they sought to follow his will.
“If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him” 1 Samuel 2:25
In summary, the disciples would have heard Jesus speak your will be done and accepted those words from both a personal and cultural perspective. They would have eagerly sought the way to learn and follow this will. They would have received the phrase as both a desire and a declaration of things desired to occur. They were very willing to accept this message and direction. How the contemporary believer receives this message is the next focus.
Contemporary Theology Analysis
To accept the will of God, to desire it to occur and to live as if it is the primary mission of the believer, that believer must be willing to accept God’s will as important. That sounds simple, yet it is not the nature of man. The believer must be willing and not willful.
“Willfulness – wanting and demanding that our will be done – reflects our fallenness.” It is not the will of the Father that dominates man. It is his own will that dominates. Jesus was seeking to teach a different way. He began his ministry with this message and ended it in the same way.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to his death and resurrection, Jesus gave up his own will and desires and made the will of the Father the priority. He was willing and not willful.
“yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42
He first set the example in our focus passage in Matthew and then modeled it in the garden passage in Luke. He announced that your will be done in Matthew and lived it out in the garden passage. Your will be done was “the theme of his life, contrary to ours.” In our focus passage, Jesus sought to teach his disciples to “choose the will of the Father,” in their prayers, their desires and in their lives. That teaching is just as relevant today. We should be willing in our words and actions to accept and seek that your will be done.
Another relevant point of view is based on the question of our place in the will of God.
The desires of the ruler of the universe will like come to be whether we align with them or go another way. The prayer or walk of a believer can have no real impact. “But we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.” God’s desire will occur with or without our belief or alignment. It is completely to our benefit that be seek to understand, be part of and help fulfil that will.
We must choose that will over our own. This may be the most relevant point and significant lesson of the life of Christ. He chose to seek and follow your will despite the fact that it resulted in the loss of his human life. This is not a choice that comes easily or naturally. Karl Barth referred to the choice of following the will of God as the “revolt against disorder.” “It is no part of human nature” to follow your will. “It is against nature” To follow that will is the beginning “of an obedient life of people in fellowship with God.” To seek and follow your will is to turn your back on the world and revolt against the natural inclination of all men to control and manage their own lives. Jesus taught just the opposite in your will be done. To follow Christ is not to just pray these words, but to live them.
There are other reasons to follow and live the doctrine of your will be done. The sovereignty of God is a key reason. To live in the way of your will be done is to acknowledge that sovereignty and control in real actions and not just in words. To live in this way is also to claim the promise that all things “work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”, according to His Will.
Jesus declared to his Father your will be done as both a personal desire and example to the disciples as he had done many times before. He used the common language of the day as he had consistently done. This significant passage would also be repeated again at the end of his earthly ministry, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus’ life and ministry were a model of consistency. He gives us the example to follow!
The will of God was an important concept to Jews of that day. It was studied and discussed in great detail in the Torah education given to the disciples. The greatest of all Jews, David, wrote many times on discovering and following God’s will. It was seen as not only the path to pleasing God but the path to success and prosperity as well. God would support those who sought to learn and follow his way. It was a subject of great interest to Jesus’ followers, as it should be to us today.
We must first learn that will and also have the personal willingness to follow that way. The life of Jesus was a clear and simple example of that process. Choosing that will over our own desires may be the most significant lesson from the life of Christ. How we choose to pray, declare and live your will be done is both a measure of our commitment to Christ as well as roadmap to that goal. How we follow the map is may be the most significant measurement of our dedication to your will.