“Pray then like this:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’”
After college, I followed God’s call on my life to serve high schoolers through the ministry of Young Life. After interviewing, they sent me to the small town of Rockport on the coast of Texas. I was an eager and passionate young woman sent to a town I had never heard of, full of people I had never met. Although I was technically an intern, I was the only staff member there and served as the “acting” director of Young Life, leading and working alongside volunteer leaders and committee members. As you can imagine, it was not as glamorous as I had hoped, but instead was an incredibly hard two years. I was thrown into the fire and felt it almost daily. I loved the kids and the ministry with all my heart, but every aspect of my life there was hard.
From the moment I arrived in Rockport, a pastor with a love for Young Life took me under his wings and mentored me. We would meet regularly, and he would teach and encourage me from the wisdom he had gained in his many decades of ministry in the same town. It was invaluable, and I drank it up. While every meeting with him was rich, there is one that will remain seared in my memory for the rest of my life. One morning after I arrived at his church office to meet, he stood and told me to follow him. We wound through the hallways of the church office and through the Sanctuary doors. The lights were off, and it was silent. We walked to the very front of the Sanctuary. He turned and kneeled at the first row, elbows on the seat, and began to pray out loud. I knelt beside him and listened. He was teaching me how to pray. Twenty-two years later, the details of his prayer are forgotten, yet I can still remember the phrase he prayed over and over, “Not my will, but yours be done, Lord.” In every single situation, he prayed for. And I could tell he meant it.
This strong, gifted, godly man, who had been leading one of the biggest churches in that town, humbled himself daily on his knees, submitting his will to the Lord’s. As He sought the Lord’s wisdom and strength, he recognized that as much as he wanted his own will and plans accomplished, as much as he may have trusted in his own abilities and ideas, God’s will and plans are always better. His will is perfect (Romans 12:2), His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and while our spirit may be willing, our flesh is weak, so we will always be tempted to live for our own desires rather than God’s (Matthew 26:41). Like my mentor, we must learn daily to lay down our will and pray for God’s will to be done in and through our lives.
Praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven means taking a posture of earnestly waiting and longing for God’s redemption on earth. It is a letting go of our will, of what makes the most sense to us, of what we want our lives to look like, of what others think about us, and what the culture and world around us say. Open-handedly releasing those things to God in order for our mind and will to be transformed, away from the world's influence, so that we can receive His purposes and plans. His good, acceptable, and perfect will (Romans 12:2).
When prayed genuinely, this means you are asking God to work in and through your life in a way that will bring Him glory, turn others to Him, lift Him up as the King of kings and the only true God, cause Christ to reign in human hearts, and result in God’s redemptive presence being felt on earth, just as it is in heaven. Praying this way transforms how we see our life, our struggles, and other people. For me, as a young twenty-something in a hard circumstance, it gave me eternal purpose and perspective in each situation I faced. Instead of praying for what I wanted or thought was best, I began praying for God’s will to be done so that others would know Him and He would be glorified. It truly changed the way I saw my struggles and opened my eyes to God’s eternal purposes, even in the smallest details.
How could this look in your prayer life? Think of the most recent things you have prayed for—a decision you need to make, your work, your family, your friends, your finances, your health, your needs or wants, or a person who has hurt you. Did you pray for God’s will to be done and not yours, no matter what that means? Did you pray that in that situation, God would be seen as the only true God and glorified in the hearts of others? Did you pray that no matter the outcome, others would come to know the grace and mercy of Christ and God’s presence would be felt on earth? Was your primary motive Kingdom-minded? If not, then turn to God and ask Him to transform you, to renew your mind, so that you will desire and long for His Kingdom and His will above your own. Let that shape how you pray. And then wait expectantly, watching for God to carry out His will and eternal purposes in ways you would have never imagined!