What is the origin of this well-known saying? Is there a connection between it and the Kingdom of God? What does “Thy will be done” mean for us today?
The phrase “Thy will be done” is found three times in the King James Version of the Bible. (In the New King James Version it is translated with the more modern “Your will be done.”)
The first place it is found is in what has commonly been called the Lord’s Prayer or the “Our Father” prayer. Actually, this was a model prayer that Jesus used to teach His disciples how to pray.
“Thy will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer
Jesus began His example of how to pray, saying, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10, KJV, emphasis added throughout).
Luke recorded this same instruction from Jesus in his Gospel: “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (Luke 11:2, KJV).
In this short outline, we see that the subject Jesus first brought up after addressing and showing honor to God the Father was God’s Kingdom. (Study more about this in our article “Thy Kingdom Come.”) He tells us to pray for the Kingdom of God to come to this earth and then He instructs us to pray that God’s will might be done here on earth even as it is being done in heaven.
On earth as it is in heaven meaning
What did Jesus mean, “Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Of course, God rules everything, but there is a difference now between how He rules heaven and earth.
The Believer’s Bible Commentary notes, “On earth as it is in heaven. This phrase modifies all three preceding petitions. The worship of God, the sovereign rule by God, and the performance of His will are all a reality of heaven. The prayer is that these conditions might exist on earth as they do in heaven.”
Currently, God has allowed Satan to be “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), with the whole world under his evil sway (1 John 5:19). Soon Jesus Christ will return and Satan will be removed (Revelation 20:1-3). Then Christ and His saints will set up the Kingdom of God over the earth (verse 4). We pray for that time to be soon.
In the meantime, followers of Christ strive to praise God, obey the laws of His Kingdom and do God’s will now on earth in the same way these things are done in heaven. In this way we are ambassadors for the coming Kingdom of God.
Why pray for God’s will to be done?
Since God is all-powerful and “does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3), why do we need to pray for His will to be done when His will is going to occur anyway? Have you ever considered that Christ may have included this in the model prayer in order to help us align our thinking and actions with God’s purpose and plan for us?
When we pray for God’s will to be done before we ask Him for “our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), our daily needs and wants, we acknowledge that what God is doing is more important than our activities.
This subtle, yet significant point reminds us of our spiritual priorities. God’s plan and purpose for our lives—His will—must come first in our lives.
What is God’s will?
God’s purpose for creating human beings is for them to ultimately become members of His family and live with Him forever in His eternal Kingdom. This process begins with humans created as physical, mortal beings who must hear and respond to God’s instructions as given through His prophets and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Explaining Christ’s background and reason for coming in the flesh, John wrote: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).
In this passage, we note that it is God’s will for humans to respond to Him and become His children.
Describing this process, Paul wrote: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
Addressing the same process to the Corinthians, Paul explained: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
God’s will for us is that we gradually change from humans with natural, human actions and ways of thinking, which are not in harmony with God’s laws, to people who think and act like God.
The Kingdom of God and God’s will
Although God is all-powerful, He has temporarily allowed an evil spirit called Satan the devil to influence mankind. Satan is referred to in the Bible as “the god of this age,” who has blinded the minds of people who do not believe (2 Corinthians 4:4). Through deception and lies, he “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).
God’s will for us is that we gradually change from humans with natural, human actions and ways of thinking, which are not in harmony with God’s laws, to people who think and act like God.At this time, God’s Kingdom does not reign over the earth as it does in heaven, where God is. Yet God’s Kingdom is destined to take over all the kingdoms of this world. Long ago, God gave the prophet Daniel a vision of this change.
“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
The seventh seal of the book of Revelation pictures the return of Jesus Christ to this earth to establish the Kingdom of God.
Describing the vision he had seen of this future event, John wrote: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15).
As for this process of all the governments of man being replaced by the Kingdom of God, this is the point Jesus was making in His model prayer when He taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
In our communication with God, we are to pray for this momentous change that will mark the end of Satan’s influence and human misrule, and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth to bring peace, prosperity and stability to all peoples.
A “Thy will be done” attitude
Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus prayed to His Father about the great trial He would face. Knowing the pain He would soon experience, “He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42, KJV).
This is the third and final time we find the phrase “Thy will be done” in the King James Version of the Bible.
In this case, even though Jesus would have preferred not to have suffered as He did, He yielded to God’s will. This prayer raises an interesting question: Was Jesus unaware of His Father’s will about His upcoming crucifixion? A few scriptures provide insight.
Revelation 13:8 speaks of Jesus as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” This means that God’s plan for His Son to give His life for the sins of the world existed from the very beginning.
Furthermore, Jesus had taught His disciples that His ministry would include giving up His life. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14).
Later, He again taught, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).
So why did Jesus pray that He might not have to suffer crucifixion, yet at the same time also yield to the will of His Father?
Could it be that, as He had done regarding baptism (see Matthew 3:14-15), He was modeling the behavior we need to practice?
Even though Jesus wasn’t looking forward to the suffering He would have to endure, He was completely committed to fulfilling the will of His Father. As Jesus explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34).
As we live our lives, we need to have similar “Thy will be done” attitudes. Living in accordance with God’s will must be our top priority. Seeking God’s Kingdom and His righteousness must be the primary focus of our lives (Matthew 6:33).
If we do as God commands, we can look forward to hearing these wonderful words: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
To learn more about God’s will for you, be sure to read the articles in this section on the “Kingdom of God,” as well as “What It Really Means to Pray, ‘Thy Will Be Done’” and “What Is God’s Will for Me?” We also recommend you study our booklet Change Your Life.