Praying 'Thy Will Be Done'

So when do we pray for God's will? When to relinquish?

- Posted on Oct 18, 2013

Man praying Thy Will Be Done

Each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer is worthy of a book, but the one that catches me, the hardest to live by and accept is “Thy will be done.” For me, it only comes after a battle of wills, that point of surrender. You can’t really be helped by anyone unless you acknowledge your need. I can get so defensive when I hear criticism that I’m unable to listen to the good in the critique.

Same thing happens spiritually. If God knows what I need better than I know myself, why put up so much resistance? The old adage (not to be found anywhere in the Bible) “God helps those who help themselves” is true...until it’s not true.

We can sail through a dozen trials until we hit a wall. God’s right there to lend a hand but usually we’re so stubborn—or at least I am—that we’re not willing to reach out and grasp it. We get so used to punching the wall, our hands balled into fists, that we don’t know how to relax and accept the helping hand. Have you ever watched someone parallel park?

I can look out from my bedroom window down to the street below, a God’s-eye view. I’ll see a car pull out, a car behind waiting to take its place. The driver will check to see if there’s enough room. “You’ve got at least a foot at either end,” I want to shout. I watch the driver pull forward and back up, turning the steering wheel. Some drivers are great at it. Others are miserable even with plenty of extra space, rolling up over the curb, bumping the car in front. From my exalted position I can see exactly what they need to do. “Turn now!” I’ve been known to say. If they’d only listen. If they’d only hear.

I suspect I’m often like those hapless drivers. “It’s good to remember that not even the Master Shepherd can lead if the sheep have not this trust and insist on running ahead of him or taking side paths or just stubbornly refusing to follow him,” wrote Catherine Marshall in her Guideposts story “The Prayer of Relinquishment.”

So when do we say “Thy will be done?” When to relinquish? Apparently all the time. At least if we follow the guidance of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s there up towards the front of the prayer: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Known by millions as the executive editor of Guideposts magazine, Rick Hamlin has written several books including Reading Between the Lines, his memoir Finding God on the A Train, and several novels. A contributor to Daily Guideposts since 1985 and an active blogger about prayer at, Rick currently lives in New York City with his wife, Carol. This article is excerpted from his new book, 10 Prayers You Can’t Live Without: How to Talk to God About Anything (Guideposts Books 2013).

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