What It Means to Pray, ‘Your Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven’

Exploring the commitment and intention attached to the words that Jesus taught His disciples.

Posted in , Sep 9, 2021

On earth as it is in heaven

For two millennia, faithful followers of Jesus have prayed the words that He taught His disciples: “May Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” But have we paused to think through what it really means?

We tend to attach that phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” only to the third petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “May Your will be done.” But it’s possible—linguistically and theologically— that Jesus intended that phrase to modify all three petitions that precede it. 

In other words, He may have taught us to pray, “May Your name be kept holy on earth as it is in heaven, may Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, and may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

After all, God’s name is hallowed perfectly and thoroughly by every inhabitant of heaven: “Holy, holy, holy,” they cry, “throwing down their golden crowns beside the crystal sea.” 

And His kingdom is undisputed and untrammeled in heaven, where the Lamb who was slain receives all the “power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (Revelation 5:12 NIV) that are His due. And of course, the host of heaven does God’s will instantly, constantly, completely and worshipfully.

That’s what I pray when I say, “on earth as it is in heaven.” I pray for God’s will to be done instantly—that there will be no delay in His will being accomplished. 

I pray for God’s will to be done constantly—that there will be no cessation or vacation from the will of God being accomplished.

I pray for God’s will to be done completely—that there will be no half measures in the accomplishing of His will. 

And, finally, I pray for God’s will to be done worshipfully—that, like the angels of heaven, who happily, vocally and brilliantly speed to do God’s bidding, His name may be glorified, His kingdom may come, and His will may be accomplished here on earth. 

Of course, implicit in the prayer for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” is the praying soul’s own submission to God’s will. It makes no sense to pray for these things to be accomplished everywhere but in me. Thus, “May Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means “I will do what You say.”

So, for me, praying “on earth as it is in heaven” is a daily act of surrender, willingness and eager, obedient intention. It is a renewed commitment of my life to the cause of Jesus Christ. And it’s a happy reminder of the privilege I enjoy in serving the Almighty God of the universe in all that He wants to do on earth.

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