“Thy Will” vs. “My Will”

Praying Like Jesus

By Sherry Thomas and Bethany Lockett

In the early years of my marriage, conflict was frequent. Something as inconsequential as which direction the forks were placed in the dishwasher would result in a serious argument.

I would pray over our disagreements, often asking God to help my husband see that I was right. “Lord, please change my husband.” My heart attitude toward prayer was about controlling my circumstances and proving that I really had my family’s best interest at heart.

As time went on, I just felt more overwhelmed. This finally forced me to see past the immediate circumstances and change the way I prayed. In desperation, I began to pray, “Lord, please change me.”

In Matthew, we get a peek into Jesus’ understanding and practice of prayer. 

Jesus’ prayer life is shockingly different from that of the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His day. Although they were commended by others for their beautiful, passionate, and public prayers, Jesus denounced them for praying only to receive the admiration of others in Matthew 6.  

His rebukes came to fulfillment in Matthew 23, known as the passage of the “Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees.” Jesus did not hold back on His opinion of their practices, saying “You snakes! You brood of vipers.” He condemned them for being like a cup which is cleaned only on the outside and a tomb, which looks beautiful and white but is full of death on the inside.  

Jesus was less concerned with the method of their prayer (both private and public prayers are appropriate) and more concerned with their motivation. He criticized their self-focused approach, believing “righteous” actions could control their own hearts and circumstances. 

In contrast, Scripture tells us Jesus routinely woke up early in the morning to pray. He also prayed after full days of serving and teaching, during times of severe trial, and throughout the day to give thanks. His prayers expressed and empowered His desire to submit to the Father completely.    

Jesus introduced the true motivation for prayer in the first section of “The Lord’s Prayer” and modeled its impact throughout His life and ministry.  

A model of motivation

Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name – Matthew 6:9

There should always be a direct correlation between the One receiving our prayers and what we say. While my name does not actually hint at my character or attributes, every single one of God’s names declares who He is.

So, how does the name you use for God affect your prayers?   

In this prayer, Jesus taught the people to acknowledge: 

  1. God is Father (the Good Father loves you)  
  2. He is in Heaven (He has unlimited resources)  
  3. His name is Holy (He is the only One worthy of worship)  

Acknowledging different attributes or qualities of God tends to change the tone of our prayers, rearrange priorities, and sometimes change requests altogether. At times it can prevent us from asking God for something that is contrary to His nature. 

There are many names for God throughout the Bible. Jesus frequently used the name “Father” (Greek: Patḗr or Aramaic: Abba). Similarly in the Old Testament, there are many names for God that reveal His character. In the Psalms He is called El Shaddai (meaning Lord God Almighty) or Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will provide).  

One of my favorite names for God is “El Roi” (The God who sees me). He is the God who clearly sees me and chose to love me anyway. With my focus on El Roi, I confidently approach Him for daily guidance and in times of struggle.  

These contemplations in prayer release me from the fear of failure and feelings of insecurity. They remind me to submit my desires and my life to Him because He is good, and His ways are perfect. 

When we remember God’s attributes and His names, we adopt an attitude of worship within our prayers. By remembering His character, God ultimately works to re-shape our own. 

Positioning our hearts

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10

While it’s tempting to assume Jesus lived a perfect life solely because He is fully God, we must remember He became man and was tempted and struggled just like we do. His temptations, pains, and trials were no less severe than ours – the difference was He was determined and intentional in accomplishing God’s will. He always sought unity with the Father, and He accomplished this through prayer. 

We have to ask ourselves, are we praying to prove we are right or to manipulate God into seeing our way? Or are we ready to be changed by God and submit to His will over our own?  

In the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night Jesus sought His Father in severe distress, Jesus asked for an alternative solution to the cross. Three times He asked to avoid the wrath of God; however, each time He asked, He also reaffirmed His commitment to do the will of His Father. With those prayers, Jesus walked confidently to the cross, and three days later walked victoriously away from the grave. Jesus illustrated that submission to the Father’s will is rewarded with peace that far outweighs our pain. The same is true for us. While circumstances don’t always change, anxiety can be replaced with peace. 

In our vulnerable moments, God welcomes our cries and tears. And when we offer those requests with a heart of submission, God gives us the peace and strength to endure our circumstances. Surrounded by betrayal and insults, Christ walked to the cross with peace and resolution. Through His sacrifice, we too can face the trials of this world with courage when we submit to the will of our Heavenly Father in prayer.   

As I reflect on our marriage, I see the ways the Lord has drawn me closer to Him. He used Bible Study Fellowship to help me understand that His Word was a far better guide than my feelings, experience, or worldly wisdom. I realized that I had to let go of my need to control every situation and submit to God’s will for our lives. Today, our marriage is stronger, and we continue to see the deep impact of diligent prayer in every area of our lives. 

Sherry Thomas

Guest Contributor

Sherry Thomas was a child when she believed in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ, but it was as an adult that she understood the importance of growing in her relationship with Him through Bible study and prayer. She joined Bible Study Fellowship more than 10 years ago after the Lord called her out of a corporate job to become a stay-at-home mom. Sherry is happily married to her husband Jacob, who was an International Controller for Bible Study Fellowship. Today, Sherry homeschools their five children and the whole family participates in BSF classes in Lubbock, TX. She also enjoys serving in women’s and young adult ministries in their community.

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  1. I believe we live very short-sighted lives. Too often it is all about today and all about me. Jesus was all about others and all about our future. He came that all could spend eternity future with him and “Our Father”.

  2. Hi Sherry, your statement “I realized that I had to let go of my need to control every situation and submit to God’s will for our lives”. I have had a hard time teaching my adult children to think, behave and act how a grown up kid should be and got greatly disheartened when I see them not learning from their mistakes. Your prayer that “Lord please change me” enlightened me. Also your explanation on Lord’s prayer and the significance of how we address God in different names changed my perspective how I view God. A big thank you and I look forward to reading more of your blogs. God Bless you and your lovely family.

  3. Thank you Sherry for sharing on prayer. Encouraged that we pray to a God who sees us, and many more. Gives me confidence in God and removes my focus from the challenging situation, to Him.

  4. “While circumstances don’t always change, anxiety can be replaced with peace”. This is very encouraging to me. Thank you for sharing

  5. Sherry thank you so much for this helpful and God centered way of changing how I pray. I appreciate your diligence to this subject

  6. Thank you. Important points and very insightful! Saying God’s names is a great reminder of all the facets of the personality of the one true God and our Lord. Great blog!

  7. Thank you sherry, your testimony comes out as a reflection of your love to mature God’s people.
    May I always focus on God’s will in my prayers as Jesus my Lord taught for His Will is good and perfect for my life

  8. Thank you very much for your beautiful share from the heart. I can definitely relate to it. Prayer truly helps us to shift our focus to Jesus to get the help we need to live an authentic life that brings glory to Him. May God bless you and your beautiful family in His calling to you.

  9. Thanks Sherry for sharing God’s work in your life. Truly our Lord draws us nearer via challenges we undergo and emerge victorious for His purpose. We continue to establish God’s purpose and will in our life.

    • Thank you for reminding of the names of God. This year Son of Man is hitting the mark with me.
      I love He is the God who sees me.
      My prayer life got different with grief.
      Impacted. I would love to greet Christ better each morning.

  10. I would like to share the amazing “community “ atmosphere our CL’s have created in our SP. the Matthew study has brought our students to a place where they come expecting their friends to be present on Monday evening.
    These children do not go to school together, the are a blend of 2 levels and truly care for one another. They share personal situations, pray for each other and even one younger boy sought help from an older classmate on a school situation.
    This little group of 12 look after each other and enjoy spending time with together. Their Basic Truth time has gone to a whole new level. God is truly working on these hearts.

  11. The journey through Mathew with BSF has been a great experience. It has helped me to have a deeper understanding of the word of God. I enjoyed the fellowship of the members and the kind of prayer support I received during times of trouble. The study is very comprehensive with notes, questions, videos and discussions.
    Looking forward to the next session of Bible Study.

  12. Sherry,
    I too, have struggled with this . It has taken years to work through. It was in the letting go and being willing to abandon my prayer to the will of God and then stand trusting in that will; knowing that His way is always the best for us.

  13. Thank you for sharing! God is so great and so patient with all of us. Always encouraging us to grow!

  14. Sherry, thank you for your sharing. I also have similar weakness I need to ‘ let go of my need to control every situation ‘ to allow God to take over. I love Him, I should trust Him to guide and lead. Not to be anxious in every circumstance but with sincere and unceasing prayers and wait for His answers.

    Once again, thank you for your sharing and God bless you and your family abundantly.

  15. Love this encouraging article- thank you!

  16. Thank you Sherry for rekindling my appreciation for the Lord’s Prayer. In this Study, it has ignited a passion & deeper appreciation such that I have set an alarm so that I Pray the Lord’s Prayer each morning. Before I got there, I would stop on “Thy will be done” to ask myself whether I would be genuine in saying this for myself, or it was just a recital. The Lord has brought me to a. Place where I now wholeheartedly praying for His will to be done in my life – no more palpitations. Thank You Lord. Thank u all for your encouraging contributions.

  17. Thank you for your open heart confession, and lessons about the importance of the Word over our feelings, and how it brought great victory for you and your blessed family.
    Do keep up the good work you all are doing! It’s inspiring to see you all there serving.

  18. I may not always be right, but… I am never wrong. That was the theme I grew up with. Today my theme is I may never be right, but … I am never wrong with Jesus. Amen.

  19. Thanks Sherry for sharing your experience, i too I realized that I had to let go of my need to control every situation and submit to God’s will for my life. BSF has helped and reminded me to keep a check on what i do or how i pray because God looks at my intentions and motives. I am encouraged and blessed.

  20. I thank my God so much through the ACTS I am able to pray and understand the word of God.

  21. Thank you for how well you shared the concept of praying. You reminded me
    how I can share with God my concerns to him but have my own motivations.

  22. Thank for that insight on prayer it was very helpful!

    • Hi Sherry,

      I love your focus on, El Roi, God sees me. This is one of my favourite passages. God sees my brokenness, my wrestling with stuff and l loves me and does not give up on me.

  23. Iam so encouraged & challenged by this…My prayers today is that God may change me and teach me how to pray.Lord Jesus please help me to submit my desires & my life completely to you and give me strength & peace as I wait upon your will….

  24. Wow! thank you Sherry for this guidance on prayer, I will worship God in prayer. indeed as blessed and well informed.

  25. Loved her comments how Jesus works on us to be better for his cause. Also thanks to Bsf for so much learning about such I wasn’t sure about.

  26. Sherry, Wonderful the way God has opened your eyes to something far greater . I recently lost my wife and had exhausted prayer after prayer for healing, as I’m sure you know we have so many prayer chains. Unfortunately My wife passed and I can say God didn’t heal her body but He gave her peace to be able to cross over, I take extreme comfort in that , unfortunately we don’t always see this at the moment of trial. Be Blessed and Enjoy your family , you(we) may not always be right but you are the foundation of your family with your love, given by God’s heart to you. Be Blessed

    • Sorry Geoffrey. God will see you through till you find love. His love is great and everlasting. Lean on Him n Him only

  27. This is spot on! Focusing on God’s attributes helps me to simplify my prayers and worship God. Worshipping Him for who He is helps me to give Him control. When prayer leads me to worship, I can let go of having my own way. God’s way is always best! I’m grateful that BSF has taught me this through the years.

  28. This really encouraging me to move with my life and I want to submit to God’s will not my will..its not easy but I know God helps me to obey and Trust His plans..

  29. I would like to know how to pray wiser. I would like to intercede wiser. I would like to know more about unity with the father.


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