Calvin on Thy Will be Done
The third petition
e(a)The third petition is: that God’s will may be done on earth as in heaven [Matt. 6:10 p.]. Even though it depends upon his Kingdom and cannot be separated from it, still it is with reason added separately on account of our ignorance, which does not easily or immediately comprehend what it means that “God reigns in the world.” It will therefore not be absurd to take it as an explanation that God will be King in the world when all submit to his will.
Here it is not a question of his secret will, by which he controls all things and directs them to their end.79 For even though Satan and men violently inveigh against him, he knows that by his incomprehensible plan he not only turns aside their attacks but so orders it that he may do through them what he has decreed.
But here God’s other will is to be noted—namely, that to which voluntary obedience corresponds—and for that reason, heaven is by name compared to earth, for the angels, as is said in the psalm, willingly obey God, and are intent upon carrying out his commands [Ps. 103:20]. We are therefore bidden to desire that, just as in heaven nothing is done apart from God’s good pleasure, and the angels dwell together in all peace and uprightness, the earth be in like manner subject to such a rule, with all arrogance and wickedness brought to an end.
And in asking this we renounce the desires of our flesh; for whoever does not resign and submit his feelings to God opposes as much as he can God’s will, since only what is corrupt comes forth from us. And again by this prayer we are formed to self-denial so God may rule us according to his decision. And not this alone but also so he may create new minds and hearts in us [cf. Ps. 51:19], ours having been reduced to nothing in order for us to feel in ourselves no prompting of desire but pure agreement with his will. In sum, so we may wish nothing from ourselves but his Spirit may govern our hearts; and while the Spirit is inwardly teaching us we may learn to love the things that please him and to hate those which displease him. In consequence, our wish is that he may render futile and of no account whatever feelings are incompatible with his will.
Conclusion of the first part
aHere, then, are the first three sections of the prayer. In making these requests we are to keep God’s glory alone before our eyes, while leaving ourselves out of consideration and not looking to any advantage for ourselves; for such advantage, even though it amply accrues from such a prayer, must not be sought by us here. But even though all these things must nonetheless come to pass in their time, without any thought or desire or petition of ours, still we ought to desire and request them. And it is of no slight value for us to do this. Thus, we may testify and profess ourselves servants and children of God, zealously, truly, and deeply committed, to the best of our ability, to his honor. This we owe our Lord and Father. Therefore, men who do not, with this desire and zeal to further God’s glory, pray that “God’s name be hallowed,” that “his Kingdom come,” that “his will be done,” should not be reckoned among God’s children and servants; and inasmuch as all these things will come to pass even against such men’s consent, the result will be their confusion and destruction.
e(a) edition of 1536 as altered in 1559
p. paraphrase, designates a Scripture quotation or near-quotation, not conforming fully to any as yet ascertainable source; many of these are in oratio obliqua.
79 Cf. I. xviii. 3; III. xxiv. 17.
a edition of 1536
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 906–907.