What is the will of God called?

The will of God is a theological concept that refers to God’s plan, purpose, or intention for humanity. There are various theological perspectives on the specifics of God’s will, but it is generally understood as God’s desire for what should happen or how people should live. The will of God is an important concept in Christian theology and has implications for topics like predestination, sin, salvation, prayer, and Christian ethics.

Different Types of God’s Will

Theologians identify different aspects or types of God’s will:

  • God’s sovereign will – This refers to God’s overall plan and purpose for everything that happens in the universe. It encompasses everything that God causes or allows to happen.
  • God’s moral will – This refers to God’s commands, laws, and ethical standards for human thought and behavior. It is God’s desire for how humans ought to live.
  • God’s will of disposition – This refers to what pleases or delights God. It relates to God’s desires, wishes, or what God is inclined toward.

Understanding the distinctions between these types of God’s will can help make sense of situations where God’s sovereign will seems to conflict with God’s moral will, such as instances of suffering and evil.

Theories of How God’s Will Operates

There are several theological perspectives on how God’s will operates in the world:

  • Augustinian – God ordains all that happens according to his sovereign will. Even human choices cannot thwart God’s overall plans. Evil occurs only because God wills it or permits it for some greater good.
  • Thomistic – God’s general providence encompasses everything that happens, but God does not specifically cause evil. God permits some evil done by free creatures for the greater good.
  • Molinist – God has comprehensive knowledge of what free creatures would do in any set of circumstances, allowing God to incorporate free will into his sovereign plans.
  • Arminian – God’s will is that all be saved, but he allows humans free will, which means his desires can be resisted.
  • Open Theism – The future is open and not entirely settled. God may limit his knowledge of future free choices in order to grant libertarian free will.

These perspectives offer very different understandings of how God’s sovereignty interacts with human freedom and how God relates to evil and suffering. They continue to be debated among theologians.

God’s Will in Scripture

There are many verses in the Bible that speak of God’s will or reveal God’s desires and plans:

  • “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). This line from the Lord’s Prayer acknowledges God’s sovereign rule and pray for his plans to be accomplished.
  • “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Jesus submitted his human will to the Father’s divine will.
  • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Discerning and obeying God’s will is key to righteous living.
  • “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5). The passage goes on to describe Jesus’ humility and obedience in God’s plan. Believers are called to have a similar mindset.
  • “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:39). God’s will for Jesus was to redeem and resurrect all who believe.

These and many other verses provide biblical insight into God’s grand plans, moral commands, and desires for humankind.

How People Discern God’s Will

An important question for many believers is how to discern God’s individual or specific will for their lives. Some common ways Christians seek guidance to know and align with God’s desires include:

  • Prayer – Talking to God, listening for his Spirit’s inner promptings during prayer.
  • Bible study – Looking for biblical commands, wisdom, and principles that apply to decisions.
  • Wise counsel – Getting advice from mature Christians and spiritual leaders.
  • Circumstances – Viewing opportunities and closed doors as potential signs of God’s will.
  • Personal desires – Viewing righteous desires as coming from God.
  • Fleece – Unconventional, last-resort methods like putting out a fleece as Gideon did.

In the end, Christians believe God is sovereign and good. He has plans for each person’s life and guides those who seek him. Discerning God’s will is not always easy, but his promises can be trusted. God’s plans will prevail and his moral will shall be done either voluntarily by humans or otherwise through his sovereign direction of all things.

God’s Will and Prayer

Prayer and God’s will are intimately connected. According to 1 John 5:14-15, if believers pray according to God’s will, he hears and grants their requests. So praying correctly is key. When making requests, believers should:

  • Pray God’s moral will be done – Asking for what aligns with God’s character.
  • Pray for discernment – Asking for wisdom in unclear situations.
  • Pray with submission – Being open to God’s higher wisdom saying yes, no, or later.
  • Pray persistently – Keeping on when answers don’t seem to come.
  • Pray God’s kingdom come – Asking most of all for God’s overall plans to unfold.

Prayer is not manipulating God towards human will, but human will aligning with God’s. Believers can pour out their hearts honestly to God, but should ultimately trust that his will is best and pray for his will to be done above all else.

God’s Will and Human Will

Throughout history, the relationship between God’s will and human free will has been heavily debated in theology. Some key points in understanding how they interact include:

  • God is sovereign – His will shall ultimately triumph overall.
  • Humans have free will – People can make real choices.
  • The fall affected human will – Humanity’s moral compass is tainted by sin.
  • God can use human will – He incorporates human decisions into his plans.
  • Salvation requires human response – God enables but doesn’t force faith.
  • Believers are called to obedience – Christians are to choose God’s moral will.

In the end, God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are both true. But comprehending how they work together fully remains a theological mystery. Believers must simply trust God and do their best to discern and follow his will accordingly each day.

God’s Hidden Will

Deuteronomy 29:29 says: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” Part of God’s will remains hidden from humanity. Reasons God may conceal elements of his will include:

  • His ways are above human understanding – Full comprehension is impossible. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
  • His timing is perfect – All will be revealed at the right moment. (Ecclesiastes 3:1,11)
  • He tests faith – Trust without seeing fosters spiritual growth. (Hebrews 11:1)
  • He values voluntary love – Giving people freedom preserves the relationship. (Deuteronomy 5:29)

Waiting on the hidden parts of God’s will requires patience and faith. As difficult as it can be at times, believers must learn to accept and submit to God’s perfect timing and higher wisdom. His mysterious will shall someday make full sense, even if some aspects remain hidden for the present life.

God’s Will and Suffering

Why suffering exists if God is both willing and able to prevent it is an age-old question. Some explanations within a biblical worldview include:

  • Moral evil – Suffering often results from immoral human choices.
  • Natural evil – Nature is flawed by sin, disasters occur.
  • Judgment for sin – Suffering can be God’s discipline for rebellion.
  • Refinement – Hardships develop character. (Romans 5:3-5)
  • Part of the fall – Creation is tainted, not functioning perfectly.
  • The problem of evil – God may have reasons unknown to humans.
  • God can redeem suffering – Good can still come from bad situations. (Romans 8:28)

While not eliminating all mystery, these perspectives help make some sense of the coexistence of God’s will and human pain and tragedy. At the very least, biblical teaching assures believers that God is with them in suffering, can use it for good purposes, and promises eternal life free from all harm.

God’s Will and Guidance

Christians believe God promises to guide them. As Psalm 32:8 says “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Key principles on God’s guidance include:

  • Guidance aligns with Scripture – God won’t contradict his Word.
  • God guides in His timing – Delays aren’t denials of guidance.
  • God confirms guidance – He provides peace through multiple means.
  • Guidance requires waiting – Listening in prayer is crucial.
  • God may close doors – Lack of opportunity can signal God’s will.
  • God guides uniquely – Personal factors impact how he leads.
  • Guidance starts with willingness – Saying yes to God’s will comes first.

Learning to follow God’s guidance takes practice but brings great reward. As Psalm 25:12 says “Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.” God delights in leading those who seek him.

God’s Will Is Always Best

Because God is perfectly good, all-knowing, and all-powerful, his will must necessarily be ideal. As Isaiah 55:8-9 affirms: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.” Key truths about the superiority of God’s will include:

  • God is wise – He knows what is ultimately best. (Romans 11:33-34)
  • God is loving – He desires what brings real joy. (Psalm 37:4)
  • God is sovereign – His purposes cannot be thwarted. (Proverbs 19:21)
  • God works for good – Even bad serves a higher purpose. (Romans 8:28)
  • God seeks willing obedience – Forced compliance lacks virtue. (Exodus 35:5)

Trusting that God’s will is truly what is best requires faith. But the character of who God reveals himself to be gives believers confidence that his will shall be fulfilled and shall result in great blessing.


The concept of the will of God captures Christianity’s understanding of God’s grand plan of redemption and his intimate desires for every individual. Discerning and aligning with the perfect will of an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God is a great privilege and challenge. By God’s grace believers can pray, listen, learn, wait and ultimately see God’s higher purposes unfold for their lives and the world. What seemed confusing or painful will make sense when God’s wise and loving will comes to full fruition.

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