This is the 28th blog in a series exploring various aspects of “prayer.” The first blog is “Why Pray?” and the previous blog is For What Should We Pray? (II).
Because a primary purpose of prayer is to put us into our proper relationship to the Lord God, one of the outcomes of prayer is for us to accept the role of being God’s servants. We pray not to see what we can get God to do for us, but in order to understand His will so that we can accomplish it. Thus Jesus taught us to pray to God as Father and to say: “Thy will be done…” We want God’s will be to be accomplished and we agree to be the doers of the eternal and loving will of the Holy Trinity.
“The best sort of prayer is one that submits to the will of God. One of the great events in the prayer life of Jesus is the situation where he is in the Garden of Gethsemane. The end of his life is near. When we see him praying, we hear him saying the words, ‘father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ Jesus was one who constantly surrendered to the will of God.” (John Mummert, ABIDING IN JESUS CHRIST, p 29)
Thus one of the main things for which we pray is that God’s will be done, and we offer ourselves to God as as servants willing to accomplish His plan.
“Pray to obtain the gift of tears.
Pray that the Lord may soften the hardness of your soul.
Pray that the Lord may forgive the sins you confess to him.
Don’t pray that what you want may come to pass. It does not necessarily coincide with the will of God.
Pray rather as you have been taught, saying: ‘Your will be done in me!’
Pray that the will of God may be done in everything. He, in fact, wants what is good and useful for your soul, while you are not always seeking that and only that.” (Evagrius of Pontus – d. 399AD – in DRINKING FROM THE HIDDEN FOUNTAIN, p 368)
Praying that God’s will be done does not mean abdicating our responsibilities in and for the good of creation and our fellow human beings. We work with God for our salvation. We are not passive receptors of God’s grace but rather are energized by the Holy Spirit to work out our salvation. There is a synergy not a blind determinism or predestination at work. God does not do for us those things we are supposed to do for ourselves, for Him and/or for our neighbor.
“God gives us strength but we must use it. When, in our prayers, we ask God to give us strength to do something in His Name, we are not asking Him to do it instead of us because we are too feeble to be willing to do it for ourselves. … He is not going to be crucified for you every day. There is a moment when you must take up your own cross. We must each take up our own cross, and when we ask something in our prayers, we undertake by implication to do it with all our strength, all our intelligence and all the enthusiasm we can put into our actions, and with all the courage and energy we have. In addition, we do it with all the power which God will give us. If we do not do this, we are wasting our time praying.” (Anthony Bloom, BEGINNING TO PRAY, pp 35-36)
Praying that God’s will be done is not a prayer that then advocates passivity while we wait to see what happens. It is a prayer saying, “I am Your servant, help me to do your will.”