Orthodox America

  Thy Will Be Done

   Psychologists today are increasingly having to deal with people whom they now recognize to be suffering from a 'disabled will: drug addiction, alcoholics, overeaters and other substance abusers. While these are extreme cases, we all have a will which is to some degree impaired. We can all identify with St. Paul when he writes: The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do (Rom. 7:19). How often we are inspired to do good but lack the will to press our intentions into action. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in his commentary on the Lord's Prayer, writes that "human nature, being over enervated by evil, is weak to do good." What is the remedy? St. Gregory says that this disease of our soul was caused by a falling away from the Divine Will, and that a restoration to health requires uniting ourselves once again to the Will of God. Our Lord Himself, the Great Physician, teaches us to pray, Thy will be done."

      'Thy will be done..." A short phrase, easy to say, and one we, Repeat each time we say the Lord's Prayer. It is echoed in our morning and evening prayers: "..Lord and Comforter of all, by Thy true light and with an enlightened heart, grant me to do Thy will, now and ever..."; "O Lord, Thou knowest that Thou actest as Thou wilt; may Thy will be also in me..." "Thy will be done." In saying these words, do we fully realize what they mean? Perhaps their very familiarity has obscured their importance. Sometimes we would be more honest to say, "Thy will be done---as long as it coincides with mine"!

      Look for a moment at the man rushing to catch a plane, frantically praying that the traffic congestion clear up so he can get to the airport on time. Every red light, every slowdown of traffic brings more pleas that God enable him to catch his flight. Finally, after a harrowing drive, he arrives at the airport to find he has just missed his plane. Frustration, irritation. If the man gives thought to God at all it may be only to think, "Again He didn't answer my prayer."

       This is often our reaction when we ask God for something specific and it i5 not granted--at least not as we had envisioned. Certainly, it is not wrong to make specific requests in prayer, but such petitions should always be followed by "Thy will be done." Because God alone knows what is best for us. Sure, we know this intellectually, but in practice we act, and react, as if we know best. And therefore, when our prayers are unanswered we feel disappointment, rejection, dissatisfaction, despondency. We need to remind ourselves that God is love, and that He desires our eternal salvation even more than we ourselves. And it is to this end that He answers or does not answer our prayers.

       The man who missed the plane. Perhaps God was trying to teach him a lesson in attention to detail, in being better prepared---starting earlier--that can carry over to his spiritual life. Had he caught the plane, perhaps he would have met with some spiritual or bodily harm. Or perhaps God arranged it in such a way that during the four-hour wait for the next plane, the man would have an opportunity to serve as His ambassador by sharing the Gospel with the despondent person sitting next to him in the waiting room. These are all results of God's loving answer to prayer. The man's frustration at missing the plane was based on his short-sightedness, on his lack of faith in God's love and concern for his eternal happiness. God alone sees the entire picture past, present and future--and He tries to steer us accordingly.

       From our limited perspective life often seems to be a series of unrelated events. But, like disconnected pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, over time they pull together and, looking back with the light of hindsight, we can only marvel at their exquisite arrangement. Many converts to Orthodoxy have experienced this in looking back at "random" or "chance" events that helped them to seek out and eventually come to the truth. In surrendering ourselves to God's will we shouldn't expect to see each step of the way; the route may even seem to us "illogical". It is enough to know that if we honestly seek to Jo/low God's will and allow Him to guide us, the end of the road will bring us to the Kingdom of Heaven. Have faith in God and go where He leadst 

Thy will be done... The only man capable of offering up this prayer sincerely will be the one who believes that God arranges everything--the seemingly good and the seemingly bad--for our benefit, that the salvation and the well-being of His own people is more of a care and a concern to Him than to ourselves. St. John Casstan, Conferences IX-20

       A favorite technique of science-fiction writers is to disregard time barriers. A possible scenario might involve a character who travels into the distant past where, through some minor act, such as cutting down a tree, he so changes the course of future events that when he returns to the present, thousands of years later, he scarcely recognizes the world. The tree he cut down fails into a river and saves a young boy from drowning. The boy grows up to be the progenitor of people who have a dramatic effect on history. Although fanciful, the plot is not altogether fantastic and contains an important lesson: even our seemingly minor actions can have momentous consequences---not only for us but for many others. In order that these consequences be positive rather than negative, we must make a constant and conscious effort to bring our fallen, impaired self-will into conformity with the all-perfect and perfectly good will of God.

       The fact that God's will is perfectly good is not to say that it is always agreeable to us. Providence sometimes visits us with misfortunes: illness, sudden impoverishment, the loss of a job, the death of a child. We are taught, In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God (1 Thess. 5:18). But this can be difficult, particularly when suffering afflicts the innocent. Here again, we must firmly believe that "God knows best" and that His will is the ultimate happiness for each and every one of us.

       Surrender to God's will is not a passive act. The constant bridling and reining in of our self-will is difficult; we can be quite stubborn in overriding the voice of our conscience and following our own will. But if we honestly seek to know God's will--through Scripture, the counsels of our spiritual father, prayer--and act upon it, we will be rewarded with deep peace, the healing of our will and the ability to rejoice in all circumstances, sincerely glorifying God for all things. Let us, therefore, say "Thy will be done"--and mean it! 

Fr. Vladimir Anderson
St. John the Almsgiver Mission, Willits, CA