Question 57 Part III

What does “Thy will be done” mean?

When we pray… that his will be done by us just as it is done by his angels in heaven.

from St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Fr. Ermatinger


God’s will is done; it shall be done. He Himself accomplishes it. In heaven, God’s will is, in the eschatological hic et nunc, ever done by His angels and saints. Here on earth, our vain attempts to thwart His will are permitted to be done by Him. The question that remains is how do we actually do His will?

Knowing what God’s will is the foundational aspect. One might stumble into doing God’s will, but one will just as quickly stumble out of doing it.  As rational creatures, our actions are not determined by our instincts but rather by our wills, which in turn, necessitates knowing. God has willed for us to know His will; His revealed will comes to us from that which is written upon the human heart (cfrRom 2:12-16), sung by creation (cfr. Psa 18), is taught by the Law and the Prophets (cfrLuke 16:16), and is made manifest by God’s interaction in history through mighty words and deeds of power (cfrThe Old Testament).

Knowing God’s will, though foundational, is not enough to do it. For even for a work is done in your days, which no man will believe when it shall be told (Hab 1:5); And Jesus said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead (Luke 16:31); nor even if they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty (Luke 21:26). How many know that Jesus is the incarnate Word of the Father; the Son who is the revelation of the face of the Father (cfrJohn 12:45), and yet do not do the will of the Father? Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt 7:21).

Knowledge of the Father’s will does not equate to accomplishing the Father’s will.  This is unpacked eloquently by the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans but this, contrary to Luther, doesn’t mean that doing the will of the Father isn’t possible and that it is only Christ who fulfills the will of the Father. The Father’s will can, and is required to, be done. This is accomplished by, as the same Apostle Paul says, And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered himself for me (Gal 2:20).

The individual is transformed in Christ which is accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and living the life of grace. It is the Father’s will not just that we know what His will is (through nature, reason, Scriptures, Tradition, the Liturgy, etc.), or to know by faith the Incarnate Word of the Father, but it is to actually do it, but not by our own action but by His. If we could accomplish the will of the Father without grace, then what of the sacrifice of Christ?

I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever. The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him: but you shall know him; because he shall abide with you, and shall be in you (John 14:16-17).

Through baptism, an individual received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit enabling them to live the life of grace, which is to do the will of the Father. This indwelling doesn’t replace the will of the individual with the will of the Holy Spirit, nor does it reduce the individual’s will to pure passivity but it allows the individual’s will to have true cooperation in doing the Father’s will.

This cooperation occurs through the virtues of humility and docility. Humility turns the will towards a trusting reliance upon God and not the individual’s own powers. It recognizes that all comes from God, all is sustained by God, all finds its rest in God, not as a matter of justice but as a matter of the highest good – charity. Truly, when all things are such they receive a superabundance of the good for they receive a perfect fullness, not a created fullness. Humility desires the will of the Father because it recognizes it as the greatest good, greater than anything that the individual might dream.

Docility turns the will towards anticipation of the will of God – it is not sloth or antipathy.  Anticipation is an active stance of the will; it watches, prepares, and readies itself to enact the will of God once it is known. Anticipation is such a thing that in a soul well advanced in the virtue of docility will do the will of God will very little prompting, so well it knows the mind of God. The communication is beyond “hearing”, such as when a mistress might give a glance to her maidservant and the maidservant immediately sets about a complicated task.

Humility, coupled with docility, is the gift of the Holy Spirit, but it is something that we must accept and utilize, even as such acceptance and utilizations are likewise gifts of the Holy Spirit.