With a heartfelt “yes”

“How can you understand ‘the will of God’ in a certain situation? Can I figure it out by praying, or is there something more that I could do?”

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4 min read

Someone once asked Saint John Paul II this very question. His first words of response were a real surprise. He said, “It is not easy to know the will of God.”

Of all the people on the face of the earth, one would think that knowing God’s will would be something very simple for a pope especially for one that we now know was truly a saint. But he admitted that the will of God requires discernment for all of us.

The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples has one line that expresses the attitude that we must cultivate about God’s will: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Heaven, of course, always lives the will of God. We must exercise our own free will when choosing God’s will in our lives, so that it may be “so on earth” first in us.

In a homily at the Saint Martha Guesthouse where he lives, Pope Francis asked, “Do I pray the Lord to give me the desire to do his will, or do I look for compromises because I’m afraid of God’s will?” He indicated that we must pray in order “to know God’s will for me and my life, concerning a decision that I must take; the way in which we handle things...”

He offers a three-step approach to bring our will into sync with the will of God. First, we must pray to know God’s will; then we must pray for the desire to do it, and we must pray “for the third time, to follow it, to carry out that will, which is not my own; it is his will. And all this is not easy.”

One mark of God’s will that Jesus himself discovered as he offered himself for us was the reality of his passion and the cross. Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Mt 26:42). He embraced the cross for love of his Father and for us.

When we encounter Jesus on the cross in our own sufferings, we may discover that God’s will is likewise clear to us. I do not want this, but it is required of me. When I find that God gives me the grace, the inner resources and the outer support to meet it, even though it is beyond me, I can recognize the cross, the suffering that leads to God’s glory. We then have to pray as Mary did, “Let it be done to me according to your Word.”

God’s will presents itself to us in the midst of life. We may have time to pray when there are different possible choices for us to make. Often, however, we are confronted in a moment and must act. If we cultivate a willingness to seek God’s will, we discover that love can lead us to become forgetful of ourselves and our own will and we respond with a heartfelt “yes”.

Deacon Joe Hensley offers these comments about one of his experiences with figuring out God’s will: “Thinking about God’s will in our lives, it came to me that prayer is vitally important. I believe our prayer life, our sacramental life and our community are all vitally important to figuring out God’s will...

“I was pondering quitting a really good-paying and steady job to go back to school to get my teaching degree. I got all the regular things ready, talking and praying about it with my wife, Sharon, getting our finances in order so we could do this, and talking to friends and relatives about this life-changing choice.

“The doors opened up at my work because I was given a six-month leave of absence from my job; I wouldn’t be paid, and I would have to use all of my vacation, but if I decided that going back to school was not for me, I could go back to my old job.

“It was a real blessing and helped us to ease into this new adventure of faith. To me it was a confirmation that I was at least headed in the right direction. I was able to leave my old job on good terms and have a peace of mind and heart that I had made the right decision.”

Chiara Lubich pointed out: “Doing God’s will doesn’t mean, as is often suggested, something that we must be resigned to. Rather, it is the greatest divine adventure that could happen to a person; following not your own tiny will, not your own limited goals but rather those of God, fulfilling that design of God that he has for each one of his sons and daughters, a divine plan, unimaginable and so rich.”


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