All that the beginner in prayer has to do–and you must not forget this, for it is very important–is to labor and be resolute and prepare himself with all possible diligence to bring his will into conformity with the will of God. As I shall say later, you may be quite sure that this comprises the very greatest perfection that can be attained on the spiritual road. (Teresa of Avila: Second Mansions)
Take a few moments to contemplate Teresa’s words related to prayer. Labor. Resolute. Preparation. Diligence. We focus intently to bring our will into conformity with the will of God. This, according to Teresa, “comprises the very greatest perfection that can be attained on the spiritual road”.
Christians have different views about the will of God. My observations are primarily based on seeing these views practiced (in contrast to theological or scholarly positions):
- For some “The will of God” is a behavioral code. At dinner a few years ago someone described her friend as “a really committed Christian”. She based her conclusion on this person’s rigidly conservative lifestyle. In the late 70s a friend of mine loved Led Zeppelin. He couldn’t reconcile his music with his rule-based church. Stifled, he guiltily wandered away from the faith for years. (Zeppelin sang Stairway to Heaven. How much more spiritual could you get?) Certainly embracing God’s will impacts our ethics. But His will is not about finding the right set of rules — no matter how conservative or liberal those rules. We know we can learn “the right behaviors” and not love. Some even learn “the right behaviors” to use as a weapon. Isaiah warned us: “Look, you only fast to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist.”
- Others see “The will of God” as deterministic. According to God’s foreknowledge He determined all details in advance of creation. This view neglects critical variables like prayer, human choice, randomness, and spiritual warfare. (I find irony that some determinists blame their unhappiness on their spouse, their pastor, and their job.)
- In another perspective God designed the future as “open”. Many things influence outcomes (e.g. prayer, choice, spiritual warfare). Some practitioners of this view suggest God intervenes in the “majors” but not the “details” giving us great freedom to manage most of our own lives. (For example: In planning a vacation, God doesn’t really care whether I go to New York City or Yosemite National Park). This view solves many complex issues — and creates a few others including the assumption we can effectively discern the difference between “the details” and “the majors”. It also assumes we understand where God intends to focus his involvement.
I encourage you to spend time in prayer and meditation focused on the will of God. To help you begin or restart your practice in prayer and meditation click here.
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