W is for
In the 1980 animated movie, “The Return of the King,” Frodo and Sam are found by orcs and forced to march to war with them. As they march they sing, “We don’t want to go to war today, but where there’s a whip, there’s a way.” They are forced against their will.
But this catchy phrase is a play on words from a 17th century Outlandish proverb that says, “To him that will, wais are not wanting.” Eventually this became the common phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
All that to say that our wills are powerful. Growing up in a Presbyterian Church that taught me that I was predestined to be a Christian, I wondered how much control I had over my destiny. And then I heard my Baptist friends singing “whosoever will may come,” and I began to question the whole predestination thing.
Years later when I became Orthodox and learned about synergy—about how we work together with God in our spiritual lives—I was finally able to wrap my mind around the concept of will. Philippians 2:12-13 puts these two concepts together:
“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
God’s will is involved, but so is mine. How does this relate to our Lenten journey? St. John of Kronstadt wrote, “It is necessary for a Christian to fast, in order to clear his mind, to rouse and develop his feelings, and to stimulate his will to useful activity. These three human capabilities we darken and stifle above all by ‘surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life’ (Luke 21:34).”
In the Morning Prayer that is attributed to St. Philaret of Moscow, God’s will and man’s will are both involved. The word, “will,” appears four times in this prayer. On the mornings that I chose to begin my day with this prayer, I find that my will and God’s often seem to be a little more closely aligned. Even when I don’t want to go to war, which is most days.
O Lord, grant that I may greet the coming day in peace.
Help me to rely upon Thy holy will at every moment.
In every hour of the way, reveal Thy will to me.
Bless my association with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat whatever may happen to me throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Thy will governs all.
In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by Thee.
Teach to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will.
Teach me to pray.
Pray Thou Thyself in me.