Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
There’s a temptation in prayer and in life, to view successful outcomes and indications of successful prayers. However, a successful prayer is an earnest honest response to God, whether or not our petition is answered as we would have it willed. A successful outcome of prayer is our being able to discern God’s will in the outcome regardless of the consequence, because it means in the course of things, we’ve pushed our souls past the point of “This is what I want” to “Thy will be done.”
We want a thousand different things in a week — a clean house, finished laundry, a date night, a new pair of shoes, a found set of keys, a phone call, a letter, to be on time… to go out, to stay in… and a thousand more we don’t want.
Praying “thy will be done” means surrendering what we might have on our laundry list of petitions for God. “Let’s see. I need you to intervene at work with my colleague. We need money for next week for this repair. We have three kids needing help with homework, and one in college I want you to pay particular attention to…” Such prayers reduce the relationship between God and us to that of a servant and Santa all in one. It isn’t that petitioning isn’t good or a necessary part of our prayer life; it’s the steady diet of it that hurts our ordering of how, when and why we should petition our Lord. Being unreasonable with God is one of my favorite things. I tell my kids, my husband, anyone who is willing to listen, “If you can’t be unreasonable with God, who can one be unreasonable with?” and I clutter His ears with petitions because I know, I have infinite need.
However, true peace comes from being able to be okay if the answer is “No” or “Not yet.” Even if it hasn’t yet been said. Saying, “Thy will be done,” reminds us that God allows life to go on, not because He didn’t hear us or doesn’t care, but because He knows how to give us graces for whatever comes our way — so that we will love Him more, not for what He could do, but because of all He does and has done, and because He is deserving of all our love. God wants us to love Him visibly, and to make His love visible to the world. We don’t do that by praying for goodies. We do that by loving Him for Him, and bringing him our whole hearts, not merely our hearts’ wants.
It's vital to keep this reality in mind as we engage in the long term work of prayer and fasting for the repairing/cleansing of the Church in all things. God will work all of this for the benefit of souls, but perhaps not as we would. In matters of sin, it’s practically cliché, that we say we desire mercy for those we love who sin (though perhaps we mean leniency, rather than mercy), and justice on all others for their sinful actions (though perhaps we mean revenge rather than what is owed). If we clamor to Heaven, “Justice!” or “Mercy!” in either case, no matter what it is we will or why we will it, we are not saying, “Thy will be done” on Earth as it is in Heaven. The whole Church praying for God’s will to be done is what’s needed, for we know God’s will would be true justice and true mercy in all things.