Pray and Do what You Will
Kevin J.N. Hughes
You may recall that we recently discussed the power of prayer for the mind. In that article, we saw that when we pray, it changes how we think, what we think about, and who we are. Today, I want to continue that thought with the next reflection, namely, “Pray and do what you will.” In other words, how prayer affects and changes our actions.
In The Way of a Pilgrim, we read the following reflection,
“Pray and do what you will. Your acts will be pleasing to God and fruitful and salutary to yourself. Frequent prayer, whatever it may be about, does not remain fruitless, because in it is the power of grace, ‘For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Acts 2:21).”
In the movie The Nun (2018), there is a scene in which Frenchie says to the priest, “Shouldn’t we pray?” To which the priest replies, “Son, there is a time for prayer, and a time for action, this is a time for action.”
I love that movie, but every time I hear that line I cringe a little. Prayer and action are not opposites. German Protestant leader Martin Luther has a better, though still imperfect, statement than that. He once said, “I always pray for two hours a day. Always that is, unless I have a particularly busy day, then I pray for three hours.” Luther is closer to getting this issue right than the exorcist priest from The Nun, after all, the more time we spend in prayer the better. Luther is at least trying to rightly discern that we must “Pray, and do as we will” for our actions will be shaped by prayer. However, Luther is still seeing prayer wrongly.
Again, prayer and action do not need to be opposites. Through learning how to pray internally, we can learn to pray while engaged in other tasks. And it is through prayer that all of our deeds become a sort of sweet smelling offering to God.
This has many effects, for one thing, it cleanses our works. We are not going to live in sin if we are constantly praying. If I am constantly asking God to be merciful to me, I will not be merciless towards others. If I am constantly asking God to bless me, I will not be greedy towards others, etc. There are so many temptations and sins all around us, and so many ways for us to fall every day. Through prayer, we can overcome them all. The devil is forced to flee when we are in prayer, and he cannot bring his baleful temptations when he has been cast away by earnest prayer to God.
Another benefit of prayer for our works is that when we pray our deeds become infused with God and His mercy. That means that everything I do becomes something that I am doing for God, and something that God is engaged in with me. My work becomes more meaningful and more effective because I am motivated by my love for God, and because I have His help in the work I am doing!
There are so many benefits for our deeds that come from fervent prayer. These few humble suggestions are just a few of the wonderful benefits of frequent, or better yet, constant prayer. So, pray, and do what you will.