It’s great to memorize multiple prayers for different situations, but here is one simple, short prayer you can (and should) use all the time.
Spontaneous prayers are short, effective, “easy to remember” vehicles for grace in daily life. If we are to avail ourselves of the grace which God wants to give us, we should have a variety of these at hand for use in times of trial, forgiveness, temptation, and other occasions. But there is one spontaneous prayer that we can use in every situation.
Without a doubt, the most important prayer of all is “Thy loving will be done.”
Jesus teaches us this prayer in the Our Father (Mt 6:10 and par.) and uses it Himself at the agony in the garden (Mt 26:42 and par.). Since that time, it has become a centerpiece of Catholic/Christian spiritual life.
If you cannot remember any other prayer, use this one.
But there is one caveat: in order to honestly and sincerely say this prayer, you must first believe that God is Good.
If we forget that God is Abba, the father of the prodigal son, the Father of Jesus the Beloved One, and Unconditional Love itself, then this prayer will not work because it means we will not trust Him enough to let him near.
Often, instead of seeing His will as focused on optimizing love, goodness, and salvation, we imagine it as a sword of Damocles ready to drop on our heads in some capricious fashion.
When we believe that God’s will is harmful or capricious, we cannot bring ourselves to ask for it; instead, we run for cover. We have all heard the jokes about the capricious God who tries to convince some “poor sap” to let go of a tree limb on a cliff only to let him fall to his death.
I had an experience of this in my first month at the Jesuit novitiate. We were given the prayer of St. Ignatius to say at our final prayers:
“Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given to me. I give it all back to You. Dispose of it wholly according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace, and that’s enough for me, and I ask for nothing more.”
As can be seen, this is an enlarged and eloquent way of saying, “Thy loving will be done.”
Unfortunately, when I first came to the novitiate I had not appropriated (in either my mind or heart) the unconditional love, goodness, justice, and salvation intrinsic to the will of God.
As a result, I prayed this prayer in what now appears to me to be an incredibly humorous (but at the time, fearful and painstaking) way.
I began by saying, “Take, Lord, receive all my liberty (but I really like my liberty, so don’t destroy it if I give it to You; on second thought, I’ll take it back for safekeeping); my memory (but You gave me a good memory, and I really need it, and I really use it, so please don’t destroy it if I give it to You; on second thought, I’ll take it back for safekeeping); my understanding (but You gave me a fine intellect and I really use it, so please don’t destroy it if I give it to You – I think I’ll take it back for safekeeping) … Whew! I made it through that prayer and I’m still intact.”
This clearly was not the intention of St. Ignatius.
When one remembers that God’s will is to bring optimal love, goodness, justice, and salvation out of every fiber of our being and every aspect of our actions, “Thy loving will be done” becomes an instant conduit for God’s love and grace to work in us and through us.
There could be no more worthy purpose for living than this. That is why this prayer can make good come out of our harms, can calm us in the heat of anger, can help us in times of temptation, and can bring salvation out of every negative event.
Why bother asking?
Some readers may be thinking, “If God’s will is truly optimally loving, good, and salvific, then why do we have to ask for it? Why doesn’t He just simply do the good that He truly wants to do?”
The answer lies in a simple word – “freedom.”
God will always respect our freedom – and therefore it is our choice to have Him work in us and through us. If we do not ask for His loving will to be done, He won’t work in us or through us because it would violate our freedom.
When we remember God’s loving and salvific will, this little prayer can provide us with His peace, strength, insight, and love, making all the gifts of the Holy Spirit come alive in us. At this juncture our thoughts, actions, and operations become an instrument for His optimally loving, good, just, and salvific purposes.
I say this prayer throughout every day, and I find the all-loving will of God and the immense providence of the Holy Spirit to be unbelievably efficacious and transformative.