The only part of his prayer I still remember was his request, “Lord, please make me willing to be willing.”
I’ve long forgotten what he was praying about. Evidently it was something he knew he should do. It was the “right thing.” The knowing wasn’t helping his doing. But he didn’t ask God to make him do it, he didn’t even ask God to make him willing to do it. He simply asked God to make him willing to be willing to do it.
I’ve since repeated my friend’s prayer many times. I admit the quandary. It’s the right thing to do, shouldn’t that be enough? Just say the words “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” Just cross the street and help him. Just change your plans and volunteer. Instead I pray “Lord, please make me willing to be willing.”
I can’t say my experience is universal. I hope not. Truth be told, I hope I’m the exception to the rule. I doubt I am.
In his Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C. S. Lewis hints at a similar experience. He writes,
“If we were perfected, prayer would not be a duty, it would be a delight. Some day, please God, it will be. The same is true of many other behaviors which now appear as duties. If I love my neighbor as myself, most of the actions which are now my moral duty would flow out of me as spontaneously as song from a lark or fragrance from a flower. Why is this not so yet? Well, we know, don’t we? . . . the very activities for which we were created are, while we live on earth, variously impeded: by evil in ourselves or in others.”1
It’s of little comfort knowing the cause of the struggle is my own internal evil. But it makes sense. Knowing it won’t always be this way causes me to keep trying and not give up.
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11.
- C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2012), 114-115.