Desiring God’s Will: David Benner

David G. Benner states in his epilogue that there is a difference between doing the right ‘thing’ and following the right ‘way’. It is by going the right way that our will is most aligned with God’s will for us – it is not something that is simply reducible to a list of things to do, or even a figuring out for particular decisions ‘What would Jesus do?’ This might have a component in the process, but this is not the entirety of the process.

In the Benedictine rule, one of the vows made is conversion of life. This isn’t the road to Damascus kind of conversion, and Benner recognises that in the kind of transformation most of us are called to seek. ‘Our response to God’s presence is not usually the Damascus Road knocked-off-our-feet-and-struck-blind epxerience of Paul (Acts 9:1-9). Typically, God’s presence is more subtle, and our reactions are correspondingly attenuated.’

Benner discusses the Examen and discernment process of St. Ignatius as a key way of looking at how our will and God’s will might work together. The opposite poles of consolation and desolation are highlighted as means by which we can attune ourselves more completely with God’s will. This is a very different thing that seeing the idea of following God’s will as one more new year’s resolution (an analogy Benner draws early in the book). We all have willfulness, which can have a darker side (Benner highlights the character of Judas, among others, and certainly the apostle Paul spoke at length about the problems of the will).

Benner calls love the antidote of this dark side of willfulness. This is contained in the Lord’s Prayer – how often do we say this prayer by rote recitation, rather than hearing the impact of the words. Thy kindgom come. Thy will be done. These are very different from our natural impulses, which would guide each of us to say to herself or himself, ‘my will be done.’ Benner says that the question is not whether to pray or not, but rather which prayer to say, and that, ‘when it comes right down to it, there are really only two possible prayers that can be prayed.’ My will be done, or thy will be done.

– Review of Book on

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