The quote below is from the Office of Readings appointed for Friday, November 28, 2014. The first line and how he connects it to prayer is what really caught my attention.
Our obligation is to do God’s will, and not our own. We must remember this if the prayer that our Lord commanded us to say daily is to have any meaning on our lips. How unreasonable it is to pray that God’s will be done, and then not promptly obey it when he calls us from this world! Instead we struggle and resist like self-willed slaves and are brought into the Lord’s presence with sorrow and lamentation, not freely consenting to our departure, but constrained by necessity. And yet we expect to be rewarded with heavenly honours by him to whom we come against our will! Why then do we pray for the kingdom of heaven to come if this earthly bondage pleases us? What is the point of praying so often for its early arrival if we would rather serve the devil here than reign with Christ.
From the Treatise of St Cyprian on Mortality
Specifically, St. Cyprian is here referring to the Lord’s Prayer and the petition within it that states, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” He is trying to show how absurd it is to pray this prayer daily and yet to try to resist God who is constantly calling us to Himself. But this passage has much broader implications.
First of all, let us consider mankind’s obligation of doing God’s will and not our own. Let us go back to the beginning before Adam and Eve turned against God. At the moment of their creation Adam and Eve were absolutely perfect, they were in a state of Original Justice. The Catechism describes Original Justice in the following way:
As long as (mankind) remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die. The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation comprised the state called ‘original justice.’
CCC §376 (for more information see CCC §374-384)
In addition, in §377 it goes on to say that mankind’s mastery over the world was most importantly his mastery of self.
The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.
In short, this means that man’s will was perfectly aligned to the will of God who had created him. This is how God had designed it to be and intended it to stay. But then, sin entered into God’s perfect creation through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. What the sin was does not matter as much as the fact that Adam and Eve, who had been made in God’s image, did sin. What this means is that instead of keeping their wills in alignment with the will of God, they choose to go their own way, trying to assert their own wills above the will of the One who had created them. They, being finite, were trying to tell the infinite where to get off, which is an absolute absurdity.
Now, how does this fit with our prayer to God? When considering our prayers, and that maybe we are not ‘getting what we ask for’, we must remember that prayer is not primarily about getting what we want. Perhaps this is the reason that people do not pray as they ought to, because they don’t see the results they want and, therefore, think that it doesn’t work. But we need to remember that prayer is not about imposing our will on God but about submitting our will to His. As St. James tells us, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly.” (James 4:3a, RSV-CE)
What it all really comes down to is this: for anything to work properly in our lives, whether it be prayer or anything else, then our lives must be properly ordered. And what is the proper order for our lives? It begins by realizing that our wills are subordinate to the will of God and then, through the grace of Christ, fulfilling our obligation to God by subordinating our wills to His.