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Kierkegaard’s Prayer “To Will One Thing”

In light of last week’s post about Gerard Manley Hopkins wrestling with God in prayer, and as we approach Holy Week, and night of Jesus’ terrible prayer in Gethsemane — “Not my will but yours be done” — I found Kierkegaard’s prayer “to will one thing” particularly appropriate.The Prayers of Kierkegaard

Father in Heaven!

What are we without you! What is all that we know, vast accumulation though it be, but a chipped fragment if we do not know you! What is all our striving, could it ever encompass a world, but a half-finished work if we do not know you: You, the One, who is one thing and who is all!

So may You give to the intellect, wisdom to comprehend that one thing; to the heart, sincerity to receive this understanding; to the will, purity that wills one thing. In prosperity may You grant perseverance to will one thing; amid distractions, collectedness to will one thing; in suffering, patience to will one thing…

Alas, but this has indeed not come to pass. Something has come in between. The separation of sin lies in between. Each day, and day after day something is placed in between: delay, blockage, interruption, delusion, corruption. So in this time of repentance may You give the courage once again to will one thing.

True, it is an interruption of our ordinary tasks; we do lay down our work as though it were a day of rest when the penitent is alone before You in self-accusation. This is indeed an interruption. But it is an interruption that searches back into its very beginnings that it might bind up anew that which sin separated, that in its anxiety it might bring to completion that which lies before it.

You that gives both the beginning and the completion, give your victory in the day of need so that what neither our burning wish nor our determined resolution may attain to, may be granted unto us in the sorrowing of repentance: to will one thing.

~ from The Prayers of Kierkegaard, by Søren Kierkegaard, edited by Perry D. Lefevre,

in Devotional Classics: Selected Readings, edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith

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