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


GOSPEL | JOHN 2:13-22

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.  15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”  17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”  18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”  19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?”  21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body.  22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.


I confess that I am distracted. My attention flits among a myriad of other things, always avoiding focus. I am enticed away by the slightest whisper of more satisfying leisures. I would rather do anything else, even when I am doing anything else.

You have already saved me from my sin; you have washed me, and clothed me with salvation, and yet I find myself peripherally peering at the mudpies outside. Forgive me.

Draw my attention, Lord. Rule my desires:

Just as you drove out the merchants from the temple courts, even so, drive out whatever is in my way, that I may be unencumbered to follow your Son, even unto the cross.

Just as you poured out the coins of the money changers, even so, pour out my hoard of collected diversions, that I may be open to receive more of you.

Just as you overturned the tables, even so, overturn my misdirected pursuits, that I may be brought to more satisfying ones.

In the name of Your Son Jesus, and in the power of Your Holy Spirit, I pray,