Coming in April – Lord, Teach Us To Pray, daily reflections on The Lord’s Prayer

Both to Will and to Do

Do you ever run low on willpower and motivation? Do you sometimes know the right thing to do, but cannot summon the will to do it? For example, you know you ought to forgive a person, but lack any urge to do it? What is to be done when you not only lack the will but the ability to do what God calls you to do?

The apostle Paul’s words to Philippian Christians have been a boost to many lacking the will or power for doing what God desires. Paul writes in Philippians 2:13: “For it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Christians often think of God high up in His heavens and us down here struggling on our own to make it. But it is the clear teaching of Scripture that God does not leave us on our own to live the life of faith. Note that this verse in Philippians says that God “is at work in you.” This puts a whole new light on things. Paul picks up a theme that he introduced at the beginning of his letter to the Philippians: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

The Christian life is participation in the very life of Christ as He is in us and we are in Him. That is why Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). So, Paul says here that it is God who is at work in you. That is the key! It is God “at work in you enabling you both to will and to work…”

There was a time when I was feeling discouraged and defeated, not knowing where I would find the will and power to do that which was pleasing to God. Then I happened upon this wonderful verse and discovered that it is God at work in us to do His will. I can’t, but God can! That is the Christian life! It is God who supplies us both His motivation and ability to do what He wants us to do. That is why Jesus said that as we follow Him we find His yoke easy and His burden light (see Matthew 11:30).

C. S. Lewis was well aware of his inability to will and do that which is right and pleasing to God. Lewis writes in his book Mere Christianity: “I cannot, by direct moral effort, give myself new motives. After the first few steps in the Christian life I realized that which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God.” God does nor force or compel, but enables us to will and to do His good work. While we do the choosing and the doing, we know the secret of God at work in our choosing and doing.

Corrie ten Boom, in her book The Hiding Place, tells of the horrors of the Holocaust and her internment in Ravensbrück concentration camp. She recounts the cruel treatment of her family and her at the hands of sadistic prison guards. She knew that she did not have it in herself to forgive them and to tell the Good News in such a death camp. But she says that it was there she learned to pray, “Lord, make me willing to be willing.” And God empowered Corrie to forgive those who had so mistreated her and caused the death of her father and brother. As Corrie continued to pray, “Lord, make me willing to be willing,” He enabled her to travel the world telling the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness. It began with her prayer, placing herself in God’s hands, and telling Him that she was willing to be made willing.

Perhaps you are struggling to forgive someone who has hurt you. Perhaps you are running low on willpower to do what God wants you to do. God is eager to work within you both to will and to do it. Just ask Him!


Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.

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