HomeSt. Ignatius LoyolaWork as if Everything Depends on God

Work as if Everything Depends on God

There’s an old saying that we should “pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.” It’s been attributed to St. Ignatius, who said something similar, if not using those exact words, as reported in Vida del Bienaventurado Padre Ignacio de Loyola by Pedro de Rivadeneira. Many think the phrase captures the Ignatian spirit: turning it all over to God in prayer and then working tirelessly and urgently to do God’s work.

I prefer to reverse it: “pray as if everything depends on you, and work as if everything depends on God.” This means that prayer has to be urgent: God has to do something dramatic if everything depends on me. It also puts our work in the right perspective: if it depends on God, we can let it go. We can work hard but leave the outcome up to him. If God is in charge we can tolerate mixed results and endure failure.

Ignatius writes about work and human effort in a letter to an aristocrat named Jerome Vines, whom I imagine was a busy, hard-charging, Type A character who was getting upset about the fate of his many projects. A busy man, Ignatius writes, “must make up his mind to do what he can, without afflicting himself if he cannot do all that he wishes. You must have patience and not think that God our Lord requires what man cannot accomplish.” He concludes with this: “There is no need to wear yourself out, but make a competent and sufficient effort, and leave the rest to him who can do all he pleases.”

 Image by wetwebwork under Creative Commons license.
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Jim Manney
Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Ignatius’s motto is “do what your doing” – God’s grace can only be found this way. When we become an embodiment of the moment we abandon earthy desire and are fulfilled by God grace. God’s grace then takes us like the water from a mountain stream creating its bank with the ebb and flow through God’s guidance in the presence of the Holy Spirit. So it makes sense that St Ignatius may have reversed this: “Work as if everything depends on God”.

  2. “PRAY as if everything depended on GOD! WORK as if everything depended on YOU!”
    Fr. Benedict Viviano, O. P., in his book, “The Kingdom of God in History” (pgs. 150-51) confirms that the saying does come from St. Ignatius Loyola — but, in the reverse: “pray . . . you/work . . . God.”

  3. These words came to me as I thought of my daughter and her husband doing research and trying to decide upon treatment for prostate cancer.


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