I want a Latin motto conveying the idea that you have to ask God for something while at the same time pursuing it.

  • I have two Spanish sayings that work pretty well
  • I have a couple of Latin cites, that are a bit of an overkill
  • I'd like preferently something attested in Ecclesiastical Latin, but I'm open to different flavors and/or to translations.


There are two popular sayings in Spanish about more or less the same subject:

  • A Dios rogando y con el mazo dando (Strike with thy rod while thou beg to thy God, apparently derived from an episode in the life of St. Bernard. The rod, in that version, is a tool rather than a weapon.)
  • A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda (God helps the one who wakes up early, first attested in El Lazarillo de Tormes.)

Although they admit other interpretations, they both convey the idea that, even if God needs no help from his creatures, He wants them (us) to do their (our) part like a father wants his son/daughter to show their genuine interest/willingness in what he/she is asking for. This has a number of theological implications and is closely related with the Catholic vision on the role of faith and works in salvation, an old matter of debate among Christians.

Let theology apart, I'm asking for a Latin version of these sayings. (Especially, but not limited to the first one.) If there is no fitting attested quote, a translation would be OK. I prefer if there is an Ecclesiastically-attested version, but a classical one is also OK.

For what it's worth, I found a few close English equivalents:

  • Pray to God, but continue to row to the shore (of Russian origin, apparently.)
  • God helps those who help themselves
  • Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition [with a more ambiguous interpretation.]

What I've got, so far

The best cite I have is:

  • Qui ergo fecit te sine te, non te iustificat sine te (St. Augustini Sermones, Sermo 169, 11)
  • Sine voluntate tua non erit in te iustitia Dei (ibid.),

the problem is the subject of salvation is too explicit, and I want something that is also fit for smaller, more earthly things.

I can't decide a good translation either. (Especially, I like the rhyme and cadence in a Dios rogando..., but I can't get close to that.) Pushed to find something, a possible translation of mine could be:

Deo rogantes et malleo pulsantes,

the plural here is just to try to mimic the Spanish rhyme: rogando y dando are compatible with both plural and singular auxiliary verbs: Yo estoy rogando–I'm begging/nosotros estamos rogando–We're begging.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the alternative Deo rogando et malleo pulsando is missing a verb and sounds incomplete (even if it sounds much closer to Spanish.)


3 Answers 3


In French, this proverb exists in the form: Aide-toi et le ciel t’aidera.

This comes from a fable of La Fontaine, Le Chartier embourbé. So there is the possibility to read the Latin and Greek fables that gave him inspiration.

Æsopus, Βοηλάτης καὶ Ἡρακλῆς

Well it’s Greek, but I just mention it.

(…) τοῖς θεοῖς δ᾿ εὔχου,
ὅταν τι ποιῇς καὐτός· μὴ μάτην εὔξῃ.

There are many Latin translations of this fable. For example:

Ipse juva teipsum, tum Deus juvabit te. (Clarke’s Fabulæ Æsopi Selectæ, 1810): thyself helps thyself, then God will help thee.

Avianus, Rusticus et Hercules

Disce tamen pigris non flecti numina votis,
Præsentesque adhibe, quum facis ipse, Deos.

Gabriele Faerno, Bubulcus et Hercules (1564)

Vigilando, agendo, prouidendo quod possis,
Paratur e cælo fauor.

Another possibilty in the rule of Saint Benedict

If you want Ecclesiastical Latin, you can also think to the motto of the Benedictines: Ora et labora, Deus adest sine mora (actually, the motto is only ora et labora, but this is the complete sentence from the rule): pray and work, and God is there without delay.

  • Great answer, thank you! I thought of ora et labora little after posting the question, but never imagined there was a longer version or that it was precisely its original sense
    – Rafael
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 15:14
  • 1
    You’re welcome! I don’t think this is exactly the same sense, but indeed it is very near :) (In fact, it is not just for one time when a problem occurs: Benedictines actually must pray and work each day of their lives).
    – Luc
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 15:16

I put here, as a community wiki, what was suggested as comments, since I think they are valid answers:

  • As for classical parallels, it seems to me that this conveys something of this idea. (Thanks @cnread:)

    fortes Fortuna iuvat (Pliny, Epistulae 6.16)

    also rendered:

    audentes Fortuna iuvat (Aeneid X, 284)

    Fortuna being the godess. So the phrase could better fit the purpose of the question if adapted: Audentes Deus iuvat.

  • Also the words of St. Paul are a good option. (Thanks @Hugh:)

    ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα ἀλλὰ ὁ Θεὸς ηὔξανεν
    ego plantavi sed Deus incrementum dedit (1 Cor 3,6)


Some ideas that occurred to me after posting the question:

  • A translation of the second Spanish proverb:

    qui mane surgit adiuvat Deus

    (I think adiuvo is more common in Ecclesiastical than iuvo)

  • That translation remembered me a quote from Psalm 127 (126), 1:

    nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem frustra vigilavit qui custodit

  • Another option was to adapt one of Augustine's:

    Sine voluntate tua non erit in te adiutorium Dei

But none of them seems to fulfill what I was looking for as good as ora et labora, Deus adest sine mora. The context is much closer to the sense I'm looking for than I imagined.


  • Centro Virtual Cervantes, maintained by the Cervantes Institute (Spanish governmental institution for the diffusion of Spanish language) keeps something called Refranero multilingüe, a multilingual sayings collection, with translations of popular Spanish proverbs into several languages. In the entry for a Dios rogando y con el mazo dando lists the following Latin equivalent:

    Dii facientes adiuvant,

    apparently attested in a number of pretty modern sources. The same equivalent is given for a quien madruga, Dios le ayuda.

It looks good, and if it were attested in earlier times, I would consider using a singular version of it: Deus facientem adiuvat.

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