The Lilies of the Field is primarily about the power of prayer and faith and the need for humility in accomplishing one’s goals. It was a daunting task for five German-speaking nuns to escape from communist Eastern Europe, come to a strange land, and dream of their own chapel and some day a school for poor Spanish boys. Not only did they lack material resources but also they had no one who believed in their dreams. Yet, Mother Maria Marthe never doubts that God will help them. Thus the power of faith is at the heart of the narrative.
Homer Smith also learns the lesson of humility. Initially, his attitude of self-sufficiency and independence, a defense mechanism for dealing with the racist attitudes prevalent during the period, makes him reject the help of the community. He has skills and is proud of his intellect and ability to survive. Even after he is certain that the nuns are totally oblivious to the color of his skin, he bristles at the slightest provocation. Gradually, he undergoes a spiritual regeneration, realizes that ignorance breeds superstitions and misunderstandings, and sees the importance of humility in his life. He accepts the fact that building God’s house leaves no room for individual glorification but offers an opportunity to bring the community of worshipers closer. Smith’s odyssey teaches him to be a better human being and accept his role of being an instrument of divine will.