Thomas Merton’s Prayer That Anyone Can Pray

Thomas Merton’s Prayer That Anyone Can Pray

“It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that Thomas Merton changed my life.”

Thomas Merton is one of those figures in modern life that has had a profound impact on so many Catholics and non-Catholics alike. As Fr. James Martin, our podcast guest from last week, tells it, he was working in finance when one day he came home and began watching a documentary about the Trappist monk on public television.

Like many, Martin started out by reading Merton’s famous autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. Inspired by his words and his imperfections, Martin joined the Jesuit order two years after that initial encounter. Martin has written and spoken at length about Thomas Merton and how he’s a model for what he “hopes to do and hopes to be.”

At the end of our interview, Krista Tippett asked him to read one of his favorite passages from Merton’s writings. Martin chose to recite this passage from Thoughts in Solitude, which he says is “a prayer everyone can pray”:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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  • Tim Jones

    thanks for the thomas merton link. i am a recovering catholic who has remained spiritual while going my own way for the last decades. i do apprecaite the on being flow of spirituality and the good stuff they find and bring to us here.

  • Dominique

    It’s past midnight. I just sent a message to friends to pray for me and my daughter and sent an urgent prayer to God asking for help for me and my daughter. I acknowledged that she is His precious daughter as am I, and that He loves her more and I ever could and for that Satan hates her and us. Then I came upon this meditation and it gave me reassurance and peace. Thank you for sharing. The message and timing are truly divinely sent.

  • Brian Arbenz

    I live in Louisville and have visited the Abbey of Gethsemane a few times, privately and as a journalist, getting a peek inside Merton’s hermitage during an open house in 1989. Merton’s soul is wonderful and genuine; he has influenced me, a secular truth seeker, positively. I also must report that around here at least, his image is being made into a commodity to draw tourists and promote political careers. The dedication of Thomas Merton Square downtown a few years ago at the site of his profound 1958 epiphany was delayed by a drawn out series of speeches, by office holder aspirants and just plain egoists. As a writer, activist and researcher, even I must resist the temptation to “get in on” the Merton craze for my own recognition. I was unexpectedly enlightened by two longtime Gethsemane monks during a visit in the 1990s when they told us “all we hear is, Merton this, Merton that.” The Abbey is taking on the role of a spa or retreat, or a place to at which to stay so you can say you’ve been there. The problem is not Merton and not people who who follow him. The problem is the promotion industry which makes all radical people and forces, from Thomas Merton to Helen Keller to the game Monopoly “safe” for corporate interests.

  • Deejayemmm

    Perfect prayer for me. I’ve never known myself, but all I have is trust in the Living God, who has blessed me at an unbelievable rate.

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  • Dee Pierson

    Absolutely.

  • Charles Cingolani

    A German translation of The Merton Prayer
    http://cingolani.com/MertonPrayer.html

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