Merton Prayer 15 (Part 2)

¡§You know my soul. You know all that needs to be done there. Do it in Your own way. Draw me to You, O my God. Fill me with Pure Love of You alone. Make me never go aside from the way of Your Love. Show me clearly that way and never let me depart from it: that will be enough. I leave everything in Your hands. You will guide me without error and without danger and I will love You all the way. I will belong to You. I will not be afraid of anything for I shall remain in Your hands and never leave You.¡¨ (Entering the Silence, 101; Dialogues with Silence, 45)

John Wu Jr.

Commentary

¡§Fill me with Pure Love of You alone. Make me never go aside from the way of Your Love.¡¨

By the grace of God, only the saints are capable of putting into practice some form of Pure Love. Though all Christians are encouraged to be Christ-like, the saints come closest to being the most genuine imitators of Our Lord. As we more than not find ourselves far from their lives, this can be daunting and discouraging, especially to folks who live contemplatively or take exceptional pride in charitable work that demands the full giving of themselves. One is clearly aware that in the midst of such work, we are prone to be tempted into thinking that what we have done for others is really the result of our own efforts. We forget, without God¡¦s ever present guidance, even the smallest of achievements would hardly be possible. Then, suddenly, driven by pride, we are hit by a ton of bricks that return us to square one! This is not a good feeling, but it can nevertheless serve as something positive in that we need to be humbled in order to keep on an even moral and spiritual keel. Without humbling ourselves we would find it hard to progress spiritually.

The love we give to one another¡Xno matter how broad and deep¡Xcan only sustain us for a time. This is not at all to belittle human love for we are commanded by Jesus Himself to love our neighbors. But we need to look at this as part of God¡¦s larger plan for us because each of us is, as it were, His special work in progress in which He will gradually bring us home to Himself. Perhaps that is the reason there are always occasions when our thirst for love can no longer be quenched by the love others have for us, or the love we have for them. At such times we realize human love alone is insufficient for us to become spiritually and morally complete. To think otherwise would be a dangerous delusion, especially for those of deep spiritual faith. For to think human love is enough for our salvation would mean allowing ourselves or others to take over what rightfully belongs to Him. It is so very easy to forget our basic condition of creatureliness, to forget our real selves. For, without being fully conscious of what we are doing, we end up playing God.

Is that not how Eden was originally lost, when our first natural parents forgot their roles and thought they could guide their own lives? After countless millennia, is that not how we continue to live our lives convinced we are not in need of Divine guidance? We naively believe we are capable of forging our lives by our own lights rather than Christ, the Light of the world. Like ourselves, our first parents too confused the earthly for the heavenly, the natural for the supernatural. And, it seems, except for the saints, few of us can get through the day without confusing the two, without passing through some weak moments when we believe we can live life without assistance.

This prayer has both a sobering and a comforting effect, a reminder that, as God¡¦s creatures, though we are called upon to make decisions on most things in life, yet when it comes to essentials, to troubling things that vex our souls, for our own spiritual health, we must defer to His will. The words, ¡§Show me clearly (the way of Your Love) and never let me depart from it: that will be enough,¡¨ put things in wonderful perspective.

When we ask Our Lord to show us His love, we are humbly petitioning Him to let us in on something we cannot initiate ourselves and, in fact, do not possess, for God¡¦s love is divine, given to us as pure gift. In The Seven Storey Mountain, the young Merton says with insight beyond his years, ¡§It is a kind of pride to insist that none of our prayers should ever be petitions for our own needs: for this is only another subtle way of trying to put ourselves on the same plane as God¡Xacting as if we had no needs, as if we were not creatures, not dependent on Him and dependent, by His will, on material things too.¡¨ (p. 247)

In college when I passed through many a troubled days, I often suffered from moral and spiritual entanglements. At such times, my dear father too would wisely advise me to pray in the form of a petition by speaking to God directly as though I were speaking to my own parents. Prayer, indeed, is truly a ¡§speaking aloud¡¨ to those closest to us. The advice my father gave me were words he often gave himself. Now I see how my parents¡¦ way of prayer kept them spiritually robust and forever young and joyful. They lived as though they possessed a direct line to God, Whom they regarded as both Mother and Father. How could they, after all, not be happy?