Daily Riches: When Prayer is “Impossible” (Thomas Merton and Teresa of Avila) *

“Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer has become impossible and your heart has turned to stone. If you have never had any distractions you don’t know how to pray. For the secret of prayer is a hunger for God and for the vision of God, a hunger that lies far deeper than the level of language or affection. And a man whose memory and imagination are persecuting him with a crowd of useless or even evil thoughts and images may sometimes be forced to pray far better, in the depths of his murdered heart, than one whose mind is swimming with clear concepts and brilliant purposes and easy acts of love.”  Thomas Merton

“Open my lips, Yahweh,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.”
Psalm 51:15-17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Merton’s words convey hope. He says that when we would otherwise probably quit in prayer (when our hearts have “turned to stone” or when our imagination is “persecuting us … with evil thoughts and images”) – that we should persist, and not only that, but that then we may “pray far better.”
  • Can you continue to pray when your heart feels dead?  … when your prayer is interrupted over and over again with sinful thoughts?
  • What do you suppose there is to be gained or learned by persisting in these times?  … and the danger in not persisting?

I love this prayer of Teresa of Avila in this regard:

“Let me not be afraid to linger here is your presence
with all my humanity exposed.
For you are God –
you are not surprised by my frailties, my continuous failures.”

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For More: Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

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The “Daily Riches” from RicherByFar are for your encouragement as you seek after God, and as he seeks after you. My goal is to give you something of uncommon value each day in 400 words or less. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it with others. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

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