Monday, October 8, 2012

Contemplative prayer by Thomas Merton

I first came across Merton's name in a quote that Nicole Conner put up on twitter. Ever since then, I did some research on him and decide to buy this book.

I then ordered it online from bookdepository.co.uk, I eagerly anticipated its arrival. After exactly 2 weeks, I received it in the mail.

At 94 pages, it is one slim volume. However, do not let its size deceive you. This is one book that requires a lot of unpacking.

Thomas Merton writes in a way that forces one to think deeply. I had to read at half my usual pace because of the way it is written. I did enjoy it though.

This book was written for monks but in Merton's own words, "just as a book about psychoanalysis by an analyst and primarily for analysts may also (if it is not too technical) appeal to a layman interested in these matters, so a practical non-academic study of monastic prayer should be of interest to all Christians, since every Christian is bound to be in some sense a man of prayer."

Yup. That is exactly the reason why I got this book. But if you are expecting a clear, step-by-step instructional guide on the subject, be prepared to be sorely disappointed.

What this book does is to examine how some have approached prayer and Merton's thoughts on it.

It can be pretty profound.

I believe this is the first book (at least one that is a non-textbook) that I have used a pen to underline paragraphs that stood out to me. More than once in fact. This is no mean feat considering that I do read quite a bit.

Here is a sample of what I have underlined,

"Our knowledge of God is paradoxically a knowledge not of him as the object of our scrutiny, but of ourselves as utterly dependent on his saving and merciful knowledge of us."

"dread divests us of the sense of possession, of "having" our being and our power to love, in order that we may simply be in perfect openness (turned inside out), a defenselessness that is utter simplicity and total gift."

I am in the process of reading this book for a second time because it truly deserves rereading.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who has read Christian books on prayer but still desire something deeper. This book does it.

I have always wondered why there is a need to pray if God knows us and our thoughts. And more than the importance of speaking out and declaring our desires, this book revealed to me that prayer is also a retuning of our mind to be more aware of God.

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