Give Prayer Time
by Thomas Merton
WE WERE INDOCTRINATED so much into means and ends, that we don't realize that there is a different dimension in the life of prayer. In technology you have this horizontal progress, where you must start at one point and move to another and then another. But that is not the way to build a life of prayer.
In prayer we discover what we already have. You start where you are and you deepen what you already have, and you realize that you are already there. We already have everything, but we don't know it and we don't experience it. Everything has been given to us in Christ. All we need is to experience what we already possess.
The trouble is, we aren't taking time to do so. If we really want prayer, we'll have to give it time. We must slow down to a human tempo and we'll begin to have time to listen. And as soon as we listen to what's going on, things will begin to take shape by themselves. But for this we have to experience time in a new way.
The reason we don't take time is a feeling that we have to keep moving. This is a real sickness. Today time is a commodity, and for each one of us time is mortgaged. We experience time as unlimited indebtedness.
Yet we are not debtors of the flesh ... Christ has freed us. The whole thing boils down to giving ourselves in prayer a chance to realize we have what we seek. We don't have to rush after it. It is there all the time, and if we give it time it will make itself known to us.
From David Stendl-Rast's Man of Prayer, in Thomas Merton: Monk edited by Patrick Hart, copyright the Abbey of Gethsemani (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1974).