Merton’s Prayer

As I was flipping through a couple of my old Thomas Merton books the other day, I came across this prayer that he wrote. I remember printing it out a couple years ago and giving it to my students who were about to graduate from high school (it was a parochial school, so no separation of church and state issues there). It seemed especially relevant to their situation in life, but it also seems relevant to just about every situation in my life so far:

Thoughts in Solitude

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 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 I will 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.

from Thoughts in Solitude

Merton’s prayer is at once the most disturbing and most comforting prayer I have ever read or heard. His insights into the human condition have a searing honesty, the kind I spend most of my time avoiding out of fear. Paradoxically, only someone so firmly grounded, so deeply rooted, could acknowledge how adrift he is. It’s just a hunch, but I’m guessing that what grounded Merton lies somewhere in those last three lines.


This entry is a radical departure for me, as I rarely discuss matters of personal faith with close friends, let alone the whole worldwide internetworking public, so I’m posting it with a fair amount of trepidation. In case you were wondering, my intention here is neither to proselytize to those who aren’t like-minded nor to ingratiate myself with those who are. I’m just putting it all out here on this website because it’s the only best way I have at the moment to engage my mind in any kind of sustained reflection.

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11 Responses to Merton’s Prayer

  1. Cynthia/Mom/Gram says:

    What a great way to begin my day, Karl; that was lovely.

    Merton’s poem is like a modern-day Psalm, incorporating elements of faith that give the loneliest, most frightened of us, comfort and assurance. “I will never leave you or forsake you” is a promise mortals can’t necessarily keep, but God can.

    Thanks. Mom

  2. Aunt Ginny says:

    I know this is a departure from your usual hip and techno savvy razzle dazzle (which I love and admire), but I appreciate your sharing this reflective side. This prayer is a wonderful comfort to all of us who question where the road ahead may lead – and who doesn’t! Like the well worn phrase says, we don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future. 

  3. Diane says:

    hey this is helpful, karl.  i think i’ll post it (printed) in my house for myself and for my son, who just yesterday was again talking about why we have to say grace before dinner “to that dumb fake god.”  i usually take these statements in stride, because they are often so off the wall that they’re funny, but last night i found myself suggesting that since god is the great unknown, it may be worthwhile for earl to at least be respectful in case one day post life he has to have a discussion with god about his attitude.  at least that gave earl some pause while chewing his pasta!

  4. KMT says:

    Helpful prayer – thanks for sharing.

    Although, you should know that one of the things I enjoy about your family and your blog is the lack of caveats.

    Thanks again,



  5. Dad says:

    Karl: I agree with KMT 100%. Thanks from me, too.

  6. Joan says:

    The prayer is very comforting. I left a formal religion a few years ago and since have found it hard to pray. I will save this prayer with the hope that God is listening when I pray it to him. Thank you for posting it. Joan

  7. Tony says:

    What a wonderful prayer, Karl–I’m glad you stumbled on it and shared it, so that I could stumble on it and share it, too…with my students at *another* West Michigan parochial school. They need to hear it–and I do, too.

  8. Fr. J. says:

    I know you wrote this a long time ago. You may have forgotten it and may never read this note. But, I would just like to say thank you for in your own way communicating both the earnestness and the uncertainty which are the principles of faith at the heart of Merton’s prayer.

  9. Don R says:

    I have said this prayer for many years now…it has been of great comfort..and challenged me…on my “spiritual journey”…Merton has been a great guide.

  10. Debra says:

    Here is where the internet can be used so beautifully! Anyone may happen upon a website that has a something profound to affect their day – a total stranger who brings a message of comfort. My son gave me this prayer his senior year of college and I have since turned to it many a time to bring peace in my prayer life. He now has four children and is for work, and I know he would be happy to see it come full circle and perhaps bring a spot of peace to his present journey……..

  11. sydney says:

    this is exactly what I needed. Thank you God for leading me here.

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