Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk who resided for 27 years at the Abbey of Gethsemani in the state of Kentucky. His writings were, and still are, very popular, while his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over a million copies. Fr. Ron Lewinski frequently went to the Abbey of Gethsemani for his yearly retreat and I have gone there as well. One of Thomas Merton’s prayers has been a favorite of mine for a very long time and I have shared it at various opportunities throughout my priesthood. Since Fr. Ron’s passing, I have been drawn to this prayer once again:
THE ROAD AHEAD
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 will I 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.
This is a prayer of dependence. I’ve said this before, but we as Americans tend to shy aware from an acknowledgement of dependence, perhaps because we see dependency as a weakness. After all, many of us were raised to believe that whatever we accomplish in life comes through our own hard work and effort. Recognizing our dependence, for some, lessens our own ability to “do it our way” and diminishes our achievements. This perspective, in the spiritual life, is not helpful. We are utterly dependent on God who guides us on our journeys of life. There is certainly no weakness in that and in fact, there is great strength in recognizing our dependency on God to guide us to our destinations in life.
This is a prayer of hope. We may not always be aware of where the road is leading us in life, but our desire to journey it with God at our side, whether we are truly conscious of where God is leading us, is in itself pleasing to God and demonstrates that we are on the right path.
This is a prayer of trust. I tend to be a person who appreciates certainty. I like to know what I am getting myself into. I stress when I don’t know something’s outcome and I want to control it. There are frequently moments of ambiguity in life. I can be very good at recognizing God’s hand in retrospect… sometimes not so good at observing it in the present. This prayer reminds me that trust in the Lord means allowing God to guide us through the uncertainties of life and fearing not those paths out of our control. This is not easy (at least for me) but again, our desire to allow God to guide, whether we are successful at it or not, is in itself pleasing to God. I find great comfort in that.
I invite you to allow the power of this prayer to wash over you and lead you to a greater appreciation of the Lord’s journey with you in your life’s path, wherever that may lead you. We are never alone with God on our side and God will never disappoint.
Enjoy the week and God bless you all.