A Wing and a Prayer– Thomas Merton

 How close God is to us when we come to recognize and to accept our abjection and to cast our care entirely upon Him!  Against all human expectation He sustains us when we need to be sustained …  Hope is always just about to turn into despair, but never does so, for at the moment of supreme crisis God’s power is suddenly made perfect in our infirmity. So we learn to expect His mercy most calmly when all is most dangerous, to seek Him quietly in the face of peril… 

 Our weakness has opened Heaven to us, because it has brought the mercy of God down to us and won us His love. Our unhappiness is the seed of all our joy. Even sin has played an unwilling part in saving sinners, for the infinite mercy of God cannot be prevented from drawing the greatest good out of the greatest evil.  

When the Lord hears my prayer for mercy (a prayer which is itself inspired by the action of His mercy), then He makes His mercy present and visible in me by moving me to have mercy on others as He has had mercy on me. This is the way in which God’s mercy fulfils His divine justice: mercy and justice seem to us to differ, but in the works of God they are both expressions of His love.       

Yet it is precisely in punishing sin that God’s mercy most evidently identifies itself with His justice.  The mercy of God does not suspend the laws of cause and effect. When God forgives me a sin, He destroys the guilt of sin, but the effects and the punishment of sin remain. 


Thomas Merton, in No Man Is an Island, Burns & Oates, 1955   



Thomas Merton’s Prayer

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 that 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.
– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”

BB Thoughts for Saturday, 11-14-09

crossredThe Lord afflicts us at times; but it is always a thousand times less than we deserve, and much less than many of our fellow-creatures are suffering around us. Let us therefore pray for grace to be humble, thankful, and patient.”    John Newton (1725-1807)

Rambling thoughts…. 

For the person who believes, this can be a real thorny issue. Can a God who will and can afflict us for our good, can he be trusted?  There are some who suggest that God is intentionally malicious; like a young boy pulling the  wings off of flies in bored amusement, to watch them scramble about.  I am certain this is not the case.

Those of us with mental illnesses who are believers will face this issue fairly often.  I get terribly depressed, to the point of despairing and even suicide.  One of the inner dialogues that happen, is “Why?”  “Does God know?”  “Does he care? ” “Why is this happening to me?”  You know what?  Only God knows, and he is not telling.  Sometimes we just have to live with questions.

The believer must accept this at face value.  It really doesn’t matter.  You face the fiery furnace, and that is a fearful thing.  But whatever transpires, our trials teach us about love, especially when we find a fellow-sufferer.  I have found that mentally ill people are almost always good, gentle people.  They have finally learned how to love, they generally have the scars to prove it.

To get stable, a prayer life should be established in our lives.  (If you have tried and tried, I would recommend getting prayer beads.)  Praying will clarify things and settle things.  Luther once said that just like “a cobbler’s task was to make shoes, so a Christian’s is to pray”.  Prayer is real-life for the believer.  It is a shot of adrenaline into the heart of a dying man.  I take my meds and I regard prayer as one of my other medications.  Prayer for me is both an anti-depressant and a mood-stablizer.  It is that significant.

The Jesus Prayer, Prayer Beads, & Personal Revival

33 count for Protestant use

The Lord moves in mysterious ways.  As a good evangelical, I never thought I would be using prayer beads and saying the Jesus Prayer.  It started when an old friend decided he wanted to make me a set of beads.  It surprised me, but I said, “Why not?”

In my thinking, I laid down a single stipulation, I wasn’t open to a Catholic rosary, and wanted nothing to do with devotion to Mary.  So, he scrounged up his materials and fashioned me an Orthodox, or Anglican chaplet of 33 beads.  And they are beautiful.  I have other friends who are Orthodox and I’ve always had an affinity for their faith and practice.

Of course, I didn’t know how to blend them in my prayer times.  It seemed to be a tad peculiar for this “evangelical-charismatic” pastor to be using them. I felt like a grown man getting caught trying to ride his toddler’s tricycle. But since I was already familiar with the “Jesus Prayer”, and since I knew God wasn’t going to strike me down with lightning, I forged on ahead.

For many, the “prayer of the heart” or the “Jesus prayer” is understood as a practice of personal devotion, a response to Paul’s admonition to “pray unceasingly,” a prayer said with the lips which descends from the head into the heart. Our prayer is to become eventually so much a part of us that our very breathing, our very living becomes prayer.  At least that was the theory.  But, since I was unhappy with my prayer life on my own, I decided I had nothing to lose and so I gave it the green light.

The Jesus Prayer is this, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”  It is based on Mark’s account of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  I certainly could relate to the tax collector, especially with my battles with depression and bipolar disorder nipping at my heels.

I began praying, using the beads and the Jesus prayer.  Instinctively, I knew that I was about to learn something valuable.  But at first it was awkward.  I did not want it to become formal or religious.  I was wary of praying religiously.  I did not want to parrot a phrase to get some kind of “religious buzz”.  I was really cautious, with a somewhat skeptical eye on the whole affair.

What I found was a considerable breakthrough!  Using the prayer beads and focusing on just talking to the Lord began to be something I really, really wanted to do.  I found, improvising, I could adapt it to what was right for me.  I found that rather then being repetitive, it infused my time with insight and blessing.  The whole thing was like a track, a train track, that for the first time gave my prayer time structure and continuity.

As depressed and mentally ill Christians, we can be a bit unstructured and vague when it comes to praying and meditating on the Word.  For the most part, we can be pretty undisciplined people.  We require something a little different to help us in a relationship with the Lord.  I guess I want to challenge you, to experiment with this.

 Some links to help:

For general info: http://www.norian.org/jesus_prayer.html

Interesting–To try using the Jesus prayer, with “Cyber-beads”: http://www.kingofpeace.org/prayerbeads/trisagion.htm

From an artisan and a retail outlet:  http://www.blue-mariano.com/id16.html

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