Thomas Merton: The ‘Prayer of the Heart’


I remember once telling a group of Lutheran bishops that their job–and the job of their churches–was not to raise more Christians but to shape and form true human beings. We had an interesting conversation out of that! Merton’s quote below reminds me that “prayer” at it’ most essential is an impulse of the human heart, not part of an equation of dogmatic exchange.

What is the purpose of meditation in the sense of “the prayer of the heart?” In the “prayer of the heart” we seek first of all the deepest ground of our identity in God. We do not reason about dogmas of faith, or “the mysteries.” We seek rather to gain a direct existential grasp, a personal experience of the deepest truths of life and faith, finding ourselves in God’s truth. …Prayer then means yearning for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of [God’s] word, for knowledge of [God’s] will and for capacity to hear and obey him.–Thomas Merton

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton (Image Books, 1996, p.67)