Getting Ready for Lent

“Hardship in Prayer”

Meditation is sometimes quite difficult. If we bear with hardship in prayer and wait patiently for the time of grace, we may well discover that meditation and prayer are very joyful experiences. We should not, however, judge the value of our meditation by “how we feel.” A hard and apparently fruitless meditation may in fact be much more valuable than one that is easy, happy, enlightened, and apparently a big success.

There is a “movement” of meditation, expressing the basic “paschal” rhythm of the Christian life, the passage from death to life in Christ. Sometimes prayer, meditation, and contemplation are “death”–a kind of descent into our own nothingness, a recognition of helplessness, frustration, infidelity, confusion, ignorance. Note how common this theme is in the Psalms (see Ps. 39, 56).

Any effort and sacrifice should be made in order to enter the kingdom of God. Such sacrifices are amply compensated for by the results even when the results are not clear and evident to us. But effort is necessary, enlightened, well-directed, and sustained.

~ from Contemplative Prayer, by Thomas Merton,

in Devotional Classics: Selected Readings,

ed. Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith