Merton on Prayer of Distraction

Prayer as Distraction Merton

“If my prayer is centered in myself, if it seeks only an enrichment of my own self, my prayer itself will be my greatest potential distraction. Full of my own curiosity, I have eaten of the tree of Knowledge and torn myself away from myself and from God. I am left rich and alone and nothing can assuage my hunger: everything I touch turns into a distraction.”  Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

What a great gift from Merton to remind us of what may be the problem if our prayer life is no longer meaningful and rich, if we seem to lose the connection. Our first question should be, “Is my prayer life centered around myself?” Unfortunately, it is rare that we can really see that in ourselves. It often takes talking to someone else about their stale prayers and seeing that loneliness and isolation and self center in them. Then the “ah ha” moment comes internally, “The same is also true for me!” We constantly learn from each other consciously or unconsciously. We so often realize our egocentricity in community as we see it and abhor it in others and then by Grace realize it is also in ourselves. The change for ourselves, however, so often comes as we withdraw from community in silence, contemplation, and meditation, centering prayer, so many ways for change, to again be aware of that connection to God that was always there.  Instead of trying to change the other, we see the gold in the difficulty and see the call to change ourselves which paradoxically calls us to place our center on love of God and others instead of only loving ourselves.