Condemn no man for not thinking as you think. Let everyone enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for himself. Let every man use his own judgment, since every man must give an account of himself to God. Abhor every approach, in any kind or degree, to the spirit of persecution, if you cannot reason nor persuade a man into the truth, never attempt to force a man into it. If love will not compel him to come, leave him to God, the judge of all.
The Merton Prayer
Thomas Merton was a Cistercian monk who wrote prolifically from 1943 to 1968 about living a life deeply rooted in prayer and compassion. One of his most popular prayers is known simply as The Merton Prayer. I love this prayer for its humility. It is an honest prayer where Merton, who so many admire as a person of deep faith, acknowledges that sometimes even he feels lost in his desire to follow God. I am moved by the vulnerability and self-compassion he expresses in this 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 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.
—The Merton Prayer, from Thoughts in Solitude, Copyright © 1956, 1958 by The Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani