Prayer should be as simple as breathing. But when we make a great issue out of prayer…it tends to become confusing, a cause; The Great Cause of Prayer. It becomes opposed to something else, which is not prayer. As breathing is neither sacred or secular, neither should prayer be sacred or secular. It is our life. – Thomas Merton.¹
I’ve been chewing over this for awhile
It was sort of a counterintuitive statement to me. “Of course prayer is sacred...” I thought, “It is how we talk to God!” But slowly I’ve been realising that talking directly to God, aside from being the first natural design of humans, is suppose to be the inherent state of a Christian.
Hebrews says we enter boldly into the throne room of grace, because we enter through Christ our sheep-gate, our Way of Truth & Life.
Prayer is not so much an action we partake in, a cause as Merton says it can become, but more of a state the Christian should live in. That is, walking with the Lord and following his will. Prayer is our life because Christ is our life, and when we abide in Him we abide in a state of prayerfulness and trust.
As Merton said, “Breathing is neither secular or sacred...” Because it is in a sense our default state of continuing being alive.
So, too, for the Christian; Prayer is how we seek to maintain our life in Christ. It’s holy in that sense because Christ & his work in us is holy. But for the faithful, prayer should be no more sacred than when we sit and chat to our friends and family, a natural part of our life with that who we love.
Jesus often tells the Apostles to abide in him
In fact, he says abiding in him is how we bare good fruit. Abiding in Christ, it would seem in Merton’s contemplative view, is to live prayerfully.
I was messaging my friend Samuel awhile ago, about mostly unrelated eschatological ideas, and remember sending something that is quite relevant here.
We can look at…God’s intention in creation, and see how the new creation might look in the perfected implementation of that intention.
In Christ, St. Paul calls us a “new creation”² and as we alluded to earlier, the original design of humankind was one of a deeply and personally intimate relationship with God our creator. Man walked with God in the cool of the day and talked to Him.
The intent we were created with was to walk and talk to our Lord in a very tangible way.
Thus, I would offer to the reader that the perfection of this intent is to be able to dwell always in the presence of God through a life spent in the state of prayer.
We have not to wait until “The cool of the day” because we abide in Christ, his resurrected life made our daily life, and are always with him through our presence in prayer.
This is a hard practice to learn
To say the least.
To always be mindful of God in us and we in him is, on the one hand, to be scared straight by the sheer unconditional love he gives to us as his people.
At the same time it is also to walk without fear of condemnation or trials, because we know who guides us into the last promised land.
As C.S. Lewis put, I am afraid that is the sort of thing we come up against in Christianity.³
2: 2nd Cor. 5:17
3: Lewis, Clive Staples, Mere Christianity, p.94