Anyone who imagines he can simply begin meditating without praying for the desire and the grace to do so will soon give up. But the desire to meditate, and the grace to begin meditating, should be taken as an implicit promise of further graces. – Thomas Merton
Any discussion of the spiritual disciplines must start with understanding the impossibility of engaging in such practices.
We’re too weak. Too easily distracted. Too quickly enticed by the busyness of the world around us.
Not only can we not, through sheer will, choose to make ourselves more like Jesus, we can’t even create in ourselves that desire.
As Thomas Merton reveals in the above quote, if we attempt to practice the spiritual disciplines without first asking God to give us both the desire and the ability to do, we will eventually give up.
The comforts of our bed, our couch, our favourite TV show, or the latest social media drama will be too much for us. We will find ourselves putting off the necessary and instead focusing on the immediate.
To truly succeed at practicing the disciplines we must first have the desire. Not a desire to “complete” the disciplines themselves—as if we could ever get to the end of these spiritual practices—but rather a desire to connect with God, the almighty creator of heaven and earth.
The spiritual disciplines are not a way we earn God’s favour or approval. They are not an attempt at forcing God’s hand or convincing him to finally act on our behalf. Instead, they are intentional actions whereby we minimize the distractions of the world around us and wait for God to speak.
The first discipline we’re going to try is meditation. Christian meditation is simply our attempt to listen to God and be obedient to what he says.
This week, as we embark on this journey of intentional practice, try starting with a simple prayer. “God, give me the desire to know you more fully.”
Spend even five minutes in quiet reflection each day. Pray that prayer and allow your mind to go wherever the prayer might lead. It’s okay if it doesn’t lead anywhere specific. Remember, the spiritual disciplines don’t force God to act, but they help us listen if and when he chooses to speak.