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Thomas Merton’s classic study of monastic prayer and contemplation brings a tradition of spirituality alive for the present day. But, as A M Allchin points out in his Introduction to this new edition, Contemplative Prayer also shows us the present day in a new perspective, because we see it in the light of a long and living tradition.
Merton stresses that in meditation we should not look for a ‘method’ or ‘system’ but cultivate an ‘attitude’ or ‘outlook’: faith, openness, attention, reverence, expectation, trust, joy. God is found in the desert of surrender, in giving up any expectation of a particular message and ‘waiting on the Word of God in silence’.
Merton insists on the humility of faith, which he argues ‘will do far more to launch us into the full current of historical reality than the pompous rationalisation of politicians who think they are somehow the directors and manipulators of history’.