Thomas Merton: I Have No Idea Where I Am Going

This prayer, from Thomas Merton, is a source of strength to me when wrestling with my ever-present questions about God’s will.

May it encourage you today, and may it become the prayer of a Church in endless formation.

“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 my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that 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.”

Thanks to Jesse Schroeder for the reminder.

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24 thoughts on “Thomas Merton: I Have No Idea Where I Am Going

  1. I really appreciate blasts of honesty like this, when the facade of “having it all together” is stripped away and someone else expresses how we have been feeling all along – our vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Some of the passages in the Bible which I have found most encouraging have shown this kind of realism too – like Romans 7 where Paul gives a sobering description of the struggles we all face as fallen people…

    Thanks guys!


  2. I love the vulnerability of this post. It reminds me that sometimes expressed vulnerability by a worship leader is what leads folks into the presence of God. When people think that the worship leader (or “lead” worshiper) has it all together in the spirituality department, it tends to damper the people’s response. On the contrary, a broken heart opening up to God in a dependent way causes a flood of receptivity to the Father’s love. At least I think so.

    This Merton quote reminds me of the Enter the Worship Circle Song, “Though I Feel Alone,” a song I have made a part of my weekly vocabulary.

  3. This is the kind of prayer that could be used over and over again, like N.T. Write talks about in Simply Christian (I can’t remember where right now, and the book is all the way on the other side of my bedroom…), about prayers not necessarily needing to be completely original every time. It can easily be just as rewarding to repeat a prayer that speaks to your soul in a deep way. I think this prayer speaks to my soul in a deep way, and I hope to expand on it, and others, through the course of my walk.

  4. I have been looking for prayers to incorporate in my worship since reading the section on prayer in N.T. Wright’s “Simply Christian.” As Wright says, why do we feel the need to come up with our own words all the time? Can we not humble ourselves to the prospect that someone may have already said what we want to say in a better, more elegant way?

    This prayer does that for me. I have had a serious case of the “I don’t knows” lately, and I have fumbled for words to express this to God. I love the honesty and dependency of this prayer, and the unwavering trust it espouses in the midst of darkness is a beautiful challenge for me.

    Thanks for sharing,

  5. The humble openness of this prayer is inspiring and it’s always nice to hear someone else articulate, in a Godly way, a struggle that I’m feeling (often without even realizing that I’m feeling it). I think the journey that we’re all on toward God’s Kingdom has more commonality than I realize sometimes. Of course, we’re all unique in many ways, but it’s good to remember the similarities and draw nearer one another in community.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this prayer. It is the cry of my heart and of the hearts of so many that I know. We can know HOW to live because of what God has already told us, but there are so many times when we really don’t have any idea what the next step is. Somehow, we have been taught to think that if we are Christians we will know the right answer all the time and so when we are confused and don’t know our way, we hide from God, instead of pressing into Him, and from people, our brothers and sisters, who should be our compadres in the journey. And there are so many churches that claim to know the right thing to do always and want us to feel ashamed if we don’t. That is called being religious. Feeling like you always have to have the answer leads to so much misery that God does not want us to feel.

    I want to learn to listen to God, really listen, and to wait. I think our anxiety and impatience lead us to move before we know where we are supposed to go, which just mires us down further in confusion. The busy-ness and hyperactivity of our culture pushes us to act when we have no idea why we are doing what we are doing or if it is the right thing. Our fear of being dependent keeps us from acknowledging our true state of cluelessness and need for God. And the desire to be in control often makes us act just for the sake of acting even when we have no idea of what to do.

    One of the things that Western Christianity could learn from Eastern mysticism is that not knowing is an acceptable state. It is not the goal, being empty is not the goal, but admitting that we don’t know and that we are empty is the first step to being filled and to hearing from God so that we do know. If we try to pretend that this is not our state, we end up assuming a posture we cannot maintain and we forego the very thing we are hoping for, being able to hear the voice of God, who helps the helpless and takes notice of the humble.

  7. What a wonderful and encouraging prayer – one which I can really relate to. Isn’t it great that through prayers like this we can know we are not alone in this journey called life, but that others share the same fears, doubts and desires and that God has given us people in life to encourage and inspire us.

  8. since the first time i heard this quote till now, i’ve loved the raw honesty of thomas’ words.

    i usually venture between seasons of deep confidence in where God’s calling me into seasons of forgetfulness and doubt, wondering if there ever was a calling to begin with. who am i? what the heck am i living for? it’s so good to be reminded that all of us feel seasons of loneliness and silence, but that is not indicative that we’re alone.

    there was a prayer rolling around at church we would often say: “God, the best we know how, we seek you…” that was a helpful prayer for me. it demonstrated our finite capacity to understand and even live, while also acknowledging that God really is the source of life and he is faithful to draw near to us and lead us.

    thanks for the reminder!!

  9. Good grief, that’s an awesome prayer…thank you Jesus for your grace and sovereignty. I often wonder and fear…God, am I doing your will?? God, am i doing the “right” thing…fear of screwing up…this excerpt reminded me of a time in my life where i was really struggling with a major decision and just so afraid of not walking in God’s will. God gave me a verse out of Job that said something to the effect of, if you put your trust in the Lord and give up your gold (i took that to mean just earthly possessions or yourself even, he will lead you in the way you should go. It was then that I remembered that I am a daughter of the living God and He was telling me in that moment to trust Him and that His will for me is for my good and not for evil. The desire of my heart is for Him and as long as i am seeking Him, i don’t have to be afraid that I am going to mess up or step out of His will for my life. How good He is!!

  10. Thanks Dan and Jesse,

    This is the reality of the Christian life at it’s best. If God revealed all of the plans for us at once then it would probably be too much for us to handle.

    Psalm 23 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil”, is one of my earliest memorised scriptures and one of my favorites.

    What a great reminder that God is in control and that we need to stay alert, praying for the next sign of direction and be ready to take up our cross and follow him wherever he may lead.

    Simon 🙂

  11. Sometimes I feel like the Christian walk is akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure book I used to read as a pre-teen. I loved reading a page and then having to make a choice as to which page I would go to next based on the adventure I was most interested in taking.

    I have to stop myself at times when I realise I have been trying to control every outcome in my life and remind myself that God has a will, He has a way and He has a purpose for me. I don’t need to worry or be anxious about making the hard choices on my own because He promises that He will never leave me or forsake me.

    I am moved by the line “And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. ” from Thomas Merton’s prayer. What a promise – God will lead us where He desires for us to go. Thanks Dan for sharing this – it is a great reminder.

  12. I love this prayer as well, thank you for sharing. I love how honest it is, as others have said already, how it resonates with our humaness. And yes, it is truly an encouragement to all of us on this faith walk, often filled with uncertainty and questions.

    It’s a good reminder that we NEED to depend on God, we don’t have the answers all the time because he has chosen not to give them all to us. If we knew, we wouldn’t need to trust and depend on Him. I know that idea has been so key in my life, in my humaness wanting a measure of control and confidence as I step forward. But faith is what is asked of us, reliance on a God who is Sovereign.

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