How Much Confidence Do We Have When We Pray?

I just came across a Thomas Merton quote that caused me to stop and think. In Thoughts in Solitude, Merton writes

What is the use of prayer if at the very moment of prayer, we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer?

I think it is fair to say that we often approach prayer with our own notion of what the answer should be, something that views prayer as a process in which we try to persuade God to give us what we have decided we want or should have. Oh we may tack on a quiet and quick, “But your will, not mine be done,” at the end of our “Please give me x,” but it is often a half-hearted gesture, adding something we think we should be saying.

Merton’s comment invites us to be more open when we come to God in prayer, making prayer a dialogic process in which we lay out before God what is troubling us and invite God to help us understand what the answer to our prayer should be.

That is a lot more risky and does require real confidence in God, since we don’t know where such prayer will lead us. But it might be a lot more effective than going to God with our own answers planted firmly in place.