Contemplation is a gift from God that we could not even attempt in the first place if God hadn’t given it to us. This approach to prayer reminds us that we truly do rely completely on the grace and kindness of God.
However it’s also all too easy to turn the pursuit of contemplation into it’s own end. Merton warns us against seeking mountain top experiences or assurances of God’s love because these pursuits can overtake our greater pursuit of God’s loving presence. He writes in Thoughts in Solitude:
“The only thing to seek in contemplative prayer is God; and we seek Him successfully when we realize that we cannot find Him unless He shows Himself to us, and yet at the same time that He would not have inspired us to seek Him unless we had already found Him.”
“There is a stage in the spiritual life in which we find God in ourselves—this presence is a created effect of His love. It is a gift of His, to us. It remains in us. All the gifts of God are good. But if we rest in them, rather than in Him, they lose their goodness for us.”
“If you want to have a spiritual life you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”