This week’s featured spiritual practice is Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is a method of prayer that brings us into God’s presence and helps foster listening and receptivity as contemplative attitudes. This spiritual practice is about seeking a relationship with God through listening to God’s first language—silence.
Sometimes it does help to describe something by saying what it is not. So picture a worship service where we have joys and concerns named by the congregation. I write/adapt the Pastoral Prayer each week and am speaking aloud to God and to our congregation in prayer. What are typical elements of prayer? Thanking God. Praising God. Asking God for help.
Centering Prayer is praying without naming any requests at all. Centering Prayer is about emptying our thoughts and being present to and with God in that silent space of our minds and hearts. Some would describe it as a receptive prayer that invites us to rest in God. It’s a movement from having a conversation with God to being in communion with God. We are not thanking God, praising God, or asking God for help in Centering Prayer. We are quite simply and profoundly with God. It is not uncommon in Centering Prayer for people to even cry as we let down all of the walls we so often put up and allow ourselves to rest in God because this practice is about radical trust in God.
So how does it work? If you’d like to begin a Centering Prayer practice, it may help to begin this way (these guidelines are from Fr. Thomas Keating’s book Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer):
1.) Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
2.) Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
3.) When you become aware of thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word.
4.) At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.*
You can also choose a sacred symbol if that’s more helpful than choosing a sacred word. One of my favorite symbols is to picture a galaxy or a swirling sky like you see in the time-lapse photo above. The point is that the word or symbol helps you keep centering into the presence of God, letting go of any thought that comes into your mind. This is a spiritual practice about self-emptying. Centering Prayer is often 20 minutes in length, but feel free to start with 10 minutes or so if this is a new practice. Well, off you go! Blessings for the journey of trust and transformation.
*Father Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer, 16.
Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash
Thursday Thoughts 7/8/21