spiritual, Spiritual Practices/Disciplines

Centering Prayer

“Anyone who commits themselves to the transformative process [of Centering Prayer] is changing the world more than they could by any other activity, but they’ll have activities recommended to them by the Spirit, if they’re called to it.”

Thomas Keating,God is Love – The Heart of All Creation – Companion Book

We don’t often think of our prayer as world changing do we? Think about it, according to Keating, one small prayer, offered in honesty, with love and grace can be transformed by the Holy One into something of healing, grace and beauty to those in the world. How can my small prayer do all that? Only through the power of God, that’s how. In faith, we believe God sees us, knows us intimately, and wants nothing more than to be in relationship with us. God wants to extend grace to us and our world.

In Centering Prayer, we slow down, focus on God and listen. We offer our attention fully to God and creation, putting aside the busyness of our lives for a few moments. Will we hear audible words, receive some great thought from God, change lives forever? Who knows, some of us will hear Gods voice. Others will sit in this space soaking up the joy of being loved by our creator without ever hearing a specific voice. What Keating says is that in slowing down we change ourselves, our inner focus and rhythm. It is in this inner change that the world receives its gift. Our being is less harried, less prone to jump, and more open to the others around us.

Keating goes on to say something even bigger and scarier, we will receive assignments from the Spirit ourselves! We will be asked to look at others differently and join in the redemptive work of God in the world. Perhaps we will be invited to spend time in far off places, and leave home and family to serve others. However, it might be as simple as offering to help our neighbor with yard work, or smiling at the stranger we meet while shopping or offering a breath prayer for the mother whose child is struggling at the store. The point is we will be asked to change our orientation towards the world and in doing so, we change the world.

Then there is the little tag line, the piece we often miss… “if they’re called to it.” To be called is to be surrendered to God, to be open to doing all things as if doing them for God herself. For me this is the heart of the matter. We are called into this relationship, this deep listening by the very one we seek. The relationship comes at a cost to him and us, it will always require our submission to the direction of the Spirit. All we do either points towards or away from the Divine.

In Centering Prayer we offer ourselves to God, listening for that direction, seeking unity that will ground us in the purpose of God. We sit in the stillness, offering ourselves to the changing dynamic that is unity and wholeness with God and the world. When we are open to the transformative power of the Spirit, we literally “change the world!” We become part of the Kingdom at work here on earth.

It is easy to begin a practice of Centering prayer. There are a few simple steps noted below:

  1. Select a simple word to call you back to your center when you drift (your mind will wonder it is normal and natural). My current word is Life. You might chose Jesus, spirit, Creator, or trust. Just keep it simple.
  2. Set a timer for about 15 minutes to start. You can increase your time of silence as you become more comfortable with the practice. Something gentle is best.
  3. Now find a comfortable spot to sit or lie down. As you sit allow yourself to sink into a comfortable posture. Relax your face, shoulders and legs. Be mindful of your breathing, taking a few deep breaths. The point is to be comfortable and have your body be relaxed.
  4. Begin with a short prayer, inviting God to join you in this time. Again, simple is the rule here.
  5. Now just listen, clearing your heart and mind of everyday things. If your mind starts to run to errands or questions, say your word to draw yourself back to silence in body and mind.
  6. If the same thought comes to you several times, ask God if this is something you are to pay attention too. Then refocus using your word.
  7. Don’t get frustrated with yourself. At first it is hard to sit in silence and clear our minds of the everyday stuff of life.
  8. When your time is up. Thank the Holy one for meeting you in this time, for being present with you always. I like Psalm 106, a prayer of thanksgiving for Gods presence in our lives and world. You may have another, or words from a poem that you cherish.
  9. Give yourself a few moments to process your time. If you like to journal, now is the perfect time too write about your feelings, thoughts or how you sensed the Divine entering into your midst.
  10. Practice, practice and practice some more. It will come softly and gently if given the time to sprout.

You may find more information on practicing Centering Prayer here. There is also several Centering prayer apps in the app store.

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