Saturday, November 26, 2016

Prayer Practices: Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer
     Contemplative Outreach, centered on the teachings of Thomas Keating, is one of the best resources for contemplative Christian spirituality “centered” on Centering Prayer.  They explain some aspects of it with excellence, so the following is from them:
     Contemplative Prayer: We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression. In the Christian tradition contemplative prayer is considered to be the pure gift of God. It is the opening of mind and heart - our whole being - to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. Through grace we open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing, closer than consciousness itself.
     Centering Prayer: Centering Prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of contemplative prayer by preparing our faculties to receive this gift. It presents ancient Christian wisdom teachings in an updated form. Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer; rather it casts a new light and depth of meaning on them. It is at the same time a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. This method of prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with him.
     Theological Background: The source of Centering Prayer, as in all methods leading to contemplative prayer, is the indwelling Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The focus of Centering Prayer is the deepening of our relationship with the living Christ. It tends to build communities of faith and bond the members together in mutual friendship and love.
     The Root of Centering Prayer: Listening to the word of God in Scripture (Lectio Divina) is a traditional way of cultivating friendship with Christ. It is a way of listening to the texts of Scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and he were suggesting the topics of conversation. The daily encounter with Christ and reflection on his word leads beyond mere acquaintanceship to an attitude of friendship, trust, and love. Conversation simplifies and gives way to communing. Gregory the Great (6th century) in summarizing the Christian contemplative tradition expressed it as “resting in God.” This was the classical meaning of contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition for the first sixteen centuries.
     Wisdom Saying of Jesus: Centering Prayer is based on the wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you”(MT 6:6). It is also inspired by writings of major contributors to the Christian contemplative heritage including John Cassian, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Thomas Merton.
     The Guidelines: 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 engaged with your 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.
*thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections

     20 minutes, twice per day, is recommended.

     Beyond what is typically considered “Centering Prayer,” there are two other prayer practices related to Centering Prayer that we recommend, make use of in this resource, and so share additional information with you in this appendix.

Welcoming Prayer
     This prayer method was developed by Mary Mrozowski, one of the founders of Contemplative Outreach… but we like the overview provided by The Gravity Center, ministry of Chris and Phileena Heuertz (
Welcoming Prayer invites God to dismantle the emotional programs of the false-self system and to heal the emotional wounds we’ve stored in the body.
The method of the Welcoming Prayer includes noticing the feelings, emotions, thoughts and sensations in your body, welcoming them, and then letting them go. Practicing the Welcoming Prayer offers one the opportunity to make choices free of the false-self system–responding  instead of reacting to the present moment.
The purpose of the Welcoming Prayer is to deepen one’s relationship with God by consenting to God’s healing presence and action in the ordinary activities of daily life.
When you have an overly emotional experience in daily life, take a moment to be still and silent and follow these steps.
1.    Focus, feel and sink into the feelings, emotions, thoughts, sensations and commentaries in your body.
2.    Welcome God in the feelings, emotions, thoughts, commentaries or sensations in your body by  saying, “Welcome.”
3.    Let go by repeating the following sentences:
  • “I let go of the desire for security, affection, control.”
  • “I let go of the desire to change this feeling/sensation.”

“Be Still” Prayer
     This simple prayer, which shares common ground with Centering Prayer, is from Fr. Richard Rohr (, Center for Action and Contemplation, Albuquerque, NM). It is based on Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”
1.    Center yourself (quiet your mind, take a few deep breaths, etc.)
2.    Aloud or silently, pray, “Be still and know that I am God.”
3.    After a couple deep breaths, or an interval of time (I like to use 4 minutes, so that the whole prayer takes 20 minutes), pray, “Be still and know that I am.”
4.    After deep breaths or some minutes, pray, “Be still and know.”
5.    After deep breaths or some minutes, pray, “Be still.”
6.    After deep breaths or some minutes, pray, “Be.”
7.    When finished, pray, “Amen.”
This wonderful prayer experience can be facilitated by a spiritual director, individually or in a group session. I like to change the position of my hands every time the phrase shortens (open palms, Catholic or Orthodox hands of blessing, palms up or down, on my knees or in my lap, etc.).


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