By Joe and Marilyn Dressel
Centering Prayer is a method of prayer which prepares us to receive the gift of God’s presence, traditionally called contemplative prayer. It consists of responding to the Spirit of Christ by consenting to God’s presence and action within. It furthers the development of contemplative prayer by quieting our faculties to cooperate with the gift of God’ presence. Centering Prayer is a “wordless prayer.” It is emptying oneself of words and thoughts and sitting quietly in God’s love and presence. It is a way to seek a deeper intimacy with God, a relationship without words, beyond words. It’s letting go, the laying aside of thoughts. Contemplative prayer is not so much the absence of thoughts as detachment from them. Centering Prayer is the opening of mind and heart and body and emotions ( our whole being) to God, to quiet the mind so one can listen to the still small voice of the indwelling spirit. Our attention is simply given to the presence of Jesus. The spiritual journey does not require going anywhere because God is already with us and in us. Centering Prayer is a way of saying, “Here I am.” Putting oneself at God’s disposal. 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.
Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina ( praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks: Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington, and Fr. Thomas Keating.
The guidelines to Centering Prayer are as follows:
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 minutes.
The minimum time for this prayer is 20 minutes. Two periods are recommended each day, one first thing in the morning and the other in the afternoon or early evening. The principal fruits of centering prayer are experienced in daily life and not during the prayer period. Centering Prayer familiarizes us with God’s first language which is silence. Centering Prayer is an invitation to live life from the center of your soul. Its to be aware of the presence of God within and all around you.
The Centering Prayer Community at Grace Episcopal Church meets each Wednesday from 11 am to 12 noon in the prayer room on the Lower Level. The hour is divided into Centering Prayer ( sitting in silence) and Lectio Divina, which is reading, reflection, responding and resting in God’s Word. The Centering Prayer Community offers a Quiet Day in November for others to join us at Waldheim Retreat House on Old Mission Peninsula. On the first Saturday in Advent, the Centering Prayer Community invites the parish at Grace Church and the community of Traverse City to join us in a time of stillness through silence, prayer, scripture, mediation, with Grace Harmony leading the community in Taize singing. Centering Prayer holds a space available to God as a free gift of our love. It is a time of surrendering our hearts to Jesus.
To read more about Centering Prayer, Contemplative living, visit the Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. website at www.contemplativeoutreach.org for events, retreats, articles and the on-line bookstore. Two books that can help you discover the transformative power of Centering Prayer as a form of Christian meditation are Open Mind, Open Heart by Fr. Thomas Keating and The Path of Centering Prayer by David Frenette.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46: 10.