I am excited to share my interview with Dr. Philip St. Romain regarding his course Christian Prayer Methods.
Prayer is a core Christian practice, but for many, this means “saying prayers” or asking God for various favors. In this course, Phil will review a variety of methods of prayer that have been used for centuries in Christianity.
Whether you’re a beginner who is just learning how to pray, or a more mature Christian who has been at it awhile, this course will offer specific guidance, encouragement and support for practicing several time-tested methods of prayer.
Phil is the author of 25 books on prayer and spirituality, with a background in retreat work, spiritual direction, alcohol and drug abuse counseling, and biology.
Phil works at the Heartland Center for Spirituality in Great Bend, KS, where he presents retreats, workshops, and provides spiritual direction. Visit his web site to learn more.
Why did you create this course?
Christianity has a rich tradition of teaching on prayer, but many are not familiar with it. They think that prayer means “saying prayers,” for example, and seem unfamiliar with reflective approaches like Lectio Divina and contemplative forms like Centering Prayer.
Also, it seems that many these days are more tuned in to video teachings than to books. I have written much on this topic through the years, and thought presenting a video alternative could be helpful to some. A few groups have made use of it for study and practice, and that’s heartening.
What prayer methods do you practice on a daily basis?
My mainstay is quiet, contemplative sitting, during which time I mostly wait on the Spirit to lead. When I get caught up in a distraction, I use a prayer phrase to re-focus, much like Centering Prayer recommends. I also have times when I read the morning and evening prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours. I go to Mass regularly, and do Lectio Divina with the readings of the day.
What was the first prayer method that you practiced?
I guess that would be night prayers with my Mom and Dad — just whatever they’d pray. As Catholics, we also prayed the Rosary at home and had grace before meals.
What does Jesus have to say about prayer?
He has a rather comprehensive teaching in Matthew: take time for silence, solitude, use few words, speak honestly to God. He also gives us the Lord’s Prayer, which can be understood as basic movements in prayer, beginning with praise and then going through other intentions. Then there is his example as a man of prayer.
How do we deal with distractions during prayer?
The first step is to note if you’ve gotten caught up in them, to acknowledge if you have, then to re-focus your attention unto God. Sometimes the distraction can suggest a focus for prayer — an intercession or intention to offer to God, for example. Other times, it’s best to just let it go and move on. If you quit paying attention to it, it will drop away on its own.
What attracts you to Visio Divina? I don’t think this form of prayer is common in the West.
It’s not my favorite form of prayer, but was worth mentioning as a gift from the Orthodox tradition. I’ve done this somewhat and have found it rewarding. Inevitably, I am drawn to let go of even this method to simply rest in God.
How has your prayer life evolved over the years?
It’s been a fairly typical journey, moving from active forms of prayer when young to more contemplative forms as I’ve aged. I’m almost 67 now, and since around the age of 40 or so, the contemplative approach has predominated.
How can prayer help people?
Prayer is the difference between a faith that is living and one that is stale. As Mother Teresa put it, “The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. . .” So prayer is the means by which our faith relationship with God is strengthened and deepened.
It also becomes the context for awakening to our true self, the person we discover ourselves to be in the light of God’s unconditional acceptance. Without prayer, it’s very difficult to break free from a false identity based on our own or others’ ideas of who we really are.
What advice do you have for beginners to prayer?
The most important thing is to do it regularly, to set aside a time daily and stick to it, whether you feel like it or not. It needs to become just “something you do,” like taking a shower or eating breakfast. It’s also good to learn a few methods like those the course presents. This helps your soul learn how to open to God. In time, you will be drawn to use the method needed at that particular time in your life.
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I just finished Sacred Compass by J. Brent Bill and Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God by James Finley. I am currently reading The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within by Christine Valters Paintner.
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I use a Prayer Rope after each Centering Prayer Sit.
Centering Prayer is a silent prayer practice that can move you toward a profound relationship with the Spirit of God within. It is a way of praying that opens the door to the Divine Indwelling—the ground of our being. With Centering Prayer, Father Thomas Keating and his colleagues Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler and Father Carl Arico present the first online course in this method for deepening your intimacy with God and ultimately consenting to the presence and action of the Divine in all aspects of your life.
The early Christians, teaches the Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault, were afire with the spirit of Jesus, inspired fully by his teaching of a total transformation of consciousness. How do we reclaim that fire today? On Encountering the Wisdom Jesus, this brilliant author and dynamic Episcopalian priest presents her first full-length audio course about rediscovering the Master of Wisdom. Twelve immersive sessions cover: the parables as wisdom tools; Jesus’s teachings about kenosis (or self-emptying: a path as radical today as it was 2,000 years ago); Jesus as tantric master; Centering Prayer, an approach to meditation as Jesus lived it, and much more. (Based upon her book, The Wisdom Jesus.)
Since the time of the Desert Fathers in the third century, Finley begins, Christian mystics have practiced meditation as a way of opening to the direct presence of God in daily life. Legendary seekers such as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Meister Eckhart explored how meditation can lead us beyond the closed horizon of the ego, to an interior and holy refuge that is always available to us. On Christian Meditation, James Finley offers a gentle introduction to this all-transforming way of life, and the ever-deepening realization of oneness with Christ it leads us to. (Based upon his book, Christian Meditation.)
Check out my review of Christian Prayer Methods by Dr. Philip St. Romain.
Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus. Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article I wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.
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