Centering prayer is a practice that opens us to the gift of contemplative prayer. During Contemplative prayer we sit with God. We open our mind, heart and body to God who is beyond thoughts, words and emotions. Contemplative Prayer is considered the pure presence of God.
Contemplative prayer is like when we sit with a lover or a friend. No words need to be said. Centering prayer does not replace other forms of prayer. It complements them. It is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster our relationship with God.
“In 1974, Father William Meninger, a Trappist monk and retreat master at St. Josephs Abbey in Spencer, Mass. found a dusty little book in the abbey library, The Cloud of Unknowing. As he read it he was delighted to discover that this anonymous 14th century book presented contemplative meditation as a teachable, spiritual process enabling the ordinary person to enter and receive a direct experience of union with God.
This form of meditation, recently known as ‘Centering Prayer’ (from a text of Thomas Merton) can be traced from and through the earliest centuries of Christianity. The Centering Prayer centers one on God.
The Cloud was written, not in Latin but in Middle English – which means that it was intended for laymen as well as priests and monks. Father Meninger saw that it was a simple book on the ultimate subject, with only 75 brief chapters.
He quickly began teaching contemplative prayer according to The Cloud of Unknowing at the Abbey Retreat House. One year later his workshop was taken up by his Abbot, Thomas Keating, and Basil Pennington, both of whom had been looking for a teachable form of Christian contemplative meditation to offset the movement of young Catholics toward Eastern meditation techniques.
Ten years later, Abbot Keating, now retired and a member of Father Meninger’s community of St. Benedict’s in Colorado, initiated his highly organized and effective Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. in order to facilitate a spirituality focused on Centering Prayer.”
Summarized in my words, Centering Prayer is four simple steps.
- Select a sacred word as the symbol of your intent to open yourself to God’s presence and action within.
- Sit comfortably, close your eyes and interiorly repeat the sacred word slowly and silently.
- When you become aware of thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, return ever so gently to your sacred word.
- At the end of the centering prayer session, remain in silence for a minute or two before you resume your daily activities.
For many, extended silence is very difficult. Don’t become discouraged. You can never fail at Centering Prayer. God loves you and is delighted you have taken the time to sit!
Start small. Take baby steps. Perhaps initially you will only be able to handle five minutes. Gradually increase the time frame of your session to fifteen or twenty minutes. Slowly incorporate a second centering prayer time into your day.
I also encourage you to find a local centering prayer group. They usually meet weekly. Centering Prayer in community is powerful!
Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer by Thomas Keating
Open Mind, Open Heart 20th Anniversary Edition by Thomas Keating
Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault
The Path of Centering Prayer by David Frenette
 Contemplative Prayer: The Teachings of Father William Meninger O.C.S.O.
this post may contain affiliate links
I am currently taking on clients for Centering Prayer One on One Coaching sessions. I am happy to setup weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sessions with you over the phone or skype to help you go deeper into your centering prayer practice and integrate it into your daily life. Contact me for more information. The rate is $50 – $75 per hour. The first session is 1/2 off.
Feel free to peruse my Resource Page. I frequently update it with new information.
Learn how I use my prayer bracelet.
I am currently reading The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion by N. T. Wright. I plan on reading Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass.
The Power of the Jesus Prayer: Learn a method practiced by Christian mystics for centuries to consent to the action and presence of God within.
Our friends at Contemplative Light are offering Contemplative Practices. This course examines in-depth traditional practices of the Christian mystics, including: The Examen, Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer and Christian Meditation.
Contemplative Perspectives: Frameworks for the Divine: With the historic practice of The Jesus Prayer as a jumping off point, we explore the experiential aspects of the Purgation/Illumination/Union path of Christian Mysticism.
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, we 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.
The Way of the Wisdom Jesus: Going Beyond the Mind to the Heart of His Teaching – If you put aside what you think you know about Jesus and approach the Gospels as though for the first time, something remarkable happens: Jesus emerges as a teacher of the transformation of consciousness. In this online course, Episcopal priest, teacher, and retreat and conference leader Cynthia Bourgeault serves as a masterful guide to Jesus’s vision and to the traditional contemplative practices you can use to experience the heart of his teaching for yourself. It is based upon her book, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind – a New Perspective on Christ and His Message .
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. It is based on his book Simply Jesus. Enjoy an article I wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.
This course is a short course based on Prof. N.T. Wright’s latest book, Simply Good News. Tom Wright will guide you through the chapters of his book through videos that suggest what some of the main points are. You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament. You will be brought into their world in order to make more sense of what ‘good news’ means in our world.
Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks – This is a great way to listen to books with your cell phone while you drive, walk or relax at home. I frequently listen in my car during my commute to and from work. I’m a proud affiliate.
David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings. Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners.
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.
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.)