Centering Prayer: Portal to Contemplative Prayer

 

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.”[1]

 

Summarized in my words, Centering Prayer is four simple steps.

  1. Select a sacred word as the symbol of your intent to open yourself to God’s presence and action within.
  2. Sit comfortably, close your eyes and interiorly repeat the sacred word slowly and silently.
  3. When you engage your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, return ever so gently to your sacred word.
  4. 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!

Go Further:

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

A Taste of Silence: A Guide to the Fundamentals of Centering Prayer by Carl J Arico

[1] Contemplative Prayer: The Teachings of Father William Meninger O.C.S.O.

 

this post may contain affiliate links

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.

Contemplative Light offers courses on contemplative practices (Christian Meditation, Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer), the Christian mystics (ancient and current) and spiritual writing. Peruse their wonderful offerings.

The Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault: Jesus first and foremost is a Wisdom teacher, grounded in the universal traditions of spiritual transformation, and the first teacher of non-dual consciousness the West had ever seen. Almost two thousand years ahead of his time, he stands in the lineage of the great Jewish prophets, the master “cardiologist” entrusted with implementing the promise made to the prophet Ezekiel: “I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Centering Prayer by Cynthia Bourgeault: Centering Prayer is a simple, no-frills form of meditation in the Christian tradition. Since it was first developed by Christian contemplative monks in the 1970s, it has allowed tens of thousands of practitioners worldwide to “return home,” developing an authentically Christian meditation practice which not only delivers the healing and quieting of the mind typical of all meditation paths, but also reconnects directly to Christianity’s hidden treasury of mystical and transformational wisdom.

The Gospel of Thomas by Cynthia Bourgeault: This e-course, “The Gospel of Thomas with Cynthia Bourgeault,” is a complete “Thomas starter kit”: everything you need to know to get you up and running with this remarkable text, plus a generous sampling of its most important sayings, arranged thematically so that they speak to issues that contemporary spiritual seekers are actually dealing with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

script src="//z-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/onejs?MarketPlace=US&adInstanceId=2fbfe039-b7b6-4678-9ff9-3cfd1aa02f46">

Welcome!

Receive our free Centering Prayer ebook, Weekly Meditations, Book Reviews and other posts automatically to your email.

You have Successfully Subscribed!