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 1970s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington, and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.
A Prayer of being.
When we listen not just with our ears, our eyes, our minds – but with our hearts, with our whole being. A deeper, more experiential union with God.
Steps in Centering Prayer
- Settle down, seated with feet on the floor, hands resting in our lap, and gently closing our eyes. The point here is to sit comfortably. If that means crossing legs, then let that be OK. Sit comfortably, whatever that means for you.
- Turn our attention to the presence of God within. We know by faith that this Presence is within, around, and through us. In love, we turn ourselves over to the Lord God of our being. For the next several minutes, we are God’s. This prayer is a pure gift, a gift of us to the presence of Love within.
- To abide in the Presence quietly and attentively, use a simple word that expresses our hearts’ desire in being with the Presence. Let that word be there. Silently repeat the word. This word may be Jesus, Father, Love, or Peace – whatever word that is personally meaningful. Other examples of Sacred Words that can be used for Centering Prayer are: God, Adonai, Elohim, Yahweh, Allah, El Shadai, Rabboni, Dominus, Christi, Christos, Kyrie, Abba, Amma, Emmanuel, Maranatha (these are names for God), Spirit, ________, _________, _________ (your own).
- When we become aware of a thought other than our word or words going through our minds, we return the mind to the chosen word(s). This is by simply allowing the word to easily bubble up into awareness. Allow the word to come naturally and easily to mind like any other thought would rise in mind. We simply use the word. As soon as we become aware that we are thinking about something else, we turn to the Presence of Love within ourselves. During this time, we do not seek anything for ourselves. This time is our gift to the love that dwells within us. All of our attention is on the Presence. It is outside this time of prayer that we will see the difference in our lives; the love, peace, joy, and kindness that will begin to flourish in your life.
- At the end of our time, do not jump right back to activity. We have gone very deep, even if it does not feel that way. We need to end our prayer gently. One suggestion would be to silently say The Lord’s Prayer very slowly, or another favorite passage, allowing each phrase to give its own meaning to us. If you feel any irritability after the meditation you may have come out of the prayer too quickly. Simply sit back down, begin anew for a few minutes and come back out more slowly. If you feel sleepy and want to sleep (and you have the time) feel free to do so.
This is a prayer experience. Practice it for a period of time; test it out, and notice if love, joy, peace, and kindness seem to be in your life to a greater degree. If so, continue to use it. If not, do not hesitate to return to whatever form of prayer works for you.
I walk this path with you, in love,