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Centering Prayer

  • Be still and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)
  • As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (Luke 10:38-42)

Centering prayer is a discipline or method in which one is trained to be still and allow the Holy Spirit to enter. A cup cannot be filled until it is emptied, so it is with our hearts. Until we learn to put aside our daily thoughts, there is no room in our consciousness for the presence of God. Centering prayer helps us do this.

Since the time of Christ, our church has had deep roots in meditative and contemplative practices. The Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina (praying the scriptures), and some of our greatest Catholic mystics: St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila have all placed silence and attending to God's presence here and now as a most important method of prayer. Over time, these practices were reserved for, or simply left to, monks and other inhabitants of cloistered religious communities.

In the end, a prevailing thought of "That's not for me," served to keep all women and men from this most beautiful activity. Abbot Thomas Keating, Fr. M. Basil Pennington, and Fr. William Menninger have led a revival of sorts. Beginning in the early 1970's these men began to devise and teach a modern version of this ancient tradition as a response to the hunger for spirituality evident in our culture. The result of their efforts is the method of Centering Prayer.

Centering prayer is NOT a charismatic gift reserved for the few. The blessings of centering prayer are available to all. In its updated form, it is simple to learn the basics. Once you complete that - you're done, the rest is for God to do, you have only to be present and wait for His divine activity in your heart.

Basics:

Centering prayer consists of sitting quietly for 20 minutes one or two times a day. During the time of prayer, one attempts to detach from the maelstrom of thoughts racing in one's mind and simply center the mind on the intention to be present to God.

I will not risk giving out bad information in an effort to economize on words. Rather, I recommend that those interested in pursuing this prayer form read some of the wonderful books by Thomas Keating or attend an introductory workshop on centering prayer. For information on workshops in our area (Puget Sound area, Washington), call Barbara Huston at 206-282-9076. She is a local contract of the national organization Contemplative Outreach, Ltd.. Barbara presented an introduction to centering at two recent SacraMentums. You can also visit www.centeringprayer.com or any of the other hundreds of web sites dedicated to centering prayer.

God's loudest voice is silence.

Centering Prayer Resources:

Web Resources:

Contemplative Outreach - www.centeringprayer.com
This is the "Official" web page of Contemplative Outreach, an organization started to help spread the gift of the centering prayer method through workshops and support services.

For those in the Northwest, Contemplative outreach Northwest has a site with local centering prayer workshops and events - www.conw.org

Books:

These books are recommended reading for furthering your knowledge of Centering Prayer method, the Theology behind it, and how to integrate it into your daily life.
You may click on the book title and it will take you to the corresponding site on Amazon.com where you can order the book, and read various reviewer's comments. Books may also be ordered from Contemplative Outreach from their web site. I have placed the original copyright date of the book, indicating how they were

"The Trilogy" -
This consists of 3 books that together are often referred to as the Trilogy of Centering Prayer. They were written in this order: 1) Open Mind, Open Heart 2) The Mystery of Christ 3) Invitation to Love. The 1st and 3rd books deal extensively with Centering Prayer and touch on its underlying psychological basis, and the 2nd book, The Mystery of Christ consists of reflections on the gospel drawing you into the tradition of reading the Word and reflecting on it, which enhances contemplative prayer.

Open Mind, Open Heart - Thomas Keating (1986)
This is the "How To" book of centering prayer. It explains the origins of the prayer, discusses the difficulties you may encounter with achieving interior silence. It also contains a chapter on how to integrate the fruits of centering prayer into your daily life. I would highly recommend this book. I had a little difficulty with the first chapter "What Contemplation is not", as it didn't draw me into the book but once into the subsequent chapters, I found the instruction and wisdom contained within excellent.

Intimacy with God - Thomas Keating (1994)
This was the first book I read on Centering Prayer. It contains many answers to the questions of "Why do it?" of centering prayer and "How does it work?". The discussion of how the spirit can work within us to heal and nourish us is encouraging and enlightening. If you are struggling to continue centering prayer as your prayer form, this book might give you the basis to continue.

This page written by Bruno Ienni