Centering Prayer is the act of sitting in silence in the presence of God. As thoughts rise up we use a sacred word, image, or breath as a reminder to return to our center focus on God. This continued practice opens us to the indwelling of the Spirit. Returning to center begins to permeate daily life, awakening us to our response to others in community as we strive to live out a God centered life. This prayer practice is based in teachings of the early Christian mystics and was formally introduced as the practice of Centering Prayer in the 1970’s.
Return to God
1. Choose a sacred word, image or breath as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s indwelling presence.
2. You may sit comfortably with eyes closed, or slightly open resting at a point on the floor a few feet in front of you.
Silently introduce the sacred word, image or breath as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
3. When engaged with your thoughts (including body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections), return ever so gently to center using your symbol for the indwelling of Spirit.
At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence or end in prayer. Groups often recite The Lord’s Prayer in unison.
Adapted from Thomas Keating, “The Method of Centering Prayer: The Prayer of Consent,” Contemplative Outreach.
The sacred word Yah-weh from the Rabbinic tradition can also be breathed:
“Begin by connecting with your intention, your desire to be present to God. Breathe naturally, slowly, and deeply, inhaling and exhaling Yah-weh. Let your focus on the syllables soften and fall away into silence. If a thought, emotion, or sensation arises, observe but don’t latch on to it. Breathe the syllables with open mouth and lips, relaxed tongue: Inhale—Yah Exhale—weh
You may be distracted numerous times. Perhaps your entire practice will be full of sensations clamoring for attention. Each interruption is yet another opportunity to return to Presence, to conscious participation in God’s life.”
(borrowed from Richard Rohr’s description)
Further Reflections on Centering Prayer
“In Centering Prayer, the letting go of thoughts is seen as ‘consenting to the presence and action of God.’ …Recent neuroscience suggests that learning to let go of what we’re clinging to, mentally as well as emotionally, actually catalyzes some revolutionary—and evolutionary—changes in our neural wiring.
The usual explanations given for why we let go of all thoughts in Centering Prayer have to do with “making yourself empty so that you can be filled with God” …In my own teaching, I prefer to come at it from a slightly different angle, gently but firmly insisting that one does not release a thought in order to achieve some desired result; the releasing itself is the full meaning of the prayer.” –Cynthia Bourgeault
- [Jesus said] “But when you pray go to your inner room…” Matthew 6:6
- “Meditation is almost all contained in this one idea of awakening our interior self and attuning ourselves inwardly to the Holy Spirit, so that we will be able to respond to His grace.” –Thomas Merton
- Humility is forgetfulness of self – Thomas Keating
- [Jesus said] “Abide in me as I abide in you.” (John 15:4-5)
- Rest in God Resting in Me – James Finley
- [Jesus said] “Keep awake!”
- “Together we wake up and stay awake to the newness of life being poured forth in this moment.”—Rose Mary Dougherty