Category Archives: Centering Prayer
Everyone needs and inner room, a place where you are with God and God alone. There is really only one way and that is by way of the prayer of quiet. You might begin by learning about centering prayer as taught by Fr. Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgeault or David Frenette, or meditation as taught by James Findlay and others.
There are four stages of prayer:
First: We speak, God listens. Oratio.
This would encompass all forms of prayer in words whether read aloud or quietly, or called to mind and recited either internally or externally. May include prayers of petition, thanksgiving, praise, forgiveness, etc.
Second: God speaks, we listen
. This would encompass reading and reflecting upon God’s word whether it be written as in scripture or as it is found in nature. This may lead to what westerners refer to as meditation, (meditatio) but not necessarily. At its best, this prayer is a meditation on the Word God is speaking to me at this moment. It may be as simple as noticing a roadrunner scurry across the road and reflecting upon the message the creature is bringing to me. It typically refers to taking a short scriptural passage and ruminating upon it until it breaks open.
Third: No one speaks, both listen.
This is the beginning of the prayer that leads to the inner room. Centering prayer fits this description as the purpose of this prayer is to gently, ever so gently, let go, repeatedly if need be, of thoughts while resting in the space between the thoughts. This is a prayer of letting go of the reigns, so to speak. One is open, receptively waiting upon the presence and action of the Holy One, without expectation. Be stll and know that I am God. We are not listening for any particular messages, in fact, all thoughts and feelings are released the moment we become aware that we have been carried away by them. We are simply being present to one another.
Fourth: No one speaks, no one listens. Silence.
Also referred to in the West as contemplation or contemplatio. This prayer is typically understood in Catholic circles to be pure gift and it is gift but the gift becomes more readily available to the ones who have fostered the space in which the gift can be received. This is the prayer of the inner room. Although most of us throughout our lives have tasted fleeting moments of this prayer outside of the context of prayer as it is being described here, nonetheless, one needs to cultivate an attitude of receptivity in order to experience this stage of prayer to which each and every one of us is called. It is not reserved for a few lofty souls. Mystical experience may happen for a few but they are not necessary and typically prove to be a hindrance to contemplation because the recipient tends get caught up in them and struggles to let go of them.
To find your inner room, you must shut the door and wait quietly, patiently, receptively, without expectations upon God.
For you Holy One, my soul in stillness waits.
- A Quiet Way – Contemplative Primer #1 (brianloging.wordpress.com)
- Divine Reading: Hearing God’s “Still, Small Voice” (deepdraughts.wordpress.com)
- Rising Tide of Silence Debuted March 7 in Beverly Hills (ireport.cnn.com)
- Lectio Divina on God, Creation and the Sermon on the Mount (mrdaviddrew.wordpress.com)
For over a fifteen hundred years monastics have practiced the discipline of silence. The monk knows that God is best heard in silence and community harmony is best maintained with an absence of excessive verbage. St Benedict understood that silence as an essential element of life. This is so that we can learn to listen to God more exclusively. God speaks to us in the Bible, but also in the depths of our heart and, as we begin to tune into him, we learn to be attentive to his presence in others. Thus harmony with God and man is achieved as we practice silence.
- Silence allows us to focus on God.
- Silence allows us to think outside of ourselves
- Silence creates an attitude of other worldliness
- Silence gives value to others
When we withdraw into silence and spend this special time with God we equip ourselves to be joyful Missional people. It is a most excellent way to prepare ourselves for the opportunities God provides for us.
The more we listen to God, the more capable we are of listening to each other. As we listen, we hear needs and cries from our friends and neighbors that have been lost in the noise of this world. If we are to be about the mission of God then we have to take time to become people of silence.
Each of us wants to be all we can be as disciples of Jesus Christ. Let me suggest that you carve out some time each day that you observe total intentional silence. If daily doesn’t work then do it weekly but DO IT. God will richly bless your efforts.
- Way of the Monk – Creating A Rule of Life (shpcdialogue.wordpress.com)
Today I would like to imagine being alone or with a group of people who, alone or together, are in a quiet place with no background music, just simply sitting in silence for twenty minutes. They do not speak or pray aloud; there are no books or Ipads in their hands. They are not reading or writing. They are not busy with anything. They are there to allow God to fill their consciousness and give them peace. They do not pray with their lips but with their silent hearts and with their very being. This is a simple description of Centering Prayer.
Centering Prayer was first practiced by the ancient monastics of the desert, but it can still serve us today. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to listen for a word from God for twenty minutes? I would venture to say, that for most of us, twenty minutes of silence is an eternity. For me it has been a wonderful discovery of a peace that I never thought existed- a peace and tranquility that can only come from God. When I am silent and totally centered on hearing from God it seems as though I can feel the stress of life flowing out of me like a river emptying into an ocean. Perhaps it is one of the best spiritual practices that I have ever been challenged to master.
As twenty first century Christians, we often feel that God is best found in activity and motion, but it is time that we took a better look at the practices that built the church in its formative years. These practices sustained people who lived with harsh conditions and great persecution, a type of life that is unimaginable to us. These godly men and women found it necessary to commune with God in an intense way. For them, it was just God and God alone that guided and protected all.
Much of what I read and see tells me that Christianity as we know it is dying a fairly quick death. Perhaps the answer to the salvation of the faith is not found in mega churches or new ways of worship but in the rediscovering of the foundational tools of the movement. Centering prayer is one of those foundational practices that could change your life as it has changed mine.