What is Centering Prayer?
Learning to withdraw attention from our thoughts in order to rest in a gentle, open attentiveness to divine reality itselfCynthia Bourgeault
Sit in silence for 20 minutes, twice a day, letting go of our thoughts and being open to the presence of God
Deepening your relationship with God
- Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
- When engaged with your thoughts* return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
- At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
- thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images and reflections
Well that’s the theory what about the practical application?
Let me share some of my journey into ‘silent sits’. It all began in Lent 2015 – a ‘nudging’ to Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). So I tried my first silent sit and lasted about a minute! I was quite shocked really that to just sit still and ‘be’ was such a struggle. I then stumbled across this method of silent meditation called Centering Prayer and thought I would give it a go.
The 20 minutes twice a day seemed an impossible almost laughable goal so I started with 10 minutes maybe once or twice a week. As John Chapman said in the early 1900’s – Pray as you can, not as you can’t. Here I am 8 years later still giving it a go. For me it is a beautiful journey of deep communion with God, transforming me from within to a ‘wordless’ place of awe. The change within is not ‘felt’ at the time but as the years rolled on I noticed a difference in my attitude or reaction to situations.
A silent repeating of my sacred word to ‘centre’ myself and pull me back into the Presence in my everyday situations changed my reaction and attitude. Subtle but significant. There have been many different seasons within the journey. I remember a few years into the journey thinking oops I have stopped talking to God! In the busyness of life any time I could carve out to myself in a day I would focus on being silent and ‘doing’ Centering prayer.
As Centering prayer is not meant to replace all other kinds of prayer I re-addressed this balance. In another season I realised I had become critical towards myself – like thinking I am not doing it right or enough etc etc. This is not the focus at all – so during the silence if those thoughts came I kept repeating I am loved, I am loved. In my season of life now I have more time to give to the silent sits each day. Connecting with other people on the journey is so important too.
Once I had retired and we were in lockdown I was able to connect with a Centering prayer group in Liverpool on Zoom. Prior to the pandemic they had met in person weekly but I could never get there in time after work. We still meet weekly over zoom and I have been part of that group for 2 years now. The other way I have connected with people all over the world is through the daily mediations on Zoom of a network called Wisdom Waypoints (I just need to make sure I have got the time difference worked out correctly!)
Here are some useful resources for getting started:
Contemplativeoutreach.org.uk – this is specifically for Liverpool and North West
Contemplativeoutreach.org – this is the main site in the USA
Wisdomwaypoints.org – click on menu, practice, daily mediations. We are 5 hours difference from ET (Eastern Time in USA)
Centering prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault. Available on Amazon, here.
Centering Prayer App by Contemplative Outreach – this has the four guidelines in. I find it useful for the chimes to start and finish the period of silence then you don’t have to keep checking your watch! Plus you can set the time to any length you choose.
**So….** have a go and see if it is for you. Above all remember you are truly loved by God.