Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer

“Silence is God's first language; everything else is a poor translation.”
- Father Thomas Keating







What is Centering Prayer?

Centering Prayer is a receptive method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer such as verbal, mental or affective, into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.

What are the origins of Centering Prayer?

Centering Prayer was developed as a response to the Vatican II invitation to revive the contemplative teachings of early Christianity and present them in updated formats. Its origins are drawn from the ancient monastic practice of Lectio Divina, The Cloud of Unknowing, and from the writings of Christian mystics such as John Cassian, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, and Thomas Merton. Most importantly, Centering Prayer is based on the wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: "...when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you." Matthew 6.6

What are the guidelines for Centering Prayer?

1) Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action within. 2) 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. 3) When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word. 4) At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

How often should one practice Centering Prayer?

The minimum time for this prayer is 20 minutes. Two periods are recommended each day. The first thing in the morning, and in the afternoon or early evening. The principal effects of Centering Prayer are experienced in daily life, not in the period of Centering Prayer itself. Physical Symptoms: We may notice slight pains, itches, or twitches in various parts of the body or a generalized restlessness. These are usually due to the untying of emotional knots in the body. We may also notice heaviness or lightness in the extremities. This is usually due to a deep level of spiritual attentiveness. In either case, we pay no attention, or we allow the mind to rest briefly in the sensation, and then return to the sacred word.

Father Thomas Keating on Centering Prayer