Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Centering Prayer

This week at CWM, we invite folks to practice yet another spiritual disicpline, centering prayer.

Below is information from the Contemplative Outreach on the use of centering prayer. We hope that you find it a useful tool on your own lenten journey.

Centering Prayer
is a method of prayer, which prepares us to receive the gift of God's presence, traditionally called contemplative prayer. It consists of responding to the Spirit of Christ by consenting to God’s presence and action within. It furthers the development of contemplative prayer by quieting our faculties to cooperate with the gift of God’s presence.

Centering Prayer facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer — verbal, mental or affective prayer — into a receptive prayer of resting in God. It emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God. At the same time, it is a discipline to foster and serve this relationship by a regular, daily practice of prayer. It is Trinitarian in its source, Christ-centered in its focus, and ecclesial in its effects; that is, it builds communities of faith.

Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.

Centering Prayer Guidelines

  1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. (cf. Open Mind, Open Heart, chap. 5)

    1. The sacred word expresses our intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.

    2. The sacred word is chosen during a brief period of prayer asking the Holy Spirit to inspire us with one that is especially suitable for us.

      1. Examples: God, Jesus, Abba, Father, Mother, Mary, Amen.

      2. Other possibilities: Love, Peace, Mercy, Listen, Let Go, Silence, Stillness, Faith, Trust, Yes.

    3. Instead of a sacred word a simple inward glance toward the Divine Presence or noticing one’s breath may be more suitable for some persons. The same guidelines apply to these symbols as to the sacred word.

    4. The sacred word is sacred not because of its inherent meaning but because of the meaning we give it as the expression of our intention and consent.

    5. Having chosen a sacred word, we do not change it during the prayer period because that would be to start thinking again.

  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.

    1. “Sitting comfortably” means relatively comfortably so as not to encourage sleep during the time of prayer.

    2. Whatever sitting position we choose, we keep the back straight.

    3. We close our eyes as a symbol of letting go of what is going on around and within us.

    4. We introduce the sacred word inwardly as gently as laying a feather on a piece of absorbent cotton.

    5. Should we fall asleep upon awakening we continue the prayer.

  3. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.

    1. “Thoughts” is an umbrella term for every perception, including sense perceptions, feelings, images, memories, plans, reflections, concepts, commentaries, and spiritual experiences.

    2. Thoughts are an inevitable, integral and normal part of Centering Prayer.

    3. By “returning ever-so-gently to the sacred word” a minimum of effort is indicated. This is the only activity we initiate during the time of Centering Prayer.

    4. During the course of Centering Prayer, the sacred word may become vague or disappear.

  4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

    1. The additional 2 minutes enables us to bring the atmosphere of silence into everyday life.

    2. If this prayer is done in a group, the leader may slowly recite a prayer such as the Jesus Prayer while the others listen.

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