My Go at Centering Prayer: Not Yet Successful


Centering Prayer

Maybe my years of mindful meditation have made my recent stab at centering prayer more than tricky.

Fr. Thomas Keating says the reason for centering prayer is “to contribute to bringing the knowledge and experience of God’s love into the general consciousness of the human family.” It is a discipline meant to get us past obstacles to full development of contemplative prayer. Contemplation is a pure gift of God, a fundamental constituent of human nature. Contemplation is available to every one of us.

That has long appealed to me. That’s what motivates my effort to shift from years of meditation.

Keating says we can reinstate the contemplative tradition by praying as Jesus suggested:

If you want to pray, enter your inner room, close the door, and pray to [God] in secret, and [God] who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

You’ve likely read several interpretations of the Matthew verse. Our inner room is our inner self. We close the door by allowing our mind not to be distracted by our everyday thoughts. We pray and receive in silence.

More from Fr. Keating: “The root of prayer is interior silence. We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words, but this is only one of its forms….Centering prayer is not so much the absence of thoughts as detachment from them. It is the opening of mind and hear, body and emotions–our whole being–to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts, and emotions–beyond, in other words, the psychological content of the present moment.”

Ah, those thoughts. They keep coming and coming and coming.

The sacred word, critical to centering prayer, is thought (not spoken) when I realize I’m following my thoughts. The sacred word expresses my intention to open, consent and surrender to God’s presence. The word is not where I want to go or what I want to be, necessarily. The purpose of the sacred word, coming from my heart, is to remind me–to return me to–watching the river flow, and letting the thoughts float on down the river.

So, simple directions for center prayer:

  1. Select your sacred word, one which has value and comfort. Prepare to use it for some time.
  2. Sit comfortably  for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Be silent. Invite silence. Respect silence.
  4. Allow your will to consent to the presence and intentionality of God.

The use of the sacred word and reminding myself to be open to God’s presence will, Keating says, “create an atmosphere in which you can simply pay little or no attention to the normal and inevitable flow of thoughts.”

Certainly, I take him at his word. I am, however, still struggling not to hang on to a thought, even get tangled up in it….and forget the centering prayer’s purpose. So, I’m faithful that it will come. So I keep reminding myself:

So, thank you Fr. Keating. And all of this brings to mind the beautiful hymn, Here I Am, Lord.

A Prayer to Center My Praying

Living, loving Friend, I am thankful
to be reminded not to be willful.
I am thankful when I remember that letting go
is really letting you be and do,
which blesses me.
Good Friend, I appreciate centering myself
in praying with you
and centering my prayer to receive your expression.
I cherish every supported effort I uncover
that reminds me to release my false self.
And so it is. And so I thank you, God.

Love and blessings,
26 June 2017

Posted on June 26, 2017 at 12:33 pm by Tim · Permalink
In: God, Grounded, Humility, Prayer, Praying · Tagged with: ,