A Quick Primer on Centering Prayer

A Quick Primer on Centering Prayer January 17, 2011

I am trained and certified as a spiritual director. I am a lay oblate at a Benedictine monastery. I have also coordinated the contemplative life ministries at various churches.

I practice, and introduce other people to, centering prayer. For a lot of people, hearing about prayer can create separation and build walls between us. Some people are intimidated or become anxious when they hear these things; other people tend to think that I might be a little wacky.

The monastic life, prayer, and spiritual direction fit together for me, and I am fiercely drawn into them. They are all based in the knowledge that God is with us, here and now, everyday.

I want to learn how to be open to God’s presence; how to avoid the extraneous parts of life that distract me and keep me from consenting to and participating in God’s unfolding world. The challenge for me is often to get out of the way, and to listen.

Centering prayer has been a very helpful place for me to begin. It is both prayer and a way of learning to be open to God’s presence and action in the world.

Here’s a super quick primer on centering prayer, just for you.

The most significant components of centering prayer for me are:

1) committing to spend time in prayer each day

2) using a word or other symbol to deal with the distractions my mind generates.

The word or symbol serves as a touchstone and reminder that I consent to God’s presence and action within me. It is like a wedding ring for many people: a reminder of an outward commitment that recognizes an intimate relationship.

For example, if I’m experiencing a lot of anxiety, God might lead me to remember Jesus’ words in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

From this, I might choose to use “Peace” as my word/symbol throughout the day to bring me back to God’s presence.

There are many, many books on centering prayer. Here are a couple I recommend:

Centering Prayer by Basil Pennington

Open Heart, Open Mind by Thomas Keating

If you’re in the greater Los Angeles area, please consider coming to the Introduction to Centering Prayer workshop that I’m leading in South Pasadena on January 22nd!

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