Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Prayer Series Part II: Centering Prayer

A. Hanson 2012
My first experience with centering prayer as a discipline was with HFASS at the Contemplative retreat in 2010 at St Malo's retreat center outside Lyons, CO.  It was an incredible, beautiful, life-giving time.  It was then that I fell in love with centering prayer.

I led an adult forum on centering prayer this past Sunday, so I decided to make this topic the next part of my series on prayer practices.

The Christian church has long had a contemplative tradition.  This has included the monastic practice of Lectio Divina, and the writings of such mystics as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Thomas Merton, among others.  The method of Centering Prayer, which is what we will be practicing today, has its roots in the Post Vatican II era, when three Trappist monks, Fathers William Meninger, Basil Pennington, and Thomas Keating, sought to develop a simple method of silent prayer for contemporary people.[1] 

Centering Prayer has its scriptural roots in the wisdom sayings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 6:6, “But 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 reward you.” 
The theological grounding for centering prayer is in the Pentecost:  We affirm that the spirit of God dwells within us and bears witness to the resurrection by empowering us to experience and manifest the fruits of the Spirit and the Beatitudes. Centering Prayer is a time of fostering a connection with the Living God, and a discipline to foster that relationship.

How to engage Centering Prayer:
1.     We select a sacred word or phrase.  This is the symbol of our intention to consent to God’s presence and action within us. 
a.     Some examples are: Lord, Jesus, Father, Love, Peace, Stillness, Trust
b.     Some phrases that I use are: Come Holy Spirit/Veni Sancti Spiritus, or my favorite, “Lord Jesus Christ…Have mercy on me”
c.     After choosing a word, do not change it for this particular time of prayer.  You can change it the next time you choose to pray
d.     It is also possible to do centering prayer without a sacred word, but in my opinion, it is better to have the word or phrase to return to if your mind wanders than attempting to keep your mind empty. 
2.     We sit comfortably
a.     Have your back straight and against the chair
b.     Keep your feet comfortably on the floor or whatever position is most comfortable for you
c.     Rest your hands in your lap
d.     The key is to be comfortable enough that you are not distracted by any sort of discomfort, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep.
e.     If you do fall asleep, which does happen, just begin praying your sacred word again.
3.     We pray
a.     Gently introduce the sacred word by coordinating it with your breath.  Perhaps you pray the word on the inhale or the exhale. 
b.     Thoughts are a normal part of centering prayer.  When they arise, simply thank yourself for noticing, and let them float away. Return to your sacred word.

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