As you know I’m doing on a series on contemplative prayer practices to help prepare for the release of my new book: The Retreat: A Tale of Spiritual Awakening (now available for pre-order Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and Google Play).
I really want to tell you about Centering Prayer, as it is a very popular form of contemplative prayer, but the thing is…truthfully, I don’t have a centering prayer practice of my own yet. There, I said it. But, I’m willing to try it for two weeks and see how it goes. I hope you will join me in this! I’ve asked my very own spiritual director, Joan, to guest blog. She is the source of many of my blogs (the wisdom behind most of my epiphanies) so I know you will enjoy learning from her with me. Without further ado, Joan Stockbridge.
“I was thrilled when Jacci invited me to write a guest blog on Centering Prayer. It’s the practice that has most transformed my life. And I also needed a nudge to refresh and renew my commitment to the practice! So thank you Jacci.
Centering Prayer is a contemporary expression of ancient Christian practices. It was developed by Father Thomas Keating who wanted to expand awareness of Christianity’s rich contemplative tradition. I first learned of Centering Prayer from an article in Time Magazine! It soon became a very important part of my prayer life, gradually bringing me deep peace and a sense of God’s indwelling presence. It’s an essential part of my commitment to ongoing conversion, helping me open to God’s love while also releasing fears and obstacles to that love.
Centering Prayer sounds very simple.
- Choose your love word (also known as your sacred word). This word will be your reminder to yourself that you are surrendering to God during the prayer time. My word is God.
- Set a timer and sit comfortably, with your eyes closed. Say the love word silently to yourself as a symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- As thoughts arise, let them go. This is the hard part. One teacher has said, “Be gentle with yourself. The heart beats. The lungs breathe. And the mind thinks.” It is natural to have a rush of thoughts. The practice is to gently, without judgment, notice that you are having thoughts, and then to return to the sacred word. During an introductory workshop, a participant once said to Fr. Keating, “In the last 5 minutes, I had 5,000 thoughts!” And Fr. Keating replied, “How wonderful! 5,000 opportunities to return to God.”
- When the timer goes off, spend a couple of minutes giving thanks for whatever has happened. Many people like to conclude their Centering Prayer period with the Our Father or another favorite prayer.
See www.contemplativeoutreach.org for a lot more information. And there is a beautiful centering prayer meditation available for free on the Insight Meditation application for smartphones. If you download the application, search for Maria Gullo’s Centering Prayer. Her gentle voice and clear instructions are very helpful.”
Thank you Joan! I’m ready to try it, who’s with me?