Centering prayer is an ancient practice of joining meditation on a word with prayer and is a simple way to center ourself in God's presence. Centering prayer is different from many other forms of meditation that attempt to clear the mind of all thoughts. In centering prayer we are simply recognizing the thoughts and feelings that arise and gently releasing them.
Unlike many other forms of prayer, where we bring our concerns, needs, projects, plans, and agendas, in centering prayer we simply sit in the presence of God and give him our undivided love and attention, much like Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. (See Luke 10:38-42.) Generally, our prayer word is a simple word, like love, peace, God, Spirit, or a short phrase such as be here or be still, that encapsulates the intent of our heart to acknowledge and be present to God in us and around us.
In learning to simply rest and abide in God's presence over time, this abiding begins to show up in our daily lives and interactions with others, allowing us to slow down and truly listen and simply be present with others. Centering prayer creates a space and trusts that God in us brings transformation.
Set aside a minimum of 15-20 minutes. Settle into a comfortable position and place yourself in the presence of God, in the center of Love. It's helpful to set a timer so that you're less concerned about when to stop.
Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s
presence and action within. Use a word of one or two syllables, such as God, Spirit, Love, Peace, Trust, be still, etc. You can also simply focus on your breathing. Stick with this word or breath throughout the prayer period. Do not change it as that would be engaging our thoughts.
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. Choose a comfortable position, keeping the back straight. Our eyes are closed as a symbol of letting go of what is going on around and within us.
When engaged with your thoughts, return gently to the sacred word. Thoughts can be perceptions, feelings, body sensations, images, memories, and spiritual experiences. They are a normal, integral and inevitable part of centering prayer. Simply and gently return to your sacred word or breath.
At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple
of minutes. The additional minutes enable you to bring the atmosphere of silence into our everyday life.
A Video Practice
To be guided in this prayer, listen to this video by the Contemplative Outreach Center featuring Father Thomas Keating.