“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”– Ephesians 3:16-17
Centering prayer can be described as silent prayer – turning your attention to God in solitude and simply “centering” your thoughts on Him. The emphasis is resting silently in the presence of God for a length of time, comfortably and away from possible distractions.
Jesus models such prayer of silence and solitude in the the gospel (Luke 5:16). The examples are vast. Before telling his disciples about his death, Jesus prayed alone (Luke 9:18). Mark 6:46 records Jesus going up on a mountain to pray deep into the night. Jesus even instructs, “whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father (Matthew 6:6).” Centering prayer is also part of our Christian heritage and many earlier believers such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross have used variations of it to become attentive to God. Moving forward in time to 1970, Trappist monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Massachusetts practiced using it. In 2004, Cynthia Bourgault wrote a book, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, that describes the psychology behind it. Today, many believers across a wide variety of Christian traditions continue practicing this discipline.
How does centering prayer work? Before sitting silence, decide on a sacred word that symbolizes your intention to be open to God. This can be anything from a fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, forbearance) or simply just Abba, Father, or Jesus. The sacred word is used to form your imagination. Ponder it gently as you sit in God’s presence. If you become distracted with another thought or emotion, give yourself grace and come back to your sacred word as a gently as possible with a reminder that you are present with God.
The benefits of centering prayer are many, which includes getting insights and revelations. It is a way of meditating, reflecting on God’s truths and internalizing them deeply into our own lifestyles. Sometimes, you may experience an overwhelming sense of peace or joy rush into your soul or even hear God speak into your life. Centering prayer is a bridge in which one can get God from their mind and into the heart.
Here are the steps
- Find a quiet and comfortable place and minimize distractions.
- Choose a sacred word (peace, joy, Father, Abba, etc).
- Be still for 20 minutes. Close your eyes and sit with God. Let the sacred word form your imagination.
- If there are any distracting thoughts, let them go and return to your sacred word gently. It is important to know there may be distractions but do not be too hard on yourself.
- At the end the 20 minutes, converse with God. Slowly open your eyes and go about your day.
What is your experience with centering prayer?