Centering prayer is a form of meditation focused on a sacred word... Each person chooses a single word that is personally meaningful, such as “peace” or “Christ” or “still”. The meditation begins by stating the chosen word and then resting silently with the intention to be open to God’s will. Whenever you find your thoughts wandering, you calmly repeat the sacred word and return to the prayer of silence. While it may seem like nothing is happening during centering prayer, spending time in this practice is said to provide a foundation for a deeper experience of worship and a greater attentiveness to God in daily life.
Centering Prayer with an Object
In traditional Centering Prayer, we repeat a sacred word when we find our thoughts wandering. In this prayer, we choose a small object as a focus of attention. As in Centering Prayer, our intention is to calm the mind and become open to God’s will.
Various objects may be used, such as a pebble, a seed pod, a flower, or a small cross. You may hold the object in your hand, or place it where you can see it easily. A candle flame may serve as a visual object of attention.
When working with an object, begin by paying careful attention to it. Observe its qualities; really look at it. Try not to get carried away by associations of thought, but keep focused on the object itself. This serves two purposes: First, in this attention we offer a respectful attitude toward God’s creation. Second, this careful attention begins to calm the mind, so we can proceed into a prayer of calm attentiveness to God.
During the time of prayer, if your thoughts wander, simply return your attention to the object. This is like repeating the sacred word in Centering Prayer.
Here is a suggestion for working with a river pebble:
Select a pebble and hold it in your hand. Feel its smoothness and its coolness. Think of the river that washed this pebble smooth.
Feel the weight of the stone in your hand, and let your prayer begin from that stillness.
When your attention wanders, touch the stone to remind yourself of your intention to remain open to God.
Resources for Centering Prayer
What are the fruits of centering prayer? According to Shaun McCarty, writing in Spirituality Today,
"...the expected outcome is growth in love -- love of God and love of others. ... the opposite of self-absorbing introspection. .... Along with growth in love, one might also expect an outpouring of charity's companion gift, wisdom. .... one might also expect a maturing of the fruits of the Holy Spirit to become evident in one's life -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23)."
These books are available for loan from our chapel.
· Cynthia Bourgeault, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening
· Kenneth Leech, True Prayer
· Thomas Keating, The Human Condition
· The Pocket Thomas Merton
· Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude: see Part I, Chapter XI and Chapter XVIII, and Part 2, Chapter VII
· Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience: see Chapter 4 on Christian Contemplation