Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer – verbal, mental or affective prayer – into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God.
At University UMC, our congregation’s Centering Prayer group meets on Sunday mornings at 9:45 to 10: 45 am in Room S201 upsatirs in the Sanctuary. Each session consists of a 20-minute meditation, Scripture or sacred readings and optional sharing with group members. The method of Centering Prayer we use can be found in the book “Open Mind, Open Heart“ by Thomas Keating.
Keating says, “Once a regular practice of Centering Prayer has been established, we move normally in each period of prayer toward a place of rest where our faculties are relatively calm and quiet. Thoughts are coming downstream, but as we learn to disregard them, we begin to enjoy a sense of the divine presence. Beyond our thinking and emotional experience is the deeper reality of the spiritual level of our being. It is another way of knowing reality that is unlike ordinary psychological awareness. As a result, not only is the mind quiet and at rest from the ordinary concerns of daily life, but the body also begins to rest, a rest that is deeper than sleep and provides us with profound healing.”
The guidelines for Centering Prayer are:
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
2. 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.
3. When engaged with your thoughts (including body sensations, feelings, images and reflections), return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.