The Method of Centering Prayer

The Prayer of Consent

Thomas Keating

Be still and know that I am God.
— Psalm 46:10
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Contemplative Prayer 

We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression. In the Christian tradition contemplative prayer is considered to be the pure gift of God. It is the opening of mind and heart - our whole being - to God, the Ultimate mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. rough grace we open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing, closer than consciousness itself.  

Centering Prayer 

Centering Prayer is a method designed to facilitate the development of contemplative prayer by preparing our faculties to receive this gift. It presents ancient Christian wisdom teachings in an updated form. Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer; rather it casts a new light and depth of meaning on them. It is at the same time a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. is method of prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with him. 

Theological Background 

The source of Centering Prayer, as in all methods leading to contemplative prayer, is the indwelling Trinity: Father, son, and Holy spirit. e focus of Centering Prayer is the deepening of our relationship with the living Christ. It tends to build communities of faith and bond the members together in mutual friendship and love. 

The Root of Centering Prayer 

Listening to the word of God in scripture (Lectio Divina) is a traditional way of cultivating friendship with Christ. It is a way of listening to the texts of scripture as if we were in conversation with Christ and he were suggesting the topics of conversation. The daily encounter with Christ and reflection on his word leads beyond mere acquaintanceship to an attitude of friendship, trust, and love. Conversation simplifies and gives way to communing. Gregory the Great (6th century) in summarizing the Christian contemplative tradition expressed it as “resting in God.” is was the classical meaning of contemplative prayer in the Christian tradition for the first sixteen centuries. 

Wisdom Saying of Jesus 

Centering Prayer is based on the wisdom saying of Jesus in the sermon on the mount: “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you”(MT 6:6). It is also inspired by writings of major contributors to the Christian contemplative heritage including John Cassian, the anonymous author of e Cloud of Unknowing, Francis de sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of Lisieux, and Thomas Merton. 

The Guidelines 

  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 brie y 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,* 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. 

*thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections