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 and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.
The source of Centering Prayer, as in all methods leading to contemplative prayer, is the Indwelling Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The focus of Centering Prayer is the deepening of our relationship with the living Christ. The effects of Centering Prayer are ecclesial, as the prayer tends to build communities of faith and bond the members together in mutual friendship and love.
How to prayer using centering prayer:
- Sit quietly, comfortable and relaxed.
- Rest within your longing and desire for God.
- Be aware of senses: Sounds, touch, breathing..
- Move to the center within your deepest self. You can facilitate this movement by imagining yourself walking down a flight of stairs, or descending a mountain or go down into the water, as in a deep pool, or descending in an elevator.
- In stillness, become aware of God’s presence; peacefully absorb God’s love.
- You can use a mantra which is a prayer word or phrase that you repeat from within your heart.
- Examples are:
- Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.
- Repeat the word or phrase slowly in rhythm with your breathing.
- Divide the word or phrase between your breathing in and your breathing out.
- Examples are:
- Some Scripture passages for centering prayer:
- Be still and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10 (45:10)
- My help comes from the Lord. – Psalm 120 (119)
- I know whom I have believed. – II Timothy 1:12
What is Contemplation
Contemplation is a long, loving, listening, joyful gaze at God. It is a personal experience of God, a direct and immediate contact with the divine. It is as Moses experienced and that is seeing God face-to-face, not through a concept or an image but directly through faith. It is knowing God deeper than the intellect, will or external senses; it is knowing God at the core.
Signs of Contemplation
- No longer is meditation (which was once helpful) enjoyable.
- Attentiveness to meditation is impossible.
- There is a pleasure just being alone with God. Acknowledging these three signs, with the coordination of a few efforts, just as one might prepare for an athletic competition, the door to contemplation can be opened.
How Do We Contemplate?
To achieve the state of contemplation we must prepare ourselves. It is a time when we stop, listen, and be still. Doing nothing is almost impossible for some people. The masters suggest we find a quiet place, and begin with the body. Still the feet, the hands, then close the eyes and ears. Then, still the emotions (especially discarding negative thoughts), shed all desires or feelings. Above all, still the imagination and memory.
One way to use the imagination in Contemplation:
- Enter into a Scripture passage.
- Become involved.
- Make use of all your senses.
- Example – in a Gospel story enter into dialogue with Jesus. Be there with him. Pay attention to your feelings-senses. Let Jesus be for you what He wants to be like Shepherd, Consoler, Companion. Respond from your heart to him.
- End in thanks
Examine of Conscousness
Here is a more contemplative Examen:
- Become aware of God’s presence.
- See if any gratitude naturally arises.
- Allow the Holy Spirit to surface something and pay attention to your emotions/feelings. Are you in consolation or desolation?
- Talk with Jesus.
- Make a decision that helps you to grow in loving.
What is Consolation and Desolation?
Consolation and desolation are states of the soul that, if we pay attention to them, can guide our steps and aid our prayer. When in consolation, we are growing in love and grace, moving toward God and God’s desires for us. When in desolation, we are moving away from God, and we experience a diminishment of peace and other marks of spiritual growth and health.
It’s important to understand that consolation does not always feel good, and desolation does not always feel bad. False consolation can give us feelings of pleasure and satisfaction in situations and activities that are not enhancing our spiritual growth. And sometimes when we are moving in the right direction, we can experience emotional turmoil, even deep sadness.
The best way to understand consolation is that it is the set of feelings that occur when we are authentically self-transcending. When I pray the Examen I am really asking myself: how is my self-transcendence going today? Am I being attentive, intelligent, rational, responsible? And, of course, the ultimate question is: “Am I expressing the results of someone who is in love with God and with all things through this love of God?”
- Turns us on ourselves.
- Drives us down a spiral ever deeper into our own negative feelings
- Cuts us off from community
- Makes us want to give up on the things that used to be important to us
- Takes over our whole consciousness and crowds out our distant vision
- Covers up all our landmarks
- Drains us of energy
- Directs our focus outside and beyond ourselves
- Lifts our hearts so that we can see the joys and sorrows of other people
- Bonds us more closely to our human community
- Generates new inspiration and ideas
- Restores balance and refreshes our inner vision
- Shows us where God is active in our lives and where he is leading us
- Releases new energy in us
As we learn to recognize when we are in desolation and consolation, we can respond accordingly-changing course (through prayer, community, discernment, spiritual direction) when in desolation, and staying the course when in consolation.
Saint Ignatius believed this practice of the examin was so important that, in the event it was impossible to have a formal prayer period, he insisted that the examen would sustain one’s vital link with God for that day and is the better choice for one day.
Journaling is meditative writing – not a diary.
Examples of how to Journal:
- Write about a Scripture passage that you read.
Read a passage from Scripture and begin writing whatever comes to you. Pay attention to your feelings, what attracts you in the Scripture passage. Write you feelings, what attracts you, what you want to say to God. You can thank God, confess to God, ask God questions, ask for something. Write what is on your heart.
- Write a letter addressed to God.
I think of the blind man wanting desperately to come to you. I hear you ask him, “What do you want me to do for you?” I see my own blindness in . and I come to ask you..
- Write a conversation between oneself and Jesus or another significant person.
Me – Today I am so tired.
Jesus – What are you trying to do?
Me – I want to ..
Jesus – Go ahead. Be open with me.
Me – Okay Jesus, you know how .
- Write a dialogue with an event, a value or an experience, or answering a question
Me – Who are you, Truth?
Truth – I am a very important value for every person.
Me – Why are you so important?
Truth – Without me, people cannot trust each other.
Me – But then why are people afraid of the truth?
Steps to Journaling:
- Pick one of the above method of writing or just let the Spirit move you.
- When you are finished journaling, reread what you have written.
Some Passages for Journaling
What are you looking for? – John 1:35-3
What do you want me to do for you? – John 5:1-15
Who do you say I am? – Matt. 16:13-23
Come and follow me! – Mark 1:16 – 20
Lectio Divina (Meditative Reading)
A method for Lectio Divina, based on Verbum Domini
Lectio – Reading – Really listen. Hear the Lord speak to you. Notice or underline what calls your attention. Come to a desire to understand its true content: “What does the biblical text say in itself?”
Ruminatio – Ruminate over what you noticed or underlined. “Chew” on it. Be nourished by it. Let it speak to you. (Note: This paragraph is not from Verbum Domini.)
Meditatio – Meditation. Choose one word or phrase, and ask why it calls your attention. Meditate on, “What does the biblical text say to us?” Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged.
Oratio – Prayer, which asks the question: “What do we say to the Lord in response to his word?” Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us.
Comtemplatio – Contemplate the word or phrase; connect the ideas with images. Let God speak to you through it. Ask ourselves, “What conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us?”
Another Method of Lectio Divina
Step 1: Listening to the Word
- One person reads the passage chosen
- Each notes the word or phrase that strikes them
Step 2: Listening in Silence to the Word of God
- Listen in silence to what has struck you.
- What invitations do you hear?
- What answers do you hear?
- Listen to the deepest part of your heart.
- Be sensitive to all the attractions and inclinations of your heart.
- Is it open and welcoming the Word? Resisting?
- What feelings arise? Joy? Fear? Sadness? Etc.
Step 3: Share the Word of God
- Share the word or phrase that struck you.
- Listen in an attitude of reverence.
- No discussion.
Step 4: Listening to the Word again
- A different person reads the same passage
- Each shares the word or phrase that strikes them
Step 5: Responding to the Word of God
- Write a short Prayer or petition.
- Share what you wrote.
Praying With Scripture
(Adapted from Armand Nigro, S.J)
5 “Ps” and 1 “R” for Praying with Scripture
- Pick a Passage
Pick one and have it marked and ready.
Where you are alone and uninhibited in your response to God’s presence.
Relaxed and peaceful. A harmony of body and spirit.
- Presence of God
Be silent and listen. Be aware of God’s presence, and acknowledge God’s presence, and respond to God with whatever feelings arise. If there are no strong feelings, simply acknowledge that God is present and thank Him. When you are ready turn to the scripture passage.
Read the passage very slowly aloud and listen carefully and peacefully to it pausing when something moves you. Listen with your heart as you would to a love-letter. Read aloud or whisper with pauses and repetitions when and where you are drawn. Don’t be anxious; don’t try to look for implications or lessons or profound thoughts or conclusions. Be content to be like a child who climbs into a caring person’s lap and listens to a story. During the prayer exercise and, certainly just before closing, it is helpful to carry on a conversation with God or with Jesus concerning what you hear.
After the period of prayer is over reflect upon the experience of prayer just finished. This review will help you notice what God is doing in your experience. Journaling is a good way to do this for those who like.