Centering prayer is one way of moving away from, or beyond, “conversation with God” and simply responding to the desire of your heart for deeper communion with the Divine. When we practice centering prayer, we intentionally make space to seek and find God in silence. Centering prayer is drawn from the long history of Christian contemplative prayer, including the practices of the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the 3rd century.
There is no single “right way” to pray like this but we have found the following suggestions helpful.
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted and a way of sitting, kneeling, lying that allows you to concentrate.
- Have a timer, and pen and paper (or their equivalent) to hand.
- Spend a few moments relaxing your body and mind. Breathe in and out gently at your own pace.
- Choose a positive word or very short phrase (sometimes called the “sacred word”) as a way of symbolizing your consent to the Divine presence and action within you, and of your own desire for closer communion with God. It can be any positive word or short phrase with which you feel comfortable and that reminds you to be present to God. Some examples might be: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Abba, Father, Mother, Comforter, Love, Listen, Peace, Mercy, Let Go, Silence, Stillness, Faith, Trust, Holy, Glory.
- Set your timer initially for two or three minutes maximum. Breathe in and out at your own natural pace and repeat the word or phrase silently in your mind as a way of focusing on God.
- It is perfectly normal to have all kinds of thoughts pop into your head as you try and concentrate like this. Don’t start judging yourself, or characterise yourself as a “bad pray-er”, or “no good at this sort of thing”! Simply let the thought float away and bring your attention back to your sacred word again. Occasionally, a thought is so urgent or relates to something so vital that you wont be able to concentrate further until you make a quick note of it – hence the need for pen and paper.
- Sometimes, you start meditation with a particular word or phrase and you discover after a minute or so that it feels like the “wrong” word for that moment. Simply stop for a while, choose another word or phrase that feels “right” and carry on.
- When the timer goes, ask yourself – did that feel like an appropriate amount of time? Too short, too long? Adjust the amount of time accordingly for the next occasion, but don’t set yourself impossible targets – 10 minutes is a good target to aim for eventually.
- A note of caution – this kind of prayer is simply a way of being open to God. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel anything in particular and it is not about having a “successful” , or a “good” prayer time. It is about your availability to God’s presence.