Posts Tagged Centering prayer
Lectio Divina is a slow, contemplative praying of the Scripture. Time set aside for Lectio Divina enables us to discover an underlying spiritual rhythm in our daily life. Within this framework, we create the ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Spirit, and to accept the embrace God continuously extends to us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Quietude helps us to recognize that our concerns, relationships, hopes and aspirations naturally intertwine when we clear away the business of our lives and replace it with the recitation of scripture. In listening “with the ear of our hearts” we experience Christ reaching out to us through our own thoughts and memories. Our own personal story becomes the prayer we seek.
How to Practice Lectio Divina
- Choose a text from the Scriptures you wish to pray. Many seekers use in their daily Lectio Divina one of the readings from the Eucharistic liturgy for the day; others prefer to slowly work through a particular book of the Bible. It makes no difference which text is chosen, as long as one has no set goal of “covering” a certain amount of text. The amount of text covered is in God’s hands, not yours.
- Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some seekers focus for a few moments on their breathing; others have a beloved “prayer word” or “prayer phrase” they gently recite.. For some, the practice known as “centering prayer” makes a good, brief introduction to Lectio Divina. Use whatever method is best for you and allow yourself to enjoy silence for a few moments.
- Turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” that somehow says, “I am for you today.” Do not expect either miracles or ecstasies. In Lectio Divina, God is teaching us to listen to him, to seek him in silence. He does not reach out and grab us; rather, he gently invites us more deeply into his presence.
- Take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to mingle with your inner world of concerns, memories, and ideas. Do not be afraid of distractions. Memories or thoughts are simply parts of yourself that, when they rise up during Lectio Divina, are asking to be given to God along with the rest of your inner self. Allow this inner rumination to invite you into dialogue with God.
- Speak to God. Whether you use words, ideas, or images–or all three–is not important. Interact with God as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. Give to Spirit what you have discovered during your meditation. Experience God by using the word or phrase he has given you as a means of blessing and of transforming the ideas and memories that your reflection on his word has awakened.
- Rest in God’s embrace. When he invites you to return to your contemplation of his word or to your inner dialogue with him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.Many times in Lectio Divina, you may return to the printed text, either to savor the literary context of a word or phrase that God has given or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. Other times, only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for meditation. It is not necessary to assess anxiously the quality of your meditation as if you were “performing” or seeking some goal. Lectio Divina has no goal other than that of being in the presence of God in the praying of Scrip
A Christian Meditation Technique
Centering Prayer is a meditation technique which works primarily with the repetition of a sacred word or formula. It is a silent, non-conceptual form prayer and therefore different from conventional spoken prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer or mentally repeated prayers. The practice of centering prayer seeks to still the activity of the mind in order to experience a loving awareness of God’s presence.
What Is Centering Prayer?
Centering Prayer can be summed up in four steps.
1. Choose a sacred word or phrase such as “Abba,” “Jesus,” “Shalom” or “Love.”
2. Sit with eyes closed and begin repeating the chosen sacred word.
3. When ever other thoughts arise, keep coming back to the sacred word.
4. At the end of your prayer, remain in silence for a while, observing your breathing
Sacred Words for Centering Prayer
Possible sacred words or phrases for Centering Prayer are “Jesus,” “Christos,” “Jesus Christ,” “Father,” “Abba,” “God,” “Mother,” “Mother Mary,”God Mother,” “Amen,” “God.” Other possibilities are “Love,” “Peace,” “Mercy,” “Listen,” “Yes.”
It is also possible to use sacred words from other religious traditions such as “Shalom,” “Salam,” and “Allah.” Suitable longer phrases would be “Kyrie eleison,” “Christe eleison,” “Lord have mercy,” “Christ have mercy,” and “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me.”
How to Practice Centering Prayer
Centering Prayer is usually practiced just like any other sitting meditation. Find a comfortable sitting posture. This could be any posture in which you can sit comfortably for the length of the prayer while keeping your spine upright. You may sit cross-legged, in half or full lotus posture or simply on a chair.
Repeating a Sacred Word or Phrase
Now begin to silently repeat the chosen sacred word or phrase in your mind. It may be helpful to link this repetition to the rhythm of your breath, for example repeating shalom with each in- and out-breath. The word or phrase can also be split, repeating “sha-” while breathing in and “–lom” when breathing out, or breathing in “Jesus” and breathing out “Christ.”
Practical Tips for Centering Prayer
When any other thoughts, feelings or sensations arise during the practice, simply return your attention to the sacred word or phrase. Do this in a gentle but persistent manner. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence for a while, keeping your eyes closed and possibly observing your breath.
Before coming out of your meditation, start breathing deeper and more actively and become aware of your surroundings. You might also want to stretch your arms, yawn, sigh or rub your eyes before opening your eyes. You may choose to end your practice by saying a short prayer.
The Essentials of Centering Prayer
Centering Prayer is a Christian approach to meditation. It is one form of Contemplative Prayer, working with the repetition of a sacred word or phrase. By calming, concentrating and ultimately emptying the mind, it seeks to develop a direct awareness of the Divine.
As the German Mystic Meister Eckhart put it: “To be empty of things is to be full of God.” In Centering Prayer, one doesn’t use the mind to reflect on Bible texts or spiritual truths but rather seeks to go beyond the mind itself to directly experience God. It is a Christian practice very similar to the Hindu practice of mantra japa.
Keating, Thomas. Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer.
The Crossroad Publishing Company; Third edition, 2009.
The Loving Search for God: Contemplative Prayer and the Cloud of Unknowing
Continuum Publishing Company; Third Edition, 2007
Contemplative Prayer – Thomas Merton
Bantam Doubleday Publishing, 1996
Related Articles and Videos:
- Contemplation: Prayer in the Christian Tradition – Finding Sanctuary (oblosb.wordpress.com)
- Praying Scripture (challies.com)