Recently, more and more people are becoming interested in learning how to do centering prayer. This is a prayer technique that is based on the traditions and teachings of the Christian church. In this method of prayer, participants attempt to let go of all thoughts, emotions, memories, and sensations. The goal is to quiet the mind in order to better experience God’s presence within. When this state is achieved, one is said to be “resting in God”. Here are the basic steps of centering prayer.
The following are the basic steps:
1. Choose a sacred word, which symbolizes your intention to be open to God’s presence within. You might, for instance, pick “love”, “God”, “peace”, or “Father” as your sacred word. The word itself is not important, but rather the intention behind it.
2. Sit down in a quiet, comfortable place with your eyes closed and silently invoke the chosen word to indicate your desire to awaken yourself to God’s presence within you.
3. Return to the chosen word to dispel thoughts when they arise and bring your focus back to God.
4. End your prayer session by sitting quietly for a few moments before opening your eyes again.
Prayer can be practiced privately, or with a partner or group. Most people prefer private practice, however, if there is a prayer group in your area, you should consider praying with the group on occasion. Many people find these groups to be a great support, and a good way to encourage perseverance.
How Long Should You Pray?
Ideally, centering prayer should be a daily practice. Many people find it beneficial to practice for twenty minutes a day, twice a day, although some people pray for longer than this. You may start with one session in the morning and practice a second session later on in the day, or if you can only spare the time for one session, you may extend this one session whenever possible.
If you are a beginner, you may find it difficult to practice even for just a few minutes, so start off slowly and gradually increase the frequency and duration of your sessions as your practice develops.
Invoking the Sacred Word
When praying, the object is not to focus on the sacred word, but rather to use it as a tool to disengage from your thoughts. You should not repeat the sacred word over and over again in your mind like a chant, as doing so would make the word, and not God’s presence, the focus of your prayer. It should lie lightly in your mind, there to clear your thoughts when you need it but not the focus of your attention.
Many people find it difficult to clear their mind of distractions, especially when they are new to the practice. The past way to get past this is to continue your practice. As you do, you will become better at quieting your mind. The other thing you can do is accept your thoughts when they come, which will also help you let them pass through you more easily. As you do, you will be better able to seek God’s presence within you and be open to His grace.