The spiritual discipline of Centering Prayer

The spiritual discipline of Centering Prayer

Rev. Julia Metcalf

As we pass through Lent, we are approached once again with the call to journey into the wilderness. The wilderness or the desert place is a metaphorical space where we can find ourselves in solitude with the Holy Trinity. In this spiritual discipline series, we have explored how solitude and silence allow us to commune with God in an intimate way and remind us of our identity as beloved children of God. Breath Prayer and Lectio Divina are active practices that we can utilize in our quiet moments with God. Another prayer practice that Christians can carry into their discipline of solitude and silence is called Centering Prayer.

Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing (breath prayer) and closer than thinking (Lectio Divina). Father Thomas Keating, an American monk, who just passed away in 2018, was one of the key teachers and developers of centering prayer. He taught that “Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.” Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer, but rather, “facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer — verbal and mental prayer — into a receptive prayer of resting in God.”

The steps of Centering Prayer do not look unlike some meditation practices you might come across. However, Centering Prayer is uniquely and purposefully focused on the person of Christ and communion with him. For anyone that struggles sitting still and silently for more than 30 seconds, you are in good company. Please know that no one will do this practice perfectly, and that is not the goal. The goal, rather, is to simply present yourself to Christ. When we make room to be still and be present with him, we are communicating to Christ, ourselves, and those around us that being still and knowing God through communion with him is an important and life-giving pursuit. This discipline also fosters our surrender, dependence and trust in Christ Jesus as we seek to completely lay aside our agendas, tasks, ability to prove, desire to fix, etc.

I encourage you to start with just two minutes in this practice and as you give yourself to it over time, you can add additional minutes. Here are the simple steps:

Centering Prayer steps:

  1. Take a centering breath and ask the Holy Spirit to come.
  2. Ask for a sacred word or image as the symbol of your intention to commune with God’s presence and action within.
  3. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word or image as the focus and anchor of this time.
  4. Be still and rest in the presence of Christ. When thoughts arise (which is natural and OK), return ever-so-gently to the sacred word or image.
  5. At the end of the prayer period (you might like to set a timer), remain in silence with eyes closed as you start to wiggle your fingers and toes, bringing yourself back to the present space and moment.

Read more about spiritual practices in Rev. Metcalf’s article series at these links:

About the author: Rev. Julia Metcalf oversees the Next Generation Ministry. She is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary where she received a Master of Divinity in 2020. She is very interested in the spiritual disciplines and how they can enrich our faith journeys, as well as what personal relationship with Jesus Christ looks like for both young and old. Julia serves on the board of directors of Camp Loughridge and serves as a mentor to the Oklahoma Student Leadership Forum.