There has been a long history of Christian mystics that have closely followed what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount about how to pray. This passage is the most direct reference by Jesus to meditation that is recorded in the New Testament:
"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."
Matthew 6: 5-6 New American Bible
Centering Prayer as an 11th Step Practice
The following presentation on Centering Prayer, a practice of Christian meditation, has been developed and is taught by Contemporary Outreach, a spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities, living the contemplative dimension of Christian life through the practice of Centering Prayer.
Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
- In our quest to improve our conscious contact with God through meditation, Bill W. wrote that there are “no boundaries either of width or height.”
- The method of Centering Prayer has received growing acceptance as a key stepping stone toward fulfillment of the spiritual requirements of step 11.
The primary source for the information presented here on Centering Prayer is from the book Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating.
Here are the Centering Prayer concepts that we will cover on this page and the quick links to get you there:
What is Prayer?
- Prayer is a relationship with God – a Power greater than ourselves.
- We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words (e.g., vocal, reflective or spontaneous).
- These are not the only expressions of prayer.
- In the ancient Aramaic language, the word for prayer means “to open oneself” and “to listen to the Divine Presence.”
- Prayer in that context was not necessarily saying words, but rather is closer to what we call contemplation.
What is Contemplative Prayer?
- A pure gift of God in everyone, but for many, it remains an unopened present
- An interior transformation process initiated by God and leading, if we consent, to divine union
- An opening of our minds and hearts to God beyond thoughts, words and emotions
- Simply resting in the presence of God
- Our desire for God is also God’s gift to us
Centering Prayer is...
A method designed to facilitate the development of contemplative prayer.
Based on the ancient wisdom saying: “…when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Prayer is opening ourselves to a deeper relationship with God. This relationship with God develops through a process of growing intimacy.
Growth in a Relationship
The following chart illustrates a dynamic stages and process of relationship:
|With A Person & With God||
Expressed in Prayer
|Acquaintanceship||Vocal Prayer (Serenity prayer)|
|Friendliness||Reflective (developing a daily prayer practice)|
|Friendship||Responsive (spontaneous prayer from the heart)|
Just as relationship grows with people, so can a relationship with God, especially through a meditation practice such as Centering Prayer
Centering Prayer is:
- A relationship with God
- The discipline is constantly at the service of this relationship
- A movement beyond conversation with God to communion with God
- Preparation for us to open the gift of contemplation
- Not meant to replace other kinds of prayer
- A connection to our source the Indwelling God
- Focuses on a deepening of our relationship with God
- Provides the Fruits of emotional balance, a sense of belonging, and fellowship
Centering Prayer is both
- a relationship with God, a Power greater than ourselves
- a discipline in total service to deepening this relationship
The whole 12 step program is a movement from being self-centered to God-centered. Centering prayer is in the service of this action.
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently, introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within
3. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes
“Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.”
- Sacred word expresses our intention to consent
- It is sacred only because of its intention (no inherent meaning)
- Intention and consent are the heart and soul of Centering Prayer
What is God’s presence and action?
- God’s presence is the divine life within us which affirms our basic core of goodness
- God’s action is the grace of the transformation process
The Sacred Word
The sacred word is a word of one or two syllables
- A few examples
- God, Father, Mother, Abba
- Faith, Yes, Let Go, Let God
- Peace, Be Still, Listen, Shalom
- Hope, Love, Breath, Home
“Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.”
- Sitting comfortably … back straight
- With eyes closed … as a symbol of “letting go”
- Silently say your sacred word… as a symbol
of your intention and consent
“When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the Sacred Word.”
- “Thoughts” is an umbrella term for every perception, including body sensations, feelings, images, memories, plans, reflections, concepts, commentaries, and spiritual experiences
- Thoughts are inevitable, integral and normal
- “When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently…” — a minimum effort is indicated
“At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.”
- The additional time enables us to gently bring silence into everyday life
- Minimum time 20 minutes
- Practice two periods of Centering Prayer daily
Practical Ways to Deepen our Relationship with God
- Practice two 20 – 30 minute periods of Centering Prayer daily
- Attend the remaining six continuing sessions of this Introduction to the Centering Prayer Practice
- Join an ongoing Centering Prayer group and attend 11th step meetings
- Study Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating and other spiritual literature
Contemplative Outreach along with the local chapters provide Introductory Workshops and Retreats throughout the year. You may visit their site to find one near you....just click here.
There is growing participation in Centering Prayer by members in 12 Step programs. To learn more about 12 Step Outreach program through Contemplative Outreach....just click here.
There are local Contemplative Outreach Chapters located worldwide. These chapters host Centering Prayers groups that meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis in cities near you. This is a great way to learn and practice your 11th Step Meditation. To find these meetings visit the local chapter web site nearest you. for a listing of the local Contemplative Outreach Chapters near you....just click here.