When you listen to God in prayer, what will be freely given to you? Grace will be God’s gift. To listen to God, you must first quiet yourself and cease using your words. We think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one vehicle of prayer. In the Christian tradition, Contemplative Prayer or Centering Prayer is considered to be the pure gift of God. It is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words, and emotions. Through grace, we open our awareness to God, whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself.
When I pray using Centering Prayer, I begin by closing my eyes, hands up, legs uncrossed, listening to my breathing, I chant silently: “My heart and mind are open, Come Lord Jesus, Come. Come, Holy Spirit, Come.” If Centering Prayer is not in your prayer repertoire, then I invite you to take courage and try something new; knowing that it is one our most ancient forms of prayer. I vow this practice of contemplative prayer will intensify and deepen your life of prayer. Centering Prayer is based on the wisdom saying of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, found in Mathew 6:6: “…But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your God in secret. And God, who sees in secret, will reward you.” Centering Prayer invites you to be still and silent before your God. One must allow their prayers to have no words and instead of your familiar litany, you become silent and allow God to hear what is truly in your heart. Sometimes, your brokenness is so deeply buried within your heart, possibly even hidden from your conscious mind that it is in your quiet before God, where God will be allowed to help you face and heal what you have buried.
Grace and a peace that surpasses all understanding comes and grows within our being, when we mature in our life of prayer, to a place where breathing in and breathing out becomes the rhythm of our silent petitions and thanksgivings to God. This practice of listening to God requires that you “unplug,” from the secular world that drives your every move. We all struggle with being still and quiet before God. You may say that you need to tell God aloud what you need, or offer thanks, or to share your fears, hopes, and dreams. In The Holy Gospel, according to John, (John 13:34) Jesus gives the disciples and us the Great New Commandment, which ensures that we are loved by God, before we even know that we need to be held or forgiven. To listen to God, you have to deeply desire this level of intimacy with God because it is not easy to attain. If you have issues with control, then this form of prayer will challenge you to your very depths. When I lead Spiritual Direction, there have been some before me that have felt that Centering Prayer deems itself insurmountable, as it requires the prayer to abandon all control. What is difficult in the beginning becomes your holy place that you long to rest in, as you will grow to feel as if you are resting in the arms of Christ.