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centering prayer

Sunday Reflections, September 21, 2014

By | Sunday Reflections | 4 Comments

Last night felt to me like a great circling together, a gathering of brothers and sisters in Christ, a community serious about rearranging our lives to follow Jesus.  From our coffee and dessert to our prayers of intercession to our sharing of stories, and from our receiving communion to our communal plea that Christ be our everything, God’s presence was palpable.

There is something about solitude, silence, and stillness, isn’t there?  In our world, filled with noise, both audible and visual, moments of silence stand out as places to be filled.  These moments are so discomfiting that when they happen, we reach for the television remote or scroll through our Facebook feed to avoid whatever waits in the silence.

This morning, we all woke up, most likely with our deepest desires still tugging at us, but with the knowledge that Jesus awaits with a response that will point us to him.  I am carrying my rock, the one that represents my desire to belong, into his presence this morning to say once again, “Here.  Here is my deepest longing.  Open my eyes to your presence, Lord.”  And once again, like salve, I hear, “You are my beloved.  You are mine.  I have summoned you by name.  I am with you.  Be still and know.”

What is the desire you are carrying into God’s presence?  If you can name it, try to hold it in your hands, whatever it is, and just say, “Here.  Open my eyes to your presence, Lord.”  And, if you just don’t know yet, that’s okay.  Perhaps your prayer could be more like this, “Father, show me.  Show me, by your grace, my longing.  Open my eyes to your presence, Lord.”

We learned so much last night from those who shared their stories.  Two things stick most in my mind.  First is the image of the wind blowing through the pine trees.  There is something so calming and beautiful to me about that image and I seem to need to place myself somewhere in my mind as I practice.  The second is that the fruit of this practice comes later.  The point is not to seek an experience with God, but to rest in his presence.  The evidence of his presence and movement will be seen in the lives we live.

Did you have a takeaway from last night?  Did one of the words or images that was shared resonate with you?  If you need to place yourself somewhere, what image would you use?

Last thing: I was reminded last night of the importance of community.  Imagine if you had been practicing centering prayer, but had no one around to share with, no one to learn from, no one to just be present with as you process your experience.  Although in some ways centering prayer is a practice of being alone in God’s presence, it is one that is greatly enhanced and enriched by being in community.  Phileena shared her thoughts about this when she was here last week:

Let’s keep practicing centering prayer this week…finding a regular time to simply and humbly “keep company with God”.  Remember what Father Keating said: thoughts are inevitable, integral, and normal.  Don’t resist them, have a friendly attitude toward them as they come, and then let them pass by.

Blessings and grace,

P.S. Here is the Father Keating video we watched last night:  Guidelines for Centering Prayer

Sunday Reflections, September 14, 2014

By | Kingdom Practices, Sunday Reflections | 6 Comments

What a powerful night we had last night as Phileena Heuertz shared her story, taught us the history of contemplative prayer, and led us in the practice of centering prayer.  I am still thinking about these words:

Solitude teaches us how to be present.

Silence teaches us how to listen.

Stillness teaches us how to act.

Phileena taught us that centering prayer is rooted in the doctrine of the divine indwelling and is a process of interior purification.  And, if and when we consent, a union with God.  How beautiful.  One of the key teachings for me was that centering prayer is really not about listening for God’s voice or seeking an experience with him that we can talk about later.  Rather, it is to rest in his presence.  The evidence of God’s movement and presence in our time of centering prayer will be seen in the life that we live.  Over time, we will become more grace-filled, more at peace, less angry, more like Christ.

Download Phileena’s Teaching

The eight minutes of centering prayer was about what I expected.  The first couple minutes were, well, excruciating.  I couldn’t settle in and my thoughts flooded the space.  But then I said my phrase, “Here I am.”   More thoughts came.  As Phileena said, “the mind has thoughts like the heart has beats.”  So true.  I must have said, “Here I am” at least 250 times during that eight minutes.  Nothing magical happened in those moments, at least not that I felt.  I have a sense though, that God was at work.  I trust that he was.

Our time at the table, receiving communion, reminded me of the restoration Jesus offers and throughout that time, I said my sacred phrase again and again, “Here I am.”  “Here I am.”  I watched as we all lined up to receive, our collective, “Here we are, Lord” demonstrated, although not uttered.  There is not much else to say.   “Here we are.”

I can’t wait for my centering prayer time tomorrow.  Solitude.  Silence.  Stillness.  Here I am.  Would you be willing to join me this week?  Let’s just try 15 minutes every day this week.  (If you want to ease your way in, that’s okay too, but by Wednesday or so, try 15)  Here’s one way you might try:

one.  Sit in an upright, attentive posture and place your hands in your lap.

two.  Close your eyes and bring to mind your sacred word or image as your way of consenting to the presence and action of God within you.  Choose a name for God, a characteristic of God, or a word that symbolizes consent.

three.  With your eyes closed, recall your sacred word or image to begin.  As you notice your thoughts, gently return to your sacred word.  Do this each time your notice your thoughts.

four.  When your prayer time is over, transition slowly from your prayer practice to your active life.

If you want to know more about centering prayer, check out the many resources at Gravity Center’s website.  Thomas Keating’s book Open Mind, Open Heart, is also a must-have.

Last thing, Phileena reminded me that she just started a new blog series that will explore the themes in her book, Pilgrimage of the Soul, so take a look at that to follow along.  

Peace to you all,

Sunday Reflections, September 7, 2014

By | Sunday Reflections | 4 Comments

Here Are My Desires

Last night we started our journey into the practices of silence and centering prayer as a first step out of the noise of our rushed, over-scheduled lives and into communion with God.  I don’t know about you, but the first couple segments of silence were a struggle for me as I tried to still my mind and my body.  I had a hard time remembering the instructions for the Lectio through Matthew 11:28-30, caught up as I was in unrelated, distracting thoughts.

But as we continued, I began to imagine myself walking toward Jesus, wondering what I would say when he asked me, “What do you want me to do for you?”  My mind engaged again and did what it does – churns, figures, concludes.  I longed to turn off the analytics, tried to listen to the depths of my heart, tried to listen for what God might say.  My mind finally relented and I found myself in His presence.

My answer came.  My deep desire, the one below the surface, flickered just enough for me to name it: belonging.  There it was.  Belonging.  Of course, there are a thousand ways my mind could analyze and critique and strategize a way to fulfill this desire.  I am choosing a different way, though.  I believe God is at the heart of this desire to belong, but I don’t always see him there and I don’t always seek him there.

Download the Teaching and Practice here

So, this week, I am going to hold this desire before God.  I will practice as we did last night.  I will create space for silence in his presence and pray the very simple prayer, “Here.”  By “here”, I will mean, “Father, here is my desire, my longing.  I give it to you.  I want it to compel me into your presence and draw me closer to you.  Here.”

Would you join me in this practice of silence and prayer?  Try setting aside 15 minutes three times this week to hold your desire in God’s presence.  Using the sheet you wrote your desire on last night is a way to physically hold something.  Or, you could write your desire on a stone and hold it in your palms.  Or, simply open your hands.  Then, pray the simple prayer, “Here.”  When your mind starts to run, just say the word again to bring you back, “Here.”  Then, just listen.



The music we played last night during the reflection time was O Magnum Mysterium, performed by the Nordic Chamber Choir in case it helps you.

Also, to learn more about contemplative and centering prayer, check out Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating.