While living in Hawaii, the scent of Plumeria flowers permeated our yard and infused the air with a kind of lingering sweetness that stirred up within me a sense of gratitude for the gift of life. It also serves as a metaphor to me for the permeating presence of the Divine (or the Sacred or Holy) in all human experience.
My spirituality is rooted in the practice of contemplative prayer, and specifically a prayer method known as Centering Prayer, because this is the spiritual practice that I have found to be most nourishing to my soul. Like other people of faith, I naturally also say many other quick prayers throughout each day – prayers of intercession for the needs of people with whom I have some relationship, as well as prayers for the common good of society and our world. Yet I return again and again to the simple practice of “resting in God” that is the essence of Centering Prayer. I think I am drawn to this form of prayer communication because it is the most reassuring and restorative for me. It is less about my own process of thinking or feeling, and more about simply trusting in the sweetness of this life that is imbued with holiness and beauty because it is born within God!
Recently I was touched by something Father Thomas Keating wrote about the theological basis for Centering Prayer in his book Intimacy with God:
“Where does Centering Prayer come from? Its source is the Trinity dwelling within us. It is rooted in God’s life within us. I don’t think that we reflect about this truth nearly enough. With baptism comes the entire uncreated presence of the most holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We participate as human beings in God’s life just by being alive, but much more through grace…. This stream of divine love that is constantly renewed in the life of the Trinity is infused into us through grace. We know this by our desire for God. That desire, however it may be battered by the forces of daily life, manifests itself in the effort that we make to develop a life of prayer and a life of action that is penetrated by prayer.” ~ Thomas Keating
It is important to say that Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other forms of prayer. Rather it casts them in a new light and reminds us of the need to listen for the movement of the Spirit within us and around us. It recasts our actions into prayerful actions.
Here is a simple outline for a period (20 to 40 minutes) of Centering Prayer:
- Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word.
- When engaged with thoughts, gently return to the sacred word.
- At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
May God bless you as you seek to be present to the Sacred amidst the ordinary!
Words (c) 2013 Mark Lloyd Richardson