Lenten Practice: Centering Prayer
Daily Act: Consider those who need to experience the peace of God’s presence. Schedule a time to visit someone who may be lonely or isolated. Repeat this week’s prayer phrase throughout your day.
Weekly Prayer Phrase:
I DWELL IN YOU AS THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE.
Today’s post is a reflection on the practice of Centering Prayer written by Dustin Davis, a member of the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Team. What are your reflections from this week’s practice?
by Dustin Davis
“God faithfully comes into any bit of space we create for [God].” – Ruth Barton
My time of centering prayer begins in the morning after I’ve eaten breakfast, showered and gotten dressed and packed my bag for work. (I find that I’m too distracted if I try to do this before I’m ready for the day.) I sit in my chair near a window and light a small candle. I get comfortable, feet on the floor, hands resting on the arms of the chair. I offer a two-sentence prayer before I begin. “God, thank you for this time of prayer into which I am about to enter. May I rest in your presence.” I set the timer on my phone for 18 minutes and set it aside. I close my eyes, breathe deeply and do my best to focus on my prayer words Be Still as my attention to God starts to drift or as other thoughts float past. Sometimes it takes longer on some days than on others, but what happens next, as I fall into the company of God and simply be, is a mystery.
When I go running in the mornings it changes the way I feel for the rest of the day. I’m more alert, have a better attitude and just generally feel better. I have noticed that Centering Prayer has largely the same effects. Our lives are so busy, so packed full of stimulation that we rarely take the time to just be. This is certainly not a new observation in the spiritual life, but how refreshing – and culturally subversive – to go against the norm and purposefully pause.
A favorite author of mine, Ruth Barton, talks about the importance of creating sacred space and sacred rhythms in our lives as part of Christian discipleship. One of the themes in her writings that I particularly like is this idea that God uses any time and space we create for God, no matter how big, no matter how small. What a freeing thought! For me I find release in this promise from my false expectations of many spiritual practices and even the larger picture of spiritual transformation. In the light of this promise I am free to let God work as long I make the space.
The Centering Prayer is a humble practice, and this, I think, is what makes it so rejuvenating and so different from other prayers. The fact that it doesn’t rely on my words is liberating and freeing for me. Words are powerful and important to me, and I have a tendency to get hung up on them. (I won’t tell you how many times I’ve re-written this paragraph!) Prayers with words can easily become literary exercises, carefully designed to impress or sound sophisticated even if that is not our intention. In sharp contrast, the Centering Prayer requires only my willingness to be still and instead relies most heavily on God. This is a humble stance to take, one we don’t often assume when we are sponsoring an event at the church or preaching or simply offering the invocation. Spiritual transformation isn’t something we can do by ourselves, despite our best efforts. We foster atmospheres and cultures where we are open to God, but at the end of the day spiritual transformation is the work of God. It is a mystery and a miracle.
As we journey through Lent to the promise of new life I am encouraged by the fact that it is God who creates the new life. Don’t misunderstand me in this. It takes work from me, too, hard work and discipline and often times courage to risk something new. But to surrender to the mysterious work of God is to surrender to the reality that something good is stirring within me. Just as a caterpillar enters into the chrysalis we, too, enter into a time of serious spiritual reflection, and if we simply rest in God’s presence and let God work, we will emerge transformed and as beautiful as the butterfly.