4 Simple Steps to Centering Prayer


(Photo credit: derekbruff)

About a dozen of us came to the church in the dark, an hour before the Sunday morning service, and formed a circle on shabby folding chairs around our teacher. Our expressions were serious and determined. We wanted to learn how to Really Pray. We figured there must be lots to learn, since Sister Shirley’s class would last for six weeks.

I still have the little card she gave us, the one with the instructions. It’s lived for years in my threadbare first Bible. Essentially, Sister Shirley told us, Centering Prayer is as simple and hard as this:

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.

3. When engaged with 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.

Turns out, there wasn’t much more to teach us. The six weeks were more like a support group, meant to get us in the habit. Sister Shirley checked in with each one of us, gently, about how faithful we’d been to our prayer practice over the previous week.

We struggled. Our lives felt too crowded and urgent for silence. Some days, we forgot all about the Centering Prayer thing. Often, we tried to pray and fell asleep instead.

“When that happens,” Sister Shirley instructed, “just thank God for the rest.”

I’m still grappling with these simple instructions. It seems so hard to do so little! And I’m way out of the habit now. I’ve found room in my life for so many more things than just sitting there in thankful enjoyment, in quiet relationship with God.

Which is why I’m glad you’re reading. Sister Shirley knew: these kinds of simple things, it’s hard to do alone. We need each other.

And if you want to use these four simple steps to follow along at home, I’d be delighted. Leave a note in the comments if you’d like to share your experience.

Today’s 15 minutes of prayer: taken on my lunch break, in the training room. Crazy, dreamlike thoughts floated through my mind and I tried not to get stuck in them (with limited success). I think I actually did fall asleep for a minute. When it was over, I mentally conjured Sister Shirley’s expression of patient encouragement.

I’m spending this month blogging with other Faith and Inspiration writers at The Nester’s 31 Days challenge. Here’s the complete list of my posts for the month so far.

8 thoughts on “4 Simple Steps to Centering Prayer

  1. I was taught recently to meditate almost precisely in the same manner as this, and it has worked wonders….at least, when I slot it into my busy life.

    Actually, that’s part of why I really value my bus trips so much: they’re my best shot at getting some of this in. I will try to add these ideas into my meditation/prayer/clear mind time. Thank you!

    • Oh yeah, I really value my commutes for meditation/prayer time too. First, because my mind tends to be fairly free during those times, and second, because they’re part of my regular schedule, so it helps me get into steady habits, where I can reap the greatest benefits, as you say. Glad this was helpful! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Pingback: Step One: Choosing a Word | A Glimpse in the Glass

  3. Pingback: Step Two: Sitting Comfortably | A Glimpse in the Glass

  4. Pingback: Step Three: Letting Go | A Glimpse in the Glass

  5. Pingback: Step Four: Concluding with Silence | A Glimpse in the Glass

  6. Oh how I need this! Pray that I might find a quiet time to centre myself in Him tomorrow that I may have clarity of His purpose. For I am doggedly behind in everything these days, and feel the piles forming deep barriers between myself & my loved ones, and One. Instead of centering, I escape…

    • “For I am doggedly behind in everything these days, and feel the piles forming deep barriers between myself & my loved ones, and One.”

      So well said, Jen. This is my life right now too. Praying that today you will find 15 minutes (or heck, 5 minutes, whatever you can spare in your crazy busy life) and choose refuge in God rather than escape from everything. And would you pray the same for me?

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