There’s literally nothing to Centering Prayer – that’s one of the reasons why I like it. You don’t have to buy special equipment, memorize mantras, or decorate a prayer room. You just find a quiet place (or quiet-ish, if you live a noise-polluted city life like me) and close your eyes and go for it.
Centering Prayer is also refreshing because it’s not about trying to do something. Particularly because I work in customer service, which involves continual efforts to remain Happy to Help You Today, it’s so refreshing to sit before God and drop whatever act I’ve been putting on. Refreshing, but also scary, because it’s so vulnerable. That’s why my mind tries so many crazy acrobatics to try to avoid actually being genuine.
But like with any true friendship, the more time you spend on it, the more you learn that it really is okay to be yourself. I can sit there and do everything wrong, get distracted eight thousand times in fifteen minutes, and all I have to do is just guide my mind back to the moment. It doesn’t matter how man times I mess up, because this isn’t some kind of performance, it’s a relationship.
There’s this passage in Philippians, a poem really, that talks about how much Jesus humbled himself to live a life on earth. “Emptied himself” is the literal phrase. When I first read a close translation of that, the question popped into my mind: Emptied himself… to make room for what?
The answer came immediately. I knew from experience: All our burdens.
That is the best part of prayer. When that moment happens that I feel my burden lift, the burden of trying to be good, of getting frustrated with myself for not being good, trying again, unable to get off the rollercoaster of supposed accomplishments and setbacks.
I sit with God and I realize that whole game is irrelevant. These crazy attempts at self-improvement are a burden I don’t have to bear. I feel my heavy expectations lift from my shoulders like someone took away a backpack of rocks. I don’t have to be good. I just have to be – in the presence of the One who is good, who has the power to change me for the better.
Today’s fifteen minutes of prayer: Conference room again, afternoon break. I felt heavy, discouraged, helpless, and I felt those burdens get lighter as I sat and breathed and practiced just being. What more could I ask for?