Tuesday, January 30, 2007

the centering prayer method #1

Adapted from the writings of Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating

Centering Prayer is rooted in the word of God, both in scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ. Centering Prayer is designed to prepare followers of Christ for contemplative prayer in the traditional sense in which spiritual writers understood that term for the first sixteen centuries of the Christian era. This tradition was summed up by St. Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century. For Gregory, contemplation was both the fruit of reflecting on the word of God in Scripture and a precious gift of God. He called it "resting in God." In this "resting" the mind and heart are not so much seeking God as beginning to experience, "to taste," what they have been seeking. This state is not the suspension of all activity, but the reduction of many acts and reflections to a single act or thought to sustain one's consent to God's presence and action.

It is important not to confuse Centering Prayer with certain Eastern techniques of meditation such as Transcendental Meditation. The use of the Sacred Word in Centering Prayer does not have the particular calming effects attributed to the TM mantra. Nor is the Sacred Word a vehicle to go to the spiritual level of one's being as it is in TM. There is no cause-and-effect relationship between using the Sacred Word and arriving at some altered state of consciousness. The Sacred Word is merely a symbol of our will's consent to God's presence and action within us based on faith in the doctrine of the Divine indwelling. The Sacred Word is simply a means of reaffirming our original intention at the beginning of our period of prayer to be in God's presence and to surrender to the divine action when we are attracted to some other thought, feeling or impression.

Throughout the period of Centering Prayer, our intention predominates--the movement of our will to consent to God's intention, which according to our faith, is to communicate the Divine Life to us. Hence, unlike TM, Centering Prayer is a personal relationship with God, not a technique. Centering Prayer is basically two things at the same time: the deepening of our personal relationship with Christattachments that prevent the development of this relationship and the unfolding of the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. It reduces the tendency to overactivity in prayer and to depending excessively on concepts in order to go to God. In short it reduces the obstacles in us, chiefly selfishness, so that we can be sensitive to the delicate inspirations of the Holy Spirit that lead to divine union.

Next Centering Prayer at Providence UMC: January 31, 2007, 6:30p.m., Chapel.


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