Frequently Asked Questions
This page contains answers to Frequently Asked Questions, along with some tips and tricks that we have found useful and presented here as questions.
- What are the basics of centering prayer?
- What Centering Prayer Is and Is Not
- Ways to Deepen Our Relationship with God
- Where can I find more about the method of centering prayer?
- Do I have to be a certain religious denomination to participate?
- Is there a National Office?
- Who can I contact about setting up an introductory workshop at my church or for a group of people?
What are the basics of centering prayer?
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action within.
First think of a sacred word, we call it sacred only because it is your word and symbolizes your intention to consent to God's presence and action within. It should be one or two syllables such as Peace, Father, Mother, Abba, Silence, Love, Calm, Yes, etc. Having chosen the sacred word we do not change it during the prayer period because that would be to start thinking again.
2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God's presence and action within.
Whatever sitting position we choose, we keep the back straight. We close our eyes as a symbol of letting go of what is going on around and within us. We gently introduce the sacred word. If we fall asleep, upon awakening we continue the prayer.
3. When engaged with your thoughts return ever so gently to the sacred word.
"Thoughts" is an umbrella term for every perception including sense perceptions, feelings, images, memories, plans, reflections, concepts, commentaries and spiritual experiences. Thoughts are a normal part of centering prayer. We are not fighting thoughts or trying to change our thoughts. We let them come and go, and let them be. When returning to the sacred word, a minimum effort is needed. This is the only activity we do during centering prayer.
What Centering Prayer Is and Is Not
a. It is not a technique but a way of cultivating a deeper relationship with God.
b. It is not a relaxation exercise but it may be quite refreshing.
c. It is not a form of self-hypnosis but a way to quiet the mind while maintaining its alertness.
d. It is not a charismatic gift but a path of transformation.
e. It is not a para-psychological experience but an exercise of faith, hope, and selfless love.
f. It is not limited to the "felt" presence of God but is rather a deepening of faith in God's abiding presence.
g. It is not reflective or spontaneous prayer, but simply resting in God beyond thoughts, words, and emotions.
Ways to Deepen Our Relationship with God
- Practice two 20-30 minute periods of Centering Prayer daily.
- Listen to the Word of God in Scripture and study Open Mind, Open Heart by Fr. Thomas Keating.
- Select one or two of the specific practices for everyday life as suggested in Open Mind, Open Heart,
- Join a weekly Centering Prayer Group.
a. It encourages the members of the group to persevere in their individual practices.
b. It provides an opportunity for further input on a regular basis through tapes, readings, and discussion.
c. It offers an opportunity to support and share the spiritual journey.
Where can I find more about the method of centering prayer?
Contemplative Outreach Ltd has a host of resources on their web site. One resource addresses the method of centering prayer: The Method of Centering Prayer
You can also read "Open Mind, Open Heart" by Father Thomas Keating, attend a Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop, or attend a weekly Prayer Group in your area.
Do I have to be a certain religious denomination to participate?
No. We identify with the Christian Contemplative Heritage. While we are formed by our respective denominations, we are united in our common search for God and the experience of the living Christ through Centering Prayer. We affirm our solidarity with the contemplative dimension of other religions and sacred traditions, with the needs and rights of the whole human family, and with all creation.
Is there a National Office?
Yes. To look at the Contemplative Outreach Ltd website, Click Here.
Who can I contact about setting up an introductory workshop at my church or for a group of people?