As Christians, we pray. We pray multiple times each Sunday in both worship services, but we who are leading the worship services pray before each one. A small, but dedicated group, meets before worship to pray. In Sunday School, we pray. In choir practice, we pray. At WOW, we pray. In our daily devotional lives, we pray. Some people begin each day with a prayer and end each day with a prayer. When we are in the hospital or worried about something or have something else on our minds, we pray. Sometimes, we pray for forgiveness when we realize we really need it. Prayer is a central part of who we are as followers of Christ.
The question for some people is how do we pray? The answer is there is no one, right way to pray. Prayer is about communing with God. It is best when it is honest, open, and sincere. God already knows what we are thinking, so why would we try to deceive the one who made everything that is? The key to prayer is communicating with God and listening.
Since there is no single, correct way to pray, there are different ways to approach our maker. Our bulletin includes a breath prayer each week. This is a simple phrase that can be repeated in prayer and take on new meaning as it is repeated over and over again throughout the week. There is also lectio divina which means holy reading. In order to practice lectio divina, we can take a scripture passage and read it as a prayer. Keep the passage short, and repeat it. Read it slowly. Let the words sink in and then offer them as a prayer. Scripture can take powerful, new meaning when we read it this way.
With so many kinds of prayers, why look at one that might be new or unfamiliar? The intent is to grow closer to God. Centering prayer is an approach to a time of prayer. Instead of saying anything, we focus on God and listen. We try to empty our minds and hear our Lord speak. Basil Pennington writes about it in his book Centering Prayer (New York: Image Books, 1982). He writes, “Centering prayer enables us not only to pray as Christians but to pray as Christ” (p. 223), and he cites Galatians 2:2, “I live, not now I, but Christ in me.” Prayer can help us let go of ourselves, our own thoughts and feelings, and join the very depth of our being with Christ.
Thomas Keating offers these suggested steps for trying centering prayer:
1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
2. Sitting comfortably, introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
3. When you become aware of anything, return to focus on God using your sacred word.
4. At the end of the prayer, remain in silence with your eyes close for a couple of minutes.
Our prayers are a response to reality, a life that really exists, and they are offered to a God who really exists. Centering prayer is a tool that can allow us to focus our attention on God in order to more closely relate and hear the leading of our Lord.