Recently, I facilitated an online day of reflection and a participant asked me, “Why do you practice Centering Prayer?” I rarely get asked a question so personal, and so naturally I gave a completely off-the-cuff answer. The conference was recorded, so I grabbed the footage where I answered the question, and made the following video.
Here’s what I said…
Why do I do Centering Prayer? In response to the love of God.
I believe God loves me, I have been graced with a few moments where I have had a profound sense of being loved by G0d.
I’m in love with the Christian story, I’m in love with the stories of the great mystics. I believe those stories help me to receive the love of God.
So I’m just thirsty, I’m thirsty for divine love and I believe this is a tremendous way to access it. Not the only way, maybe not even the best way, but certainly the best way, or at least a very good way for me.
Now that I’ve had a little bit of time to think about it, here’s what I would add to this:
First, I should point out that when I speak about my sense that God loves “me,” I was not trying to suggest that somehow I have a “special” relationship with God. I was simply answering the question: Why do I practice Centering Prayer, so naturally my answer reflects my own spirituality.
But I want to go on the record of saying, what I believe and sense to be true for me, is equally true for everyone.
God loves us. So, yes, God loves me — and you, and everyone else.
Centering Prayer is a way of responding to the love of God, a love that has been poured into hearts through the Holy Spirit.
I go on to point out that I have been blessed with several moments where I had a profound awareness or sense of God’s love in my life. I’ve written about several of these, both here on this blog and in some of my books (you can read about one of these “peak moments” here).
But Centering Prayer isn’t about having nifty experiences of God. In fact, it’s a way of praying that doesn’t rely of experiences or feelings at all, but rather operates out of a deep gesture of trust — that God is truly in our hearts and can be truly encountered in silence, even if we don’t “experience” God’s presence in a conscious way at all.
Then I talk about how much I love the story of Christianity and the stories of the great mystics. I could have added I also love the culture of our spiritual traditions — the music, art, icons, sacraments, literature, architecture, and other trappings of spiritual practice that have been created over the years, all with one common purpose: to help us, as individuals and as a community, to cultivate a sense of being loved by God and being called to respond to that love.
I acknowledge that I’m thirsty for divine love — I believe we all are, even if we don’t know it (and even if consciously we say we don’t believe in God). For me, and for many people, praying in the silence that Centering Prayer invites us into, is a way to quench that thirst for the divine presence. Maybe it’s not the only way or the best way to slake our thirst for God, but it’s a way — and a way that has been profoundly meaningful for me.
If you’re new to Centering Prayer, and would like to learn more about it, I would recommend these books:
- Thomas Keating, Open Mind Open Heart
- Cynthia Bourgeault, The Heart of Centering Prayer
- Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land