Centering Prayer

Let yourself settle down. Let go of all the thoughts,
tensions, and sensations you may feel and begin
to rest in love of God who dwells within.

Everybody has at least a rough idea what meditation is, but part of the confusion in talking about terms is that East and West have a totally reversed view of which means what. Actually, in the Christian tradition what those in the East call "meditation" is called "contemplation."

Likewise, the Eastern use of "contemplation" means to look over a particular verse or saying and ponder it, reflect on its meaning. In the Christian tradition, that activity is often known as meditation. Confused?

As if that isn't enough, "Contemplative Prayer" has recently been given the name "Centering Prayer." Both mean basically the same thing -- resting in God's presence. This way of prayer is alluded to in many passages in the Old and New Testaments and probably dates from then. The Greek Fathers referred to it as monologion, "one-word" prayer. The desert father, Abba Isaac taught a similar form of prayer to John Cassian who later wrote of it in France, transmitting it to Benedict of Nursia. Unfortunately, by the time of the 16th century, the prayer form largely went out of use in favor of more discursive modes of prayer.

"To begin Centering Prayer, all that is needed is some sort of desire to return to the Center, to return to God, however implicit. This may be induced by our experience of the Revelation or by any other means. God can and does work in and through all things, drawing us to himself. As we begin to respond and practice the Prayer, it will become more and more evident that "being with God in faith and love" demands that we build up our faith and purify our hearts. Anything we are doing that is contrary to his will must be left behind if we are to continue in the way of the Prayer. This realization grows with the practice. But to begin the journey to the Center, to begin Centering Prayer, the least bit of faith -- even apparently human faith -- that God can be sought within and the desire to do this are enough to begin the Prayer."

-M. Basil Pennington

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