Centering Prayer is one form of Christ-oriented meditation. It is based on historic practices for quieting the mind that go back to the earliest days of Christianity. Centering Prayer is based on using a word, repeated over and over as a focal point for the attention. Any distracting thoughts are allowed to pass by, the conscious mind does not engage with the thoughts. Repeating the word helps our busy brains to prioritize our attention on God.Practitioners suggest that persons schedule at least one session of Centering Prayer daily. Some persons suggest two sessions, one in the morning and one in the early evening.
- Schedule a time and place where you can be undisturbed for at least 20 minutes. It should be relatively quiet. It should have a comfortable place to sit. A straight-backed chair where you can place your feet flat on the ground is ideal. If you are comfortable doing so, some people prefer to sit on a cushion on the ground. You may wish to light a candle to signify your intention to be available to the presence of God.
- Select a word that you will use as your focal point whenever you practice Centering Prayer. It should be a short 1-3 syllable word or phrase like: Father, Abba, Jesus, Lord, Peace, Shalom, My Beloved, etc. It should be meaningful for you, but not distracting. Use the same word each time you practice Centering Prayer, rather than selecting a new word each time you pray.
- Sit comfortably. Close your eyes and breathe several deep breaths. Quiet your body and your mind. This often takes approximately 1 minute.
- Begin to repeat your focus word to yourself silently as the symbol of your intention to be present to God. As you become aware of other thoughts and sensations, simply let them go without engaging them. Return to repeating your focus word.
- Continue to be open to God’s presence for a period of 20-25 minutes.
- At the end of your scheduled time of meditative prayer, say the Lord’s Prayer or other formal prayer to signal the close of your time of Centering Prayer. Stretch then sit quietly and consider your time of prayer for 1-2 minutes before you re-enter your other activities.
Latin for divine reading, Lectio Divina is a historic method of reading scripture prayerfully, as contrasted with academic styles of studying the Bible. The goal of Lectio Devina is to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us by emphasizing and applying specific portions of Scripture to our own individual lives. Pick a short passage of scripture, a paragraph or an intact parable. The passage should be short enough that you can read it 4 or 5 times, slowly and meditatively.
- Read the passage through slowly in order to understand the literal meaning of the passage and the sense of what is happening.
- Read the passage through a second time, slowly, “listening” for the Holy Spirit to emphasize a word or short phrase that seems to stand out to you during the reading.
- Read the passage through a third time, slowly; looking for insights or applications related to the word or phrase that you noticed during your second reading. Pause and reflect on your word/phrase, and your insights related to them. Why did that word/phrase stand out for you? What do you think the Spirit is saying to you? Is this an affirmation or a challenge? Do you need to respond in some specific way?
- Read the passage through a fourth time, slowly. Let the word/phrase sink into you. Spend a few moments meditating on it. Thank God for your time together and for the gift of scripture.
Imaginative Reading or Ignatian Prayer
Ignatius of Loyola, the C15th founder of the Jesuits, is credited with developing a way of reading scripture which puts the reader into the story. It is a way of making Scripture real in our own lives through the work of the Holy Spirit.
- Pick a narrative passage of Scripture, a story. One example is the story of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52. Ask God to reveal God’s self to you as you read. Read the passage through slowly, to understand what is happening in the story.
- Read the passage a second time, this time looking for a character with whom you identify. In the Bartimaeus story, it may be Bartimaeus, Jesus, one of the disciples, or a person in the crowd.
- Read the passage a third time. Sense the environment, what it feels like to be your character: the heat of the day, the scents, and the feel of dust on the road. For example, in the Mark 10 passage, if you are Bartimaeus, feel the hunger that a beggar feels, the rejection of those who can see. As you read, stop at sentences or phrases that seem emotionally charged. Proceed slowly, enjoying the time you spend as one of the persons in the story.
- Sit and meditate on what you experienced. What is your experience telling you: about yourself? about God? about your interactions with others?
- Spend time in prayer talking to God about what you have learned.
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Spiritual Formation How To Guide