“If all the world is God’s, what presents can we make to God,
but to open our hearts and give them wholly for God’s dwelling?”
St. Jane de Chantal
Jody R. Johnson, M.Div., LICSW
In our hurry-up world, it’s tough to take time out, much less to intentionally do nothing. And for those in ministry, there are added pressures to be productive, ‘on’, and available. When the well runs dry, people may continue to do effective ministry for a time, but eventually problems will surface- perhaps in a sense of ‘dryness’, irritability or depression, physical ailments, or tension at home. Centering prayer can offer those in ministry an oasis of spiritual refreshment that overflows into service.
Centering prayer is an ancient Christian contemplative practice that has received new life over the past couple of decades through the work of Father Thomas Keating and, more recently, Cynthia Bourgeault. It is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship. This simple but transformative practice helps calm the mind and anchor attention in the presence of God. Over time, the practice helps to create space within us for the Holy Spirit to heal wounds and resolve conflicts, so that we can live more and more out of the reality of God’s love and more fully aligned with God’s will. Indeed, Thomas Keating calls Centering prayer “Divine Psychotherapy”; “We sit while God heals”, says Keating.
Though effortless, the practice of Centering Prayer is not necessarily easy. Silence is uncomfortable for most people at first, and detaching from thoughts takes practice. Without support of some kind, many new practitioners quit in frustration after a few weeks or drift away, wondering what is really going on and whether this is making any difference. The fruits of Centering Prayer, however, like the fruits of the Spirit, come not so much in the experience itself as in our daily lives. Often, it is others who first notice that we may seem a bit more patient, less frantic, or more open-minded. When the volume is turned down on the usual din of thoughts, people often find themselves more able to recall their connection to God in the midst of other experiences, even stressful ones. And, awareness of God in the present enhances discernment about where God may be leading us in the future.
As we enter into this Holiday season, practices such as this can help us to embody becoming a WiseLeader. If Centering Prayer has been a part of your practice, please feel free to share with us about it in the comments section below.