December 15, 2006

Be Our Guest / Anita Thompson

Centering prayer helps reader deepen relationship with God

I would like to share my positive experience with centering prayer, hoping that persons who are considering this form of contemplation won’t be discouraged after reading several opinions in The Criterion.

John F. Fink, in his Nov. 3 column, stated that the “blank mind” of centering prayer wasn’t for him. A letter writer in the Nov. 17 issue warned of “counterfeit” versions, detachment from other persons and openness to “diabolical deceptions.”

My view is based on regular practice, participation in centering prayer groups in Indiana and Florida, and a generous amount of discussion and reading.

Seek, be open and trust God. I encourage every person to seek an ever-deepening relationship with God, and then to be open to how God is leading each person on his or her own unique spiritual journey.

I reached a point where prayer with words no longer satisfied my deepest desire. My words had become trite and overdone, no longer passionate.

I was drawn to a deeper union through contemplation, but I didn’t know how to proceed.

Attempting to be open to God’s promptings, I purchased Thomas Keating’s book Open Heart, Open Mind, saw that it spoke to my heart, and I began practicing centering prayer. Entering into a group experience also enhanced my understanding of the process and the result.

Essentially, I commune with God in silence twice a day. I try to abandon my self-centered thoughts and approach the encounter with love and gratitude, trusting God to read what is in my heart. “Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all” (Ps 139:4).

Although at first it took a leap of faith for me to be still and let God control the prayer, I have gained peace and often passion. I find myself approaching others with greater love and generosity.

Weekly centering prayer group sessions provide an opportunity to pray with and learn from others. I still read, reflect and journal, pray in other forms and regularly receive the Eucharist, but contemplation through centering prayer is the daily hub of my life.

(Anita Thompson is a member of St. Christopher Parish in Indianapolis.) †

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