What is Centering Prayer?


Question & Answer

Q: By Beverly

I keep hearing about “”Centering prayer” but I’m not sure what this is exactly. Can you give me a definition or where I can read about it?
A: By Skylar Wilson
Dear Beverly,
The name “Centering Prayer” was taken from Thomas Merton’s description of contemplative prayer.  Contemplative prayer is considered to be a much older and more traditional practice. Essentially, any prayer that is focused entirely on the presence of God.

Centering Prayer is a form of meditation as well as the act of creating space for being rather than thinking. It’s being present to stillness. It’s listening with one’s whole heart and body. It’s opening to the most intimate and direct experience of the divine. Centering Prayer is a mode of experiencing oneself and the world as one. It’s about opening to our inner experience without judgement, recognizing that God is, if anything, the emptiness and stillness found within and beyond all ideas, thoughts and things.

The modern concept of Centering Prayer in Christianity can be followed back to several books published by three Trappist monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in the 1970s: Fr. William Meninger, Fr. M. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating.

~ Skylar Wilson, MA

*** This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author
Skylar Wilson, MA is the founder of Wild Awakenings, a conscious community of change-makers dedicated to the thriving of Earth, life, and humanity. He has led wilderness rites of passage journeys as well as ecological restoration teams for 18 years, specializing in creating sacred wilderness immersion experiences and interfaith ceremonies. Skylar is the cofounder and co-director of the Order of the Sacred Earth, a network of mystic warriors and activists dedicated to being the best lovers and defenders of the Earth that we can be. Skylar is the coauthor of the book by the same title as well as the co-host, with Jennifer Berit, of the podcast: “Our Sacred Earth” on Unity online radio. Skylar works closely with schools and organizations including the Stepping Stones Project in Berkeley, CA over the last 8 years while guiding organization-wide retreats, mentoring youth, group leaders, parents and elders. He also produces transformational events for thousands of people around the country including the Cosmic Mass, an intercultural healing ritual that builds community through dancing and the arts.

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