What is Centering Prayer?

Centering Prayer is a form of praying that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself.  This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer (whether verbal, discursive or affective): rather it casts a new light and depth of meaning on other kinds of prayer.  Centering Prayer complements the other forms of prayer; it is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.  It is a movement which leads into silence where the Beloved and the Lover dwell as One.  The desire for God is God's gift to us; it is the movement of the Holy Spirit leading into deeper communion with the Father and the Son.

The source of Centering Prayer, as in all methods leading to contemplative prayer, is the indwelling Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The focus of Centering Prayer is the deepening of our relationship with the living Christ.  The effects of Centering Prayer are ecclesial, as the prayer tends to build communities of faith and bond the members together in mutual friendship and love.

Centering Prayer is also inspired by the writings of major contributors to the Christian contemplative heritage including John Cassian, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, and Thomas Merton.  The 14th century anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing  also recommended this form of prayer, the choosing of a simple word to symbolise your desire for God.  (see Chapters 7 and 8 of The Cloud)

Centering prayer was formulated in its present form in the 1970s by three Trappist monks: Fr William Menninger, Fr Basil Pennington, and Abbot Thomas Keating at St Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts (USA).   There are more than 40,000 people who practice Centering Prayer in more than 40 countries. 
Fr Basil Pennington OCSO  Fr Thomas Keating OCSO  Fr William Menninger OCSO

Centering Prayer is a form of Christian Prayer and is not a form of Zen meditation as is sometimes alledged.  Zen meditation developed independently as a part of Buddhism in Japan about five centuries later.

Centering prayer is not a technique but a way of cultivating a relationship with God.  It is a way of resting in God, of being consciously aware of focusing only on God.  It is a way of responding to the Spirit of Christ by consenting to God's presence and action within.  . It is Trinitarian in its source, Christ-centered in its focus, and ecclesial in its effect; that is, it builds communities of faith and bonds the members together in charity. (courtesy of Contemplative Outreach UK).

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