Wednesday, May 4, 2011

In Defense of Centering Prayer

Centering prayer is a form of prayer that declares there are too many words out there in the world and too many words up in our heads. We value words, and acknowledge that God has revealed himself in words, spoken and written, but we also know that God transcends words and even that all words are derivative of the Word, God himself revealed in human form in the person of Jesus. Centering prayer is a silent prayer, in which we consciously place ourselves in the presence of God, allowing conscious thoughts and word-streams to pass through our heads without lodging there. We may use an verbal anchor, a short phrase, to keep drawing us back to God but the main point is to empty our heads in order to spend time with God in wordless communication.

The next article I write, sometime over the summer, will be a defense of centering prayer. It's a "defense" because many people in the evangelical Protestant tradition are uncomfortable with the idea of centering prayer. Here are a few of the common objections that are raised:

1. The idea of "emptying" sounds too much like other religious traditions, especially eastern traditions. Centering prayer could give the impression that we are trying emptying ourselves of our own personalities, desires, and individuality, an idea more in line with Buddhism than Christianity.

2. The title "centering prayer" sounds like a New Age practice.

3. We as Christians are called to fill our minds with God's words, and to actively meditate on the scriptures, rather to passively sit in silence.

I'm just getting started on this work, and so at the outset my questions for you are these:

1. Have you practiced centering prayer, and if so, what has been your experience? And though the "benefits" are not what we put immediately in front of us, what have the benefits been for you?

2. Do you agree with the above objections, and if so, how would you elaborate on them?

3. Or do you disagree with the above objections, and if so, how would you respond to them.

Thanks everyone. I would love to hear your impressions and thoughts.