An experience in centering prayer

News | January 1, 2015

A candle flickers in the middle of a circle of people. It’s Thursday evening in an upstairs classroom at St. Paul, and Brenda and Dave Kuster are two of the souls gathered with others for Centering Prayer.

Leader Dick Jensen reads a passage from the Bible, slowly, four times. The first time, the circle of people close their eyes and relax. The second time, they listen for a word or thought that sticks out to them.

The third time, they silently offer up a prayer about that thought. The fourth time, they rest in that word.

A chime rings.

For 20 minutes, the group then sinks into the quiet of Centering Prayer. Each person chooses a sacred word or phrase to guide them through the time of prayer. Brenda’s phrase is “Be Still.”

She returns to that phrase only when she gets caught up on a thought. She uses this way to describe these 20 minutes: It’s like watching boats pass by on a river. If she starts thinking about what’s on the boats, how the boats are powered, and where they are going, it’s time to return to her sacred phrase. Be still.

A chime rings.

At the end of their hour together, the group listens to a passage from a book about faith and discuss what they’ve heard. Centering Prayer is a traditional form of Christian prayer rooted in

Scripture and based on the monastic heritage of Lectio Divina.

The tradition was described by St. Gregory the Great as “resting in God.” It is not the suspension of all activity, but sustaining one’s consent to God’s presence and action.

There are two benefits to Centering Prayer, said Dick, who is active in the Eastern Iowa Contemplative Outreach organization. There is awareness of divine union with God, and evacuation of the emotional damage of a lifetime.

“When I took this up, I saw myself as emotionally and spiritually damaged goods. I thought this was for the monks and the really holy people. But it’s for everybody, guaranteed. It’s a way of life,” he said.

Brenda began Centering Prayer about four or five years ago, when she wanted to expand her faith. She felt like she was holding back from God. The healing that has taken place in that time brings tears to her eyes.

Daily now, Brenda can be found in her living room or bedroom in Centering Prayer.

She tries for 20 minutes, twice a day.“I find that if I take the time to center, just that 20 minutes to rest in God, it orders my day,” she said. “It’s very, very powerful for me.”

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Isaiah 53:4-12

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.

6All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death,

Because He had done no violence,

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16

9For you have made the LORD, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

Hebrews 5:1-10

The Perfect High Priest

1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;3and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,

“YOU ARE MY SON,

TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”;

6just as He says also in another passage,

“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER

ACCORDING TOTHE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.”

7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.40“But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.42Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight