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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