Praying into the depths of our own being where God dwells as a living presence requires practice. The famous contemplative of the middle ages, Meister Eckhart, said that we need to practice the contemplative life, just as a violinist needs to practice the violin. With daily practice of a method like Centering Prayer, the usually unheard music of God begins to flow through us, playing through us in our lives; playing us in life.

Centering Prayer finds its sources in the teachings of Jesus, in the method of practice described in the fourteenth century classic spiritual text called the Cloud of Unknowing and the teachings of contemplatives throughout history. Centering Prayer is a wonderful orientation to Christian contemplation. Its initial formal practice establishes you on the contemplative path and its movement into the formlessness of contemplative prayer serves as a foundation for the journey into union with God.
 In this way, it is similar to some practices from other spiritual traditions that have a basic method of formal meditation and more formless, effortless dimensions that are beyond method.

The orientation of Centering Prayer is towards bringing the union found with God in prayer into unity with God in ordinary daily life, discovering greater inner freedom and showing greater compassion for others. Such freedom allows us to better respond to the pressing needs of our time: social inequality, religious intolerance and environmental degradation.

The Simple Guidelines

Centering Prayer is rooted in Jesus’ wisdom teaching on the “prayer in secret” (Mt 6:6). As taught by Fr. Thomas Keating and Contemplative Outreach, Centering Prayer has four simple guidelines:

  • Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within;
  • Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within;
  • When engaged with your thoughts (including body sensations, feelings, images and reflections), return ever-so-gently to the sacred word;
  • At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.


It’s that simple!…a basic orientation to the lifetime journey of contemplation. Of course, as the journey develops, much more than these four guidelines is required to sustain contemplation in ordinary life.

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