meditative prayer: centering down

image courtesy of heavenawaits


A few days ago I posted several very
practical ideas for improving our prayer lives.  Then I published an essay covering some of the stresses of being a missionary in small-town Tanzania.  Today I want to combine these ideas of prayer and stress by offering you a form of meditative prayer which will (likely) bless you greatly.

I can’t remember from whom I learned this practice, but he called it “centering down.”  And I was told it was a Quaker form of prayer.  I’ve done a little research since then, and it seems the idea of centering down is much bigger than this one very particular prayer practice.  Centering down (as best as I can tell) is the practice of contemplative prayer which allows one to experience God’s presence deep within himself. It seems to reach well beyond thinking about God and encourages us to be one with God and to delight in his presence.

There must exist hundreds of ways to accomplish this.  The method I’m offering today is only one of these.  I’m not suggesting you replace your regular prayer time with this practice, but I do believe it is a wonderful discipline which will bless your life.  Though I now realize “centering down” is a much broader concept, I’ll still refer to this form of meditative prayer as just that.  [I’ve also heard it called “re-collection prayer.”]

  1. Find a comfortable seat. Don’t lean forward, though neither should you slouch as if attempting to sleep.  I like to sit in a hardwood chair or even on a stool.  I’m sure many sit cross-legged on the floor; I do not know, however, if they make an “O” with their thumb and index finger.  I also don’t know if they refer to their sitting as “criss cross apple sauce.”  But I really hope they do.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Place your hands face-down on your lap. This represents letting go of all that has filled your mind.
  4. In silence, give to God all your anxieties, concerns, and worries.  Surrender to him all those thoughts which occupy your mind.  I begin by thinking this phrase:  “Lord I give to you….”
  5. Now, maintaining this same posture, rotate your hands so that your palms are face-up.  This is symbolic for receiving blessings and peace from God.
  6. In silence, ask God to grant you peace.  You may ask for any number of blessings (such as strength, courage, faith, patience, etc). I begin by saying:  “Lord, please fill me with your…”
  7. Sit in silence for some time, focused on God — and simply resting in his presence.*

This form of prayer has helped me immensely over the past few years.  One of the greatest benefits (for me) is that it helps me rid my mind of stray thoughts and concerns — so that I can practice being present with God.  Fully present with him.

I can imagine, too, that centering down would be of tremendous value to those who tend to be anxious or worried.

I can’t help but think of these two passages.  I’ll leave you with them:

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7


“Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” — 1 Peter 5:7

 


*If you read this post and worry that centering prayer will take you too long, you most likely are wrong.  I’ve been amazed at the impact less than five minutes of this centering down exercise can have on an entire day.


P.S. — The irony is not lost on me that the image accompanying this post is of clenched fists during prayer — which could symbolize either 1) an unwillingness to give to God our concerns or 2) a refusal to accept from him his blessings.  But it does make me wonder why our traditional posture of prayer involves clenched (or at least folded) hands.


 

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14 Comments

Filed under how to..., practical advice, prayer

14 responses to “meditative prayer: centering down

  1. Hello Brett,
    Your blog was featured on the WordPress homepage a wwhiiillee ago and I clicked on it and I’ve been following you ever since. I’m just starting to blog more often and made you my first blog on my blog roll. I hope you don’t mind. Haha I’m really interested in reading what it is like to be a missionary from the States serving overseas.

    • hi ungria. i’m glad you’ve been visiting the blog, and i appreciate you posting to say hello today. i’m flattered aliens and strangers was the first blog on your blog roll. i think that’s probably (definitely) a first.

  2. Great suggestion. Have you read, “Celebration of Discipline,” by Richard Foster? It’s a great read. There are a lot of “styles” of prayer in that book. Thanks for the reminder. I might need some palm-down time. Peace.

    • i have indeed read it. great book (though a little slow). i never realized until today how many different types of prayer i use. not that i’m consistent with all of them. but this is one of my favorites.

  3. I have never heard of this “centering down” thing, but I really like it and intend to try it! I do not have the same types of worries or frustrations you face, but I have them now and again and the frustrating part is knowing what to do with them – and if I know what – it is the knowing how that stumps me next.

    And this is 3 posts on the same topic…which is a series. Just sayin’.

    • this totally did become a series. you’re right, janie. i should have you plan out all my posts from now on. you could organize the calendar and tell me what to write and when…

  4. Thank you Jane for the link…SO EXACTLY what I’ve been needing. Interestingly enough a friend of mine and I decided just this week to do some in-depth Biblical research on prayer. This is the perfect springboard for that study. Thank you! 😀

  5. Pingback: culture stress (or i don’t want to be a missionary anymore) | aliens and strangers

  6. nicely shared ~
    I have the blessing of a very long driveway through a large grassy meadow surrounded by forest and wildlife, and a sky above me that dances and sings throughout the seasons. So I don’t sit down but I walk the driveway and release all to my heavenly Father, hands and arms uplifted and sometimes a dance or a song~ but it is only Him and me~ and it is freeing to have this amazing prayer closet… I return to my home and family refreshed and encouraged and totally unstressed!

  7. tamara

    I just stumbled on your blog after reading another blog about stress and missionaries. We all need to figure out how to deal with that. It’s great you can give your cares, concerns, worries to the Lord, and allow Him to give you what we need for the day! That is what we should do. What concerns me is adding disciplines practiced by the world – Yoga, unbiblical meditation, using man’s methods, to try to find our way to God. From the reading I have done on Contemplative / Centering (or other names for this type of prayer), and Yoga I have learned that it has its roots in Eastern Meditation, Buddhism, and perhaps further back than that. Two books I have found to be very helpful in understanding this are: Faith Undone by Roger Oakland and A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen (How Ancient Mystical Practices are Uniting Christians with the World’s Religions). Our God, the God of the Bible, is a jealous God who is not willing to share our loyalty with other gods or the world’s methods to worship their gods. Sadly, many sincere Christians do not realize the dangers of adding these methods to feel closer to God, or the frightening path that can lead them on. I would encourage you to do some reading on this topic so you can see what may be under the surface of some of these spiritual disciplines. I believe you can find these resources at http://www.lighthousetrails.com Take care as you seek the Lord while you serve Him there!

    • tamara

      If you are like we are as missionaries, usually short on financial resources, you may be able to find some similar articles from these authors and others on: from the lighthouse…the blog of lighthouse trails research project for free! They cover a variety of topics on how the new (ancient) Spirituality is entering the church. Very eye opening!

    • Jeanne

      I’m afraid they are on a witch hunt and throwing out the Baby with the bathwater! Yes, take care, but don’t over react.

  8. tamara

    * look under ‘shop by topic’ Click on Lighthouse Trails Products. I would also recommend the novel – Castles in the Sand, and I see they have all 3 books in a 3 for 2 bundle!

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