"I will come to you in the silence,
I will lift you from all your fear.
You will hear my voice,
I claim you as my choice,
Be still and know I am here." ~ Your Are Mine by David Hass
How soothings these words are to the soul. I have recently began working on what is known as "Centering Prayer," which is a form of silent prayer that helps us to receive the gifts of contemplative prayer. This type of prayer helps us to experience God's presence within us.
I have a lot of energy and for a long time, I have struggled with being internally silent or even sitting still sometimes. However, I noticed that whenever I went to adoration, sat quietly in a church or a quiet place in my home or outdoors, with my eyes shut and body relaxed, after a few minutes, I could feel a sense of comfort and even a soothing peace (even if just for some brief time). As I started to learn more about "Centering Prayer," I began to realize that this feeling was the presence of Christ. Christ in these moments was coming to me in the most intimate and silent of ways.
I was recently listening to a talk on "Centering Prayer," (I have fallen in love with audiobooks where you can even download lecture series!) by Fr. Thomas Keating. In his talk, Fr. Thomas discusses how centering prayer is what Christ meant when he said “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." (Matthew: 6:6-8). Immediately upon hearing this, I made the connection that in a small way, that is what I had been trying to do, but never quite knew it was a form of "Centering Prayer." I realized that by quieting my inner noise, I could truly feel Christ's presence in a more profound way and as Fr. Thomas states, begin to learn that the deepest part of myself is God and begin to let go of who I thought I was and be who I was made to be. Healing also can begin to take place during "Centering Prayer" or what Fr. Keating refers to as "the divine therapy." Fr. Keating also suggests a few guidelines for "Centering Prayer," such when finding a quiet place, to choose a word as a symbol as your consent to God's presence. For example, sometimes I simple say the word "Jesus" or "Jesus grant me your peace." By saying this several times, you are calming your mind and surrendering and inviting Christ to be with you. Sometimes my phrases change, but they always are rooted in peace and Christ. Another guideline is to be sure you are comfortable and when your thoughts veer, to restate the words you've chosen as a symbol of God's presences, in this your words are acting as an anchor.
As I work on this form of prayer more and more, I walk away feeling refreshed and that I can be of better service to others around me. Some of the worries that were there before, are put in better perspective for me. I also feel a sense of inner warmth that I just cannot fully explain, almost as if during this silence, I am feeling Christ's love and peace more than any other part of my day. I am seeing this bares fruits of the Spirit, such as self control, love and peace. I notice that the days I take the time to quietly engage Christ through silent prayer, I am more patient with myself and others and I feel a better sense of trust than I did before.
Fr. Murray Bodo, in "The Way of St. Francis," also talks about silencing the heart and mind in prayer. He talks about how Francis himself would spend enormous amounts of time in hermitages. He recalls how Francis ascended to Mt. Subasio and spent a long period of time in cave there and as a result, became a more "interior" person, seeing the world differently than before. Fr. Bodo also shares how Francis told his friars to take their inner cave or sell with them on the road, so that they could enter into that quiet, silent part of themselves to commune with Christ while they were being of service to others.
It seems as though several mystics, such as Francis, understood this need for silence in order to commune with Christ and really "hear" him. I see "Centering Prayer" as means for us to do just that. We are so very busy in our daily lives, that we need to focus, we need to prioritize what relationship comes first, before all others. I know in my own routine I can get so consumed with daily life and my ever running "to-do list" and can forget to take a few minutes a day to quietly spend time with Christ, but when I do take the time, he reminds me how much better my day is, how I can handle things with more ease, walk along side him during my day and even ask him to carry me when I am tired. I almost feel like these words I am writing are not doing any justice to the gifts of "Centering Prayer" or simplifying spending ten quiet minutes with Christ daily, where you are not talking or asking for anything, you are just being, you are in the moment with him and Christ wants us to live in that present moment!
I encourage you to add some silent time with God to your normal prayer routine. You will be amazed that the more you do it, the more you yearn for it. And when you don't do it, you'll notice something is missing from you day and that is your intimate encounter with Christ. So be still and know Christ is near!
Bodo, Murray. The Way of St. Francis. http://www.learnoutloud.com/Audio-Books/Religion-and-Spirituality/Prayer-and-Meditation/The-Way-of-Saint-Francis/3571
Haas, David. You Are Mine. Retrieved February 23, 2011 from: http://www.ap0s7le.com/list/song/404/David_Haas/You_Are_Mine/
Keating, Thomas. Centering Prayer. Retrieved February 23, 2011 from: http://www.centeringprayer.com/centering_prayer.html