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Is a Centering Prayer support group needed?
Q: I have a long practice of Centering Prayer, having begun sometime in the late 1980s with a group that met weekly for about 12 years when our facilitator, a priest, was transferred to another parish.
Over the years, I've joined other groups in other communities, but have since found that each group may practice a little differently than the first and I've gravitated in time away from group meetings. During my practice I long ago gave up my sacred word. and now at the age of 79, I believe I am praying my life without ceasing. Each day is a prayer and each action is one 'prayer' in my day devoted to the impulse of the Holy Spirit.
Do you believe in the necessity to belong to a group to be centered in the Spirit? I'm really not trying to prove anything but I'm convinced this is not necessary at my age or my stage. But I wonder what your feelings on the subject are?
A: Congratulation on being 79. Let us celebrate life! I will be 79 next month, so I can identify with your situation. I began Centering Prayer in 1974 according to Fr. Menninger, who taught me.
The support of groups is especially important in the beginning. I find there are three kinds of long-time practitioners.
- Those who never make use of a group but on occasion will go to an event that encourages them to continue;
- Those who find they always need a group to continue their prayer, and
- Those like yourself that start out with the fruitful support of a group but find over time a group is not necessary. This last group seems to have the inner strength and conviction that sustains them, because the prayer itself has taken over in their life.
If prayer has become a way of life, then it is not necessary to be in a support group “to be centered in Spirit.” However I believe that periodic participation in an intensive retreat is highly recommended in order to deepen your practice and relationship with God.
After all, we 79-year-olds still have much to learn and celebrate!
You may also want to read David Frenette’s new book, The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening Your Experience of God, as it was written for people who are committed to their daily Centering Prayer practice. Read more about it here: http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/product/path-centering-prayer-deepening-your-experience-god-hardcover