Frequently Asked Questions

Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.

Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of verbal prayer into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centering Prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Christ.

The source of Centering Prayer, as in all methods leading to contemplative prayer, is the Indwelling Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The focus of Centering Prayer is the deepening of our relationship with the living Christ. The effects of Centering Prayer are ecclesial, as the prayer tends to build communities of faith and bond the members together in mutual friendship and love.

If you are not affiliated with a local Contemplative Outreach chapter, first seek permission from your church pastor or minister to host a Centering Prayer Introductory Program (this program consists of the introductory workshop to Centering prayer and six follow-up sessions). Then, contact the nearest chapter coordinator in your area and collaborate with the coordinator to present the introductory program. If there is not a chapter in your area, contact the regional representative listed for your region to assist in planning the program. You may search for local contacts under Community.

In the beginning, it is recommended that you practice Centering Prayer for 20 minutes, twice a day.  Early in the morning is best, before the activities of the day begin and then again in late afternoon or in the evening.  As your practice stabilizes and your relationship with God deepens, you may feel called to longer periods of prayer.  Attending a weekend or multi-day retreat also helps to deepen one’s prayer practice.

The primary purpose of a Centering Prayer group is to help sustain the commitment to a regular practice of Centering Prayer. Members of a Centering Prayer group gather to practice Centering Prayer together, to deepen their understanding of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina, and to share personal experiences of the Centering Prayer practice and its effect in their daily lives. The group provides community support for spiritual journey.  You may search for a local Centering Prayer group under Community.

Centering Prayer groups are usually formed following the Introduction to Centering Prayer workshop and follow-up sessions.  Participants are invited to form a group that meets weekly or bi-weekly to support one another in their Centering Prayer practice and to share their experience.  A facilitator usually guides the group process.  A facilitator handbook is available, which provides guidelines for group formats and suggested resource materials for group discussion.

Centering Prayer can be learned in several ways.  The most common way is by attending a local “Introduction to Centering Prayer” retreat/workshop.  These workshops are usually given in a one-day format, with subsequent follow-up sessions to help you establish your daily practice.  You can search our online calendar to see if there is a workshop near you.

You can also learn the method through an online course.  Contemplative Outreach partners with both Sounds True and Spirituality and Practice to provide these online Centering Prayer courses. 

Finally, an in-home package was created in partnership with Sounds True so that people could learn the method at home through DVDs, CDs and a guidebook.  The package is available in our store.

Not Directed to Centering Prayer

Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation”, written in 1989, was not directed to Centering Prayer, which is the traditional form of Christian prayer, but rather at those forms of meditative practices that actually incorporate the methods of Eastern meditations such as Zen and the use of the Hindu mantras. The letter is chiefly concerned with the integration of such techniques into the Christian faith. It does not forbid their use and indeed, states, “that does not mean that genuine practices of meditation which come from the Christian East and from the great non-Christian religions… cannot constitute a suitable means of helping the person who prays to come before God with an interior peace even in the midst of external pressures” (#28).

Having noted this affirmation of the value of the Eastern practices when rightly integrated into Christian faith, may I point out that Centering Prayer is the one contemporary form of contemplative practice that does not make use of any of these techniques. The quotation from the Letter that the gift of contemplative prayer can only be granted through the Holy Spirit is precisely what we teach. Nor does Centering Prayer encourage a privatized spiritual journey or the seeking of spiritual experiences, but rather fosters the complete surrender of self in faith and love that leads to divine union. There is much greater danger in concentrating on oneself in discursive meditation and in intercessory and affective prayer, especially if one is preoccupied with one’s self feeling and reflections. In Centering Prayer one is not reflecting on one’s self or one’s psychological states at all.

 

Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina and Contemplation

It is important to situate Centering Prayer in the context of the monastic tradition of Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is the most traditional way of cultivating contemplative prayer. It consists in listening to the text of the Bible as if one were in conversation with God and God were suggesting topics for discussion. Those who follow the method of Lectio Divina are cultivating the capacity to listen to the word of God at ever deepening levels of attention. Spontaneous prayer is the normal response to their growing relationship with Christ, and the gift of contemplation is God’s normal response to them.

The reflective part, the pondering upon the words of the sacred text in Lectio Divina, is called meditation, discursive meditation. The spontaneous movement of the will in response to these reflections is called oratio, affective prayer. As these reflections and particular acts of will simplify, one tends to resting in God or contemplatio, contemplation.

 These three acts –discursive meditation, affective prayer, and contemplation – might all take place during the same period of prayer. They are interwoven one into the other. One may listen to the Lord as if sharing a privileged interview and respond with one’s reflections, with acts of will, or with silence –with the rapt attention of contemplation. The practice of contemplative prayer is not an effort to make the mind blank, but to move beyond discursive thinking and the multiplication of particular acts to the level of communing with God, which is a more intimate king of exchange, a  matter of the heart.

In human relationships, as mutual love deepens there comes a time when the two friend convey their sentiments without words. They can sit in silence sharing an experience or simply enjoying each other’s presence without saying anything. Holding hands or a single word from time to time can maintain this deep communication.

This loving relationship points to the kind of interior silence that is being developed in contemplative prayer. The goal of contemplative prayer is not so much the emptiness of the thoughts or the conversations as the emptiness of self. In contemplative prayer, one ceases to multiply reflections and acts of the will. A different kind of knowledge rooted in love emerges in which the awareness of God’s presence supplants the awareness of one’s own presence and the inveterate tendency to reflect on oneself.  The experience of God’s presence frees one from making oneself or one’s relationship with God the center of the universe. The language of mystics must not be taken literally when they speak of emptiness or the void. Jesus practiced emptiness in becoming a human being, emptying himself of his prerogatives and the natural consequences of his divine dignity (cf. Phil. 2:5-8). The void does not mean void in the sense of nothing at all, but void in the sense of attachment to one’s activity. One’s own reflections and acts of will are necessary preliminaries to getting acquainted with Christ, but have to be transcended if Christ is to share his most personal prayer with the Father which is characterized by total self surrender.

Centering Prayer is only one method of developing contemplation and preparing oneself for this great gift of the Spirit. I would think it would have strong appeal for the people in the charismatic renewal movement, especially for those who enjoy the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues is already a form of contemplative prayer since one is fully aware of the presence and action of the Spirit without thinking about what one is saying.

The practice of Centering Prayer is basically a waiting upon God with loving attentiveness, fulfilling the Gospel injunction, “Watch and Pray.” If one can accept the notion of prayer as primarily relationship with God, it becomes obvious that one’s relationship with God can be expressed without words, simply by a gesture or even by one’s silent intention to consent to God’s presence. This is not to deny the value of other forms of prayer which are normally necessary to prepare one for this level of relating to God. It simply moves one to a deeper dimension of intimacy with God. Thus, it is a more personal kind of prayer than discursive meditation and affective prayer. As a result, it enables one to penetrate to a greater degree the meaning of scripture and liturgical texts and symbols.

 

Pantheistic and Panentheism

The term “pantheistic”, often used in connection with Eastern practices, is ambiguous and misleading. A distinctions needs to be made between “pantheism” and “panentheism”, as is done in inter-religious dialogue. Eastern practices are not necessarily pantheistic. Many forms of Buddhism and Hinduism are just as devotional as similar practices in the Christian faith, though directed, of course to their particular deities. Pantheism is usually defined as the identification of God with creation in such a way that the two are indistinguishable. Panentheism means that God is present in all creation by virtue of his omnipresence and omnipotence, sustaining every creature in being without being identified with any creature. The latter understanding is what Jesus seems to have been describing when he prays “that all might be one, Father, as we are one” and “that they may be one in us”. Again and again, in the Last Supper discourse, he speaks of this oneness and his intentions to send his Spirit to dwell within us. If we understand the writings of the great mystics rightly, they experience God living within them all the time. Thus the affirmation of God’s transcendence must always be balanced by the affirmation of his imminence both on the natural plane and on the plane of grace.

 

An Invitation

The practice of Centering Prayer is simply offered to those who feel called to a deeper life of prayer and who are looking for a method that will help them to do so in the context of a very active life in the world. These people should not be deprived of such an opportunity on the basis of false fears raised by superficial understanding of Centering Prayer and a failure to recognize the significant distinction between traditional methods of preparing for the gift of contemplation, such as Centering Prayer, and the techniques of the Eastern spiritual traditions.

Centering prayer is designed to deepen the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and to develop the most ancient of all Christian methods, the practice of Lectio Divina leading to contemplation.

Centering Prayer is fundamentally two things at the same time: first, the deepening of our personal relationship with Christ developed through reflection on Scripture; and second, a method of freeing ourselves from attachments that prevent the development of this relationship and the unfolding of the theological virtues of faith, hope, one, and love. It reduces the tendency to over activity in prayer and to depending excessively on concepts in order to go to God. In short, it reduces the obstacles in us, especially selfishness, so that we become sensitive to the delicate inspirations of the Holy Spirit that lead to divine union.

Centering Prayer does not "empty the mind" or exclude other forms of prayer.  It is not a "technique" that automatically creates "mysticism" or a means "to reach an altered state of consciousness."

It is important not to confuse Centering Prayer with certain Eastern techniques of meditation such as Transcendental Meditation. The use of the sacred word in Centering Prayer does not have the particular calming effect attributed to the TM mantra. Nor is the sacred word a vehicle leading to the spiritual level of one's being as it is in TM. There is no cause-and-effect relationship between using the sacred word and arriving at some altered state of consciousness. The sacred word is merely the symbol of the consent of one's will to God's presence and action within based on faith in the doctrine of the Divine Indwelling. The sacred word is simply a means of reaffirming our original intention at the beginning of our period of prayer to be in God's presence and to surrender to the divine action when we are attracted to some other thought, feeling or impression.

Throughout the period of Centering Prayer, our intention predominates: the movement of our will to consent to God's intention, which according to our faith, is to communicate the divine life to us. Hence, unlike TM, Centering Prayer is a personal relationship with God, not a technique.

 

Centering Prayer is a traditional form of Christian prayer rooted in Scripture and based on the monastic heritage of Lectio Divina. It is not to be confused with Transcendental Meditation or Hindu or Buddhist methods of meditation. It is not a New Age technique.

Centering Prayer is rooted in the word of God, both in Scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ. It is an effort to renew the Christian contemplative tradition handed down to us in an uninterrupted manner from St. Paul, who writes of the intimate knowledge of Christ that comes through love.

Centering Prayer is designed to prepare sincere followers of Christ for contemplative prayer in the traditional sense in which spiritual writers understood that term for the first sixteen centuries of the Christian era. This tradition is summed up by St. Gregory the Great at the end of the sixth century. He describes contemplation as the knowledge of God impregnated with love. For Gregory, contemplation was the fruit of reflection on the word of God in Scripture as well as the precious gift of God. He calls it, "resting in God". In this “resting.” the mind and heart are not so much seeking God as beginning to experience, "to taste" what they have been seeking. This state is not the suspension of all activity, but the reduction of many acts and reflections into a single act or thought to sustain one's consent to God's presence and action.

This form of prayer was first practiced and taught by the Desert Fathers of Egypt, Palestine and Syria, including Evagrius, John Cassian and St. John Climacus.  It has representatives in every age, e.g. in the Patristic age, St. Augustine and St Gregory the Great in the West, and Pseudo-Dionysius and the Hesychasts in the East: in the Middle Ages, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, William of St. Thierry, and Guigo the Carthusian; the Rhineland mystics including St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Mechtilde, Meister Eckhart, Ruysbroek, and Tauler; later the author of the Imitation of Christ and the English mystics of the 14th Century such as the author of the Cloud of Unknowing.  Walter Hilton, Richard Rolle, and Julian of Norwich; after the Reformation, the Carmelites St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Therese of Lisieux; among the French school of spiritual writers, St. Francis de Sales, St. Jane de Chantal and Cardinal Berulle; among the Jesuits, Fathers De Caussade, Lallemont; and, among the Benedictines, Dom Augustine Baker and Dom John Chapman; among modern Cistercians, Dom Vital Lehodey and Thomas Merton. 

Over the centuries, ways of cultivating contemplative prayer have been called by various names corresponding to the different forms they have taken. Thus we have Prayer of Faith, Prayer of the Heart, Pure Prayer, Prayer of Simplicity, Prayer of Simple Regard, Active Recollection, Active Quiet, and Acquired Contemplation. In our time a number of initiatives have been taken by various religious orders, notably by the Jesuits and Discalced Carmelites, to renew the contemplative orientation of their founders and to share their spirituality with lay persons. The method of Centering Prayer is a further attempt to present the teaching of earlier times in an updated format and to make it available to ordinary people who are experiencing a hunger for a deeper life of prayer and for a support system to sustain it.

Contemplative Life Program

The Contemplative Life Program (CLP) explores how to be a practicing contemplative, abiding in the presence of God in the midst of ordinary life.  The CLP provides the in-home tools, the Christian contemplative teachings and the support necessary to live and embody the contemplative dimension of the Gospel.  

Yes, it is recommended you have a Centering Prayer practice. The CLP is not an introductory workshop or training on Centering Prayer or on any of the other contemplative practices included in the program. However, if you are beginning your contemplative journey, this program could be very useful in supporting your desire to be a regular practitioner.

The CLP has several objectives. There is a definite, pervasive hunger for something meaningful in everyday life. A personal relationship with God is the only real answer. Many people do want to go deeper in their relationship with God and don't have a local faith community that supports them. Some find there is a need for more support at home or at work, in the midst of the ordinary routines of life.  If you are already a practitioner, this program provides further focus and support for your current way of living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in everyday life. The program will provide daily reminders, readings and mini-practices to support your deepening relationship with God.

Some of the booklets are translated into Spanish. For more information on the Spanish-language CLP, please contact Ilse Reissner.

The booklets can be used both for individual, in-home use as well as in a group setting. More and more Centering Prayer groups are using the CLP as part of their group focus. In fact, the CLP, through various topics, might be the focus of a group or community for an entire year, as it has great potential to build connection, belonging and spiritual deepening in a group setting. For suggestions on how to use the CLP in a group setting, please email Pamela Begeman.

We welcome the chance to hear from you. Please direct your questions and comments and especially your experiences with the program to CLP Info.

The program is designed to meet the needs of busy people in the modern world. One of the biggest concerns for many is "will I have time for this?" The program offers a range of options to practice or read, depending on your available time.

Most importantly, contemplative practices are not about "doing" or intellectual efforts. The best "effort" we can make in relation to any contemplative practice is to remain open to the experience of God's presence in all that surrounds us, moment by moment. We bring our receptivity and curiosity to our participation in programs and practices. We use our intellect to learn and discern. We surrender our normal patterns, preferences and behaviors to the grace of the Indwelling Spirit.

We fully participate in our relationship with God, in whatever the form it takes. The Contemplative Life Program helps us to participate in a specific way in solidarity with others, knowing in faith that God is the one directing it all!

The first two booklets of the Year One program are more unstructured. Starting with the Lectio Divina praxis, the program will have more daily structure.

We recommend that you tailor the program to fit your particular spiritual needs. Some subscribers read a few pages of the booklet each day as a "doorway" into their Centering Prayer period. Others read the booklet over and over in its entirety throughout the 40 days, seeking to let the words penetrate them as they allow the essence of the practice penetrate them. Experienced practitioners might pick just one or two of the suggested practices found in the back of the booklet and focus on them, in solidarity with other newer practitioners who are just beginning the process. You might want to read some of the subscribers experiences with Year One to get some ideas on how to engage the Centering Prayer and Welcoming Prayer praxis booklets.

The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living, compiled by Stephanie Iachetta, is a book which includes daily readings excerpted from Fr. Thomas Keating's teachings. The Daily Reader though referenced in the materials - is NOT a requirement for the program; it is only a suggestion for daily reading. The idea is to read and reflect on some 'spiritual food' as a daily practice - so it could be anything - a passage from one of Fr. Thomas' books, a reading from scripture, or a passage from other contemplative teachers.

The Daily Reader was picked as a good overview of Fr. Thomas' teachings, as there may be some subscribers who are not familiar with all of his books or who do not have a daily, sacred reading practice. So, it's up to you how you want to approach it. This book is just one option for you.

The program is primarily designed for individual, in-home, daily use. However, more and more Centering Prayer group members are using the CLP as part of their group focus. In fact, it was part of the original conception of the CLP that it might be the focus of a group or community for an entire year, as it has great potential to build connection, belonging and spiritual deepening in a group setting. For suggestions on how to use the CLP in a group setting, please email CLP Info.

Year One of the program is currently being translated into Spanish. For more information on the Spanish-language CLP, please contact Ilse Reissner at CLP Info.

Yes! Due to the generosity of large and small donors alike who have found great value in their own participation in the CLP, scholarships are now available. To request an application, please email Pamela Begeman.

There are currently 17 different praxis booklets, each focusing on a different topic.  Some are on practices (like active prayer or attention/intention), some are contemplative dispositions (like simplicity and hospitality).  Choose topics based on where you are right now, or what’s up for you in your life.  We’ve also organized the booklets according to certain themes (Year One:  Practice; Year Two:  Disposition; and the Paschal Mystery package).   

Each booklet includes beautiful images, Scripture, teachings and mini-practices related to the topic.  Some booklets are more structured with 40-distinct days of material, so you read/practice one page each day.  Some booklets are more unstructured.  Each booklet includes guidelines for usage.  

The program can take as much or as little time as you would like to give it. It is all about your commitment to your spiritual journey. Your intention and your desire for relationship with God will determine the length of time you spend with the materials each day. It could be 10 minutes or it could be an hour or more. It provides an opportunity to recapture an "interior retreat atmosphere" and move through each day reflective and recollected

The Contemplative Life Program has several objectives. There is a definite, pervasive hunger for something meaningful in everyday life. A personal relationship with God is the only real answer. Many people do want to go deeper in their relationship with God and don't have a local faith community that supports them. Some find there is a need for more support at home or at work, in the midst of the ordinary routines of life. 

If you are already a practitioner, this program provides further focus and support for your current way of living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in everyday life. The program will provide daily reminders, readings and mini-practices to support your deepening relationship with God. 

Contemplative Outreach

Organized in 1984, Contemplative Outreach (CO) is a worldwide spiritual community of individuals and small faith groups committed to renewing the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in everyday life.  The intent of Contemplative Outreach is to foster the process of transformation in Christ in one another through the practice of Centering Prayer.  We present the method of Centering Prayer and its immediate conceptual background (the psychological context) and we encourage and support one another in living out the fruits of Centering Prayer in our daily lives. We also present Lectio Divina, particularly its movement into contemplative prayer, which is facilitated by a regular and established practice of Centering Prayer. A commitment to a regular practice of Centering Prayer is the primary expression of belonging to the CO interdenominational community.

We also support the renewal of the contemplative Christian tradition, especially through the teachings and works of Fr. Thomas Keating.  Read more about our vision, theological and administrative principles here.  Read more about the history of CO here.

The symbol representing Contemplative Outreach is called "Job's Redeemer – Patient Waiting." The heart and soul of Centering Prayer is consenting to God's presence and action in our lives. Like Job, our patient waiting and consenting is our gift of gratitude.

The elements of the symbol include:

  • The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, which acknowledge that our God is at the center of our consent and being.
  • The cross, symbol of our salvation, stands for our dying to our thoughts and commentaries.
  • The flowers symbolize the abundance of life and the resurrection. These flowers represent our letting go, in which our false self gives way to the flowering of the new self.
  • The circle is a sign of an ongoing process bringing us deeper into Divine Intimacy.

This symbol has been seen in three different locations: on an ancient church in the land of Uz, which is referred to in Scripture as the residence of Job; on a Byzantine stone from excavations in Jerusalem; and in a church named "Multiplication of the Loaves" in the Galilee area.

The contemplative dimension of the Gospel is the penetration into the spiritual meaning of Scripture, leading to an experience of the living Christ and to the love of others in everyday life.  It is receiving the Gospel in the wisdom-way of knowing, which is about spending time "pondering it in your heart," allowing the word of God to transform you into the living word of God, which is Christ.  When Mary listened to Jesus speak, she pondered what she heard in her heart and then she acted.  The inner experience of one’s relationship with God then becomes manifest in living out the values and teachings of the Gospel as a natural way of following Christ, as an inner prompting inspired by the love of God, and trusting God is love.

Father Thomas Keating

A Trappist monk since 1944, Fr. Keating is the founder of Contemplative Outreach and is an internationally renowned theologian and an accomplished author. He has traveled the world to speak with laypeople and communities about contemplative Christian practices and the psychology of the spiritual journey.  Since the reforms of Vatican II, Fr. Keating has been a core participant in and supporter of interreligious dialogue, as well as one of the founders of Centering Prayer. He also helped found the Snowmass Interreligious Conference, which had its first meeting in the fall of 1983 and continues to meet each spring. Fr. Keating also is a past president of the Temple of Understanding and of the Monastic Interreligious Dialogue.  He currently resides at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, CO.  Read more about Thomas Keating here as well as here.

Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina, literally divine reading,’ is an ancient Christian practice of praying the Scriptures. During Lectio Divina, a person listens to or reads the text of the Bible with the ‘ear of the heart,’ as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one's relationship with the Divine.

Like Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina cultivates contemplative prayer. Unlike Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina is a participatory, active practice that uses thoughts, images and insights to enter into a conversation with God. Lectio Divina also is distinguished from reading the Bible for edification or encouragement, Bible study, and praying the Scriptures in common, which are all useful but different practices.

Lectio Divina can be learned in several ways.  One way is by attending a local Lectio Divina one-day introductory workshop or a weekend or long-term Lectio Divina retreat. In addition, many regular Centering Prayer retreats include some form of community Lectio Divina.

There are also Lectio Divina immersion retreats.  You can search our online calendar to see if there is a workshop or retreat near you.

You can also learn the method through an online course.  Contemplative Outreach and Spirituality and Practice have developed an online, on-demand course that you can take anywhere, anytime you have internet access.  You can find more information here.

If you are a beginner to this prayer form it is suggested that you follow the scholastic form of Lectio Divina. This form involves reading the scripture passage four times while listening for a particular prompting.

Lectio – as you read the word of God be aware of any word or phrase that catches your attention. Pause for reflection.

Meditatio – as you read the Word of God be aware of any reflection or thought that comes to you. Pause for reflection.

Oratio – as you read the Word of God this time be aware of any prayer that rises up within you that expresses what you are experiencing in this Word of God. Pray this prayer.

Contemplatio – as you read the Word of God this time just allow yourself to sit with the Word and allow it to deepen within your heart.  

At the end you might just thank God for the gift you have received.

You might want to alternate reading the Word out loud.

As you gain experience, feel free to follow the monastic form of Lectio Divina by allowing yourself to freely move in any order from one moment to another as the Spirit guides you.

If a Centering Prayer Support Group is open to praying Holy Scripture; here is a suggestion on integrating the prayer methods into their time together. After your vestibule prayer, begin your time together with Centering Prayer.  After the prayer period, give a few minutes to slowly become aware of the movement into the praying Scripture. Begin with an invitation to pray including announcing the Scripture Passage which will be prayed. If your group is new to praying the Lectio Divina prayer method, use the scholastic method of the prayer by allowing time after each moment to share quietly the word or phrase that touched each person, their reflection and their prayer. A final faith sharing on how the scripture informed their life is a powerful way to end the prayer period. Over time, as the group becomes comfortable with the prayer method, the facilitator may choose to lead the four moments having a faith sharing only at the end of the prayer. The Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina prayer practices complement each other. We recommend Centering Prayer first when praying the prayers together, as its receptivity opens one to hear the Word and allow its deeper meaning to impact (touch) our lives. We also find that the Rest of Lectio Divina is a different method than that of Centering Prayer, so to keep the methods separate we don't recommend praying Lectio Divina and going into Centering Prayer as the last moment of rest.

Lectio Divina is primarily a private prayer. It is a way of praying the Scriptures. When prayed privately, the movements of the prayer are free-flowing, responding to the movements of the Spirit within. However, Lectio Divina can be adapted to a group setting. The primary difference is that the facilitator moves the group through the different moments as a group.  A prayer group leader can lead a Lectio Divina session, provided they have a basic understanding of the format of the Lectio Divina method. Another difference could be faith sharing.  Many groups take time to share the word or phrase that presented itself to them, or the ponderings that came up, or the prayer that came from their heart. Whatever it is that they feel safe to share in the group. This faith sharing sometimes continues the group’s pondering and informs their lives.

If you are not affiliated with a local Contemplative Outreach chapter, first seek permission from your church pastor or minister to host a Lectio Divina (Praying Holy Scriptures) Introductory Program (this program consists of the introductory workshop to Lectio Divina and six follow-up sessions). Then, contact the nearest chapter coordinator in your area and collaborate with the coordinator to present the introductory program. If there is not a chapter in your area, contact the regional representative listed for your region to assist in planning the program. You may search for local contacts under Community.

Lectio Divina Centering Prayer
Participatory Receptive
Active Passive
More Concentrative More Receptive
Word of Scripture has content Sacred Word has no conceptual content except intentionality
Use thoughts, images, and insights Let go of thoughts, images, insights
Stresses our relationship w/God Stresses ones’ intimacy with God
Supports the motivation for the practice of Centering Prayer Supports the motivation for practice of Lectio Divina.
Rest comes and goes; is not permanent Rest sustained by use of sacred word
Focuses on the terms of the relationship Helps us overcome the obstacles to living the terms of the relationship
Group or private Group or private

 

Summary

Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina are two distinct prayer forms.  If used together there is always a break between these two ways of praying.  It is helpful to have a period of Centering Prayer before a period of Lectio Divina if the group is familiar with both kinds of prayer.

Gift of Centering Prayer to Lectio Divina

There are three obstacles to the journey; over conceptualization, hyperactivity and over dependence on self.  Centering Prayer helps us get beyond these obstacles and settle into the quiet as we listen to the scriptures, Lectio Divina, in a contemplative manner.  Centering Prayer opens us to new thoughts, new action and a deeper dependence on God.

Gift of Lectio Divina to Centering Prayer

Lectio Divina, the praying of Sacred Scripture, deepens our personal relationship with God.

It calls us to rest in God’s transforming presence.  Lectio Divina teaches us who God is and who we are.

A.  Formation Training Program for Presenters of Lectio Divina

The present design of the formation training for Lectio Divina presenters is to give the future presenters an experience of an introductory workshop.  This is followed by a two-hour session clarifying the contents of the presenter’s handbook, giving the participants an opportunity to facilitate a group prayer experience, and answering any questions that might arise.  This formation is “piggy backing” on the formation for presenters of Centering Prayer so it can be understood as an additional module of the basic training of presenters.

If the training program is conducted in a chapter setting, it is recommended that the coordinator assist the presenters-in-training by offering a one-day opportunity for the presenters-in-training to practice with each other, giving the introductory workshop.  This will give the presenters-in-training an opportunity to give at least one of the talks and respond to the questions of the other presenters-in-training.

B. Criteria for Qualified Presenters

In order to become a qualified presenter of Lectio Divina under the auspices of Contemplative Outreach a person must meet the following criteria:

  1. Is committed to a daily practice of Centering Prayer.
  2. Is committed to a regular practice of Lectio Divina.
  3. Is a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer
  4. Attended a Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop and presenter’s formation at the end of the workshop.
  5. Attends foundational workshops and retreats offered by Contemplative Outreach.
  6. Accepts the Contemplative Outreach Vision Statement and Theological Principles.
  7. Where applicable, is recommended by the local coordinator or by one of the resource personnel.
  8. Becomes familiar with the bibliography on Lectio Divina reading some of the books and viewing some of the videos.
  9. During this time of training the presenter needs to have a mentor (either a commissioned presenter of Lectio Divina or someone from the approved mentor list.

C. Process of Commissioning Presenters of Lectio Divina

After fulfilling the aforementioned criteria, a person may become a commissioned presenter of Lectio Divina by completing the following process:

  • A Candidate for Presenter-in-training attends a Lectio Divina Formation Workshop and Training following the recommendation of their Chapter coordinator (if applicable). The Formation staff of the Lectio Divina training program gives each qualified Candidate a copy of the Commitment Sheet and the Commissioning Approval Form and reviews the commissioning requirements with them. The Presenter-in-Training is responsible for his/her Commissioning Approval Form document throughout the training period.
  • The Candidate selects a mentor, either a commissioned presenter of Lectio Divina or a resource person from the list in the Resource Manual, to mentor them as they give workshops. The Candidate completes and signs the Commitment Sheet accepting commissioning as a Presenter-In-Training for the Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop and gives this to the Formation staff.  
  • Formation staff sends the list of qualified candidates who have accepted commissioning as a Presenter-In-Training to the Contemplative Outreach Resource Center (CORC), together with their Commitment Sheets.  Candidates are coded on CORC database as Presenters-in-Training for Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop.  CORC notifies the candidate’s mentor and coordinator of the candidate’s commissioning as a Presenter-in-Training and that the candidate will contact them soon.
  • Candidates contact their mentor and inform their coordinator that they are a Presenter-in-Training for the Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop.
  • Ideally, the mentoring is done by observing the Presenter-in-Training give at least one workshop on Lectio Divina.  If this is not possible, due to distance or other factors, other ways may be substituted such as: audio or video recording of the presentation for mentor evaluation or the mentor may appoint the local coordinator or a commissioned presenter to observe the presentation.
  • The Mentor observes the Presenter-in-Training giving the workshop.  They review the evaluations and the Presenter-in-Training writes a one-page reflection note on their personal experience and what they’ve learned in giving the workshop.  This is shared with their Mentor in the month following the workshop.
  • If it is not possible for the Mentor to be present to observe the Presenter-in-Training’s presentation, the Presenter-in-Training can send the evaluations and their reflection note to their Mentor.  The Mentor responds by critiquing the evaluations and reflection note of the Presenter-in-Training and sending the Presenter-in-Training their response.  
  • Presenters-in-Training are to have at least two experiences of presenting or co-presenting a workshop.  During these two workshops the Presenter-in-Training needs to present each of the four conferences at least once.
  • When the Presenter-in-Training feels ready to be commissioned and has presented at least two workshops, he/she indicates the workshops given on the Approval Form, has it signed by his/her Mentor recommending full commissioning, then sends it to the CORC.
  • The CORC sends an appointment letter to the Presenter-in-Training indicating full commissioning as a Presenter of Lectio Divina Introductory Workshops.  The person is coded on the database as a Lectio Divina commissioned presenter.  Individual files are kept at the CORC for each person who has been commissioned.  A copy of the appointment letter is sent to the Presenter’s Coordinator. 
  • The Coordinator of the newly commissioned presenter of Lectio Divina is encouraged to help the new Presenter schedule Lectio Divina workshops in their area.
  • A Presenter-in-Training need not wait to practice skills until a Lectio Divina workshop is hosted.  They may:
  • Present to small prayer groups as a refresher
  • Present at a Day or ½ Day of Prayer
  • Present to a group of presenters or facilitators
  • Present at a leadership gathering as a spiritual enrichment opportunity.

D. Sharing Lectio Divina with Others Without Commissioning

Although the above criteria and commissioning procedure is required of those who want to represent Contemplative Outreach, Ltd in presenting Lectio Divina, there is no restriction on your presentation of Lectio Divina without associating it with Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. If your desire is to make Lectio Divina available to fellow parishioners, as many churches have been encouraging, then there are plenty of materials available for a parish to have a successful program without the Contemplative Outreach, Ltd name being attached. For example, Stephen Binz has written books on Lectio Divina that can be used with small groups. Since one does not need to be a practitioner of Centering Prayer in order to practice Lectio Divina, you can work with your parish to have a seasonal Lectio Divina program using one of Mr. Binz’s books or any other resources you find helpful.

There are important reasons why a commissioned presenter of the Introduction to Lectio Divina Workshop is required to be a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer. The following are the principal reasons for this requirement:

  • Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer are the two core practices of Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. They compliment and support each other, yet they are two distinct practices, each with its own integrity. Therefore, it is important that a presenter of the Lectio Divina Introductory Workshop be experienced in both practices, and in their presentations, so that their distinctive differences can be clearly articulated.
  • The presentation of these workshops is more in the nature of a transmission rather than a presentation. One teaches from the depth of one’s experience of the prayer, rather than from certain knowledge one has gained through study.
    • The Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. presenter training is a 6-day intensive residential course that instills presentation skills in the presenters, as well as deepens and forms their practice, so that they are better prepared for this transmission. Presenters work in small groups to learn about group dynamics and how best to transmit the prayer in the manner that maintains the integrity of the teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating.
    • While the subject matter is different, the actual manner of presentation of Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina is much the same. Therefore, we rely on Centering Prayer training to provide the necessary skills and experience in presenting that can easily be adapted to the presentation of Lectio Divina.
    • The experience of presenting the Centering Prayer workshop during the course of commissioning provides valuable experience that will enhance one’s presentation of Lectio Divina.
    • If we did not require that a presenter of Lectio Divina first be a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer we would need to have a separate 6-day training to properly form presenters as outlined above. In addition, many presenters would lack the depth of experience and knowledge that a commissioned presenter of Centering Prayer has developed.
Welcoming Prayer

The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life.  The purpose of the Welcoming Prayer is to deepen our relationship with God through consenting in the ordinary activities of our day. The Welcoming Prayer helps to dismantle the emotional programs of the false-self system and to heal the wounds of a lifetime by addressing them where they are stored — in the body. It contributes to the process of transformation in Christ initiated in Centering Prayer.  Practicing the Welcoming Prayer offers the opportunity to make choices free of the false-self system — responding instead of reacting to the present moment.  Read more about the Welcoming Prayer here.

The Welcoming Prayer can be learned in several ways.  One way is by attending a local Welcoming Prayer day or weekend retreat/workshop.  There are also Welcoming Prayer immersion retreats.  You can search our online calendar to see if there is a workshop or retreat near you.

You can also learn the method through an online course.  Contemplative Outreach and Spirituality and Practice have developed an online, on-demand course that you can take anywhere, anytime you have internet access.  You can find more information here.

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