Q: Recently, when I concluded my session of Centering Prayer and recited the Lord's Prayer, as is my custom, I was struck by the disparity between the Trinity in Whom and with Whom I had just been abiding, and the "God in heaven" who seemed to resume his cloak of an old white man on a throne far, far away. Am I taking the opening of the Lord's Prayer too literally?
A: Thank you for your question: Am I taking the opening of the Lord's Prayer too literally? You are bringing up a very insightful observation.
Let me answer you from a number of different approaches.
To capture your experience, perhaps it would be better to end your prayer period with “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen”. It would affirm your awareness of the mystery of the Trinity.
Some people wonder why we suggest that the period of Centering Prayer end with a reflective praying of the Lord’s Prayer. It helps remind us of the relationship we have with our God and encourages a continued reflection on that relationship. Also, according to the ancient fathers of the church (e.g., St. Jerome), the prayer is a summary of the major themes of the Bible. It gives us a grounding in the Word of God.
You may wish to pray in the manner of Lectio Divina with the Lord's Prayer to see how the Spirit inspires new understanding.
The “old bearded man on his throne in heaven far away” was also the image I had as a child. However, the understanding of heaven has matured over time; it is not a place but a state of being where we are united with God in a very intimate and profound way. There is no real separation between us. It is a state of consciousness – a state of presence. One could say we experience that here and now – that state of presence with the Divine. A taste of heaven is here and now by participation when we consent to God’s presence and action in our Centering Prayer which impregnates all our daily activity.
Jesus, a wisdom teacher, is sharing with us the way he would like us to pray – in intimate and tender connection to our Source. I am sure it mirrored the way he prayed when he when off by himself. He is inviting us to enter into his relationship with his “dad”. See this passage from Matthew 11:25-26. “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike .Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will." How blessed we are!
Blessings to you and the members of your Centering Prayer support group,