Q: One of the new people in our Centering Prayer group asked me what the difference between meditation and Centering Prayer is. ‚Ä¶ [By the way,] Centering Prayer and Welcoming Prayer, beginning in April of 1999, continues to give me transformative life experiences.
A: In the Christian tradition, meditation is known as discursive meditation. It is the prayer process of attentively reading a passage from Scripture or a prayer and then reflecting on them or pondering them; it is the engagement of the mind/intellect to begin to put on the mind of Christ. I like to say it is taking the time to test one’s ways of thinking to see if it is aligned with the values of the gospel message. In summary, you are affirming or changing your way of thinking with Jesus‚Äô values.
Centering Prayer is primarily a prayer of consenting – consenting to God’s presence and action in one’s life. The four guidelines of the prayer celebrate important elements in the spiritual journey. The sacred word directs one’s intention to consent; the sitting is presenting to God not only one’s intention but one’s whole being to be transformed; the gently returning to the sacred word when engaged with thoughts, etc., is the powerful practice that is popularly spoken of as ‘ let go, let God‚Äô; and the resting in the silence for a few minutes after the prayer builds up a reserve of silence so that as you enter into the activity of each day you bring more of the presence of God into what you do.
In short, discursive meditation feeds the mind; Centering Prayer feeds the heart.
On a personal note, you shared that “Centering Prayer and Welcoming Prayer, beginning in April of 1999, continues to give me transformative life experiences.” Thank you for sharing your experience. Yes, these prayers are not only devotional but transformative – ‘I live now not I but Christ lives in me.’ – Fr. Carl
To read more Q&A on Centering Prayer visit the Resources/Articles area.