Q: I’m a practitioner of “A Course in Miracles” and other non-religious pathways. Can I or anyone that is not a traditional Christian practice Centering Prayer? Is Centering Prayer for anyone who has a sincere desire to find God regardless of their tradition or non-tradition?
A: Thank you for this beautiful and important question. Yes! Centering Prayer is a great tool for anyone who would like to deepen their relationship with God, no matter what their beliefs. The method of Centering Prayer is based squarely on classic writings and practices from the Christian tradition, yet it leads us beyond words into direct and silent relationship with God. The practice encourages people of all backgrounds to follow their longing for intimacy with God, regardless of their beliefs or discomfort with religious constructs.
Like many others, I myself came to Centering Prayer after spending years in Buddhist practice. God was always present to me in my meditation and eventually I began to long to acknowledge the Divine presence more fully in my practice. When I first started to practice Centering Prayer, for a while I felt betwixt and between: the God-free language of the Buddhist meditation halls felt “too Buddhist” and some of the theological language used to describe Centering Prayer sometimes felt “too Christian.” Eventually I made my way into a Centering Prayer community that felt inclusive and open, a place of spiritual transformation for all. One of the founders of Centering Prayer, Thomas Keating, was a pioneer in interfaith dialogue, and this openness is an important part of the Centering Prayer tradition. Many Centering Prayer groups find ways to honor other spiritual traditions in the readings and language that they choose.
At the weekly Centering Prayer group I attend, we begin every session with these words: Welcome to this digital contemplative prayer group. This is a place for all God’s people. Whatever your beliefs or doubts you are welcome here. If you are new to Centering Prayer, just follow the instructions as the session unfolds. You are also welcome to use the silence in any other way that is right for you.
Many people have told us that it’s important to them that we use this very welcoming language at every single meeting.
Most people find it helpful to practice Centering Prayer with a group. I hope if you choose to practice in a group that you will find a community that will welcome and support you and your non-Christian beliefs. Those of us who come to our Centering Prayer communities as seekers from other backgrounds have much wisdom to offer. As your relationship with a Centering Prayer community deepens, I hope you will find ways to share the riches you have discovered in “A Course in Miracles.”
You might find my book Centering Prayer for Everyone a helpful resource. It is written in welcoming and inclusive language with a specific eye to the needs and sensitivities of seekers who may be longing for God without necessarily labeling themselves as Christian.
May your sincere desire to find God lead to you into ever greater intimacy with the Divine!