My Experience with the Practice of Utmost Charity


When I saw the notice for the course “Utmost Charity: A Call to Deeper Love,” although I had many previous commitments on my calendar, I was immediately drawn to it. Feeling that this strong pull might be the Holy Spirit guiding me, I signed up. This course was transformative and it has helped me see that my whole life is a prayer. I was then invited to share a bit about this with the Contemplative Outreach community.

Some background: I began practicing Centering Prayer during my discernment in the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross sometime in the summer of 2020. One of my sponsors suggested I read Into the Quiet Land by Martin Laird. A few months later I mentioned to another friend who was considering the companionship that I found the practice of Christian meditation challenging. She pointed me to the Centering Prayer mobile app, which led me to Contemplative Outreach. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t “doing it right.” I stopped using the app and felt that maybe contemplative prayer just wasn’t for me. I told myself that surely my other practices of faith were an acknowledgement of God’s blessing. Contemplation, I assured myself, is for contemplatives — and maybe I’m just not one of those.

What the Utmost Charity course helped me to see is that while all kinds of expressions of faith are indeed wonderful, the point of contemplative practice isn’t our own efforts. The point is what God does with us when we practice. When we let go of our own activities and rest in God’s presence, we are “born from above” as Jesus tells Nicodemus. The point then, is not to be a “good contemplative” but to accept that God is all in all. To let God’s love flow through us in every moment. Specific contemplative practices, such as Centering Prayer, simply help us open our hearts and say “Yes! Please, make me a channel of divine love.”

This is the transformative message I took away from the course: we don’t have to do more or be more. We simply have to remind ourselves of the awesome, incredible truth that God is wholly present with us. God dwells among us and abides with us, every one of us, in every moment. Thomas Keating taught that Centering Prayer can help us to know this presence, which in turn helps us become “transmitters,” radiating God’s love through ourselves into the world. His gift was helping others see that our actions will naturally flow from our consent to God’s love, as contemplative practices help us bear the fruits of the Spirit.

If this sounds a bit vague to you, a bit idealistic, I understand! And I recommend the Utmost Charity course, which helped me begin to recognize what this means in day to day life. During the course, I learned how to reconnect with my awareness of God throughout the day, using helpful practices such as Active Prayer, Welcoming Prayer, and Centering Prayer. I have a small note on my desk at work reminding me of these practices. One revelation for me is that while setting aside dedicated time for Centering Prayer helps develop this awareness, the heart of the practice — receptive silence — is something we can access at any moment, simply by recognizing God abiding in ourselves and those around us (near or far), and expressing, in silent prayer, our desire to abide in God. Whenever I do this I am heartened, too, by the thought that I am not alone, as so many other people engage in this same kind of assent to God throughout the day.

I no longer worry about whether I am practicing properly. This is not to say that my awareness never wavers, or that I never feel discouraged, uncomfortable, or cranky. But I am now able to see that at any moment, equipped with contemplative practices and committed to utmost charity, I can bring my awareness back to recognizing God in each person, including myself. When I forget (or if I’m honest, sometimes refuse) to do so, Jesus is with me in my human frailness, and strengthens me to return to that awareness. Practically speaking, I have experienced an improved capacity to feel and act with compassion in the midst of stressful situations. I am even beginning to feel, in a way I couldn’t before, that God delights in me. This is what makes my whole life a prayer.

Deb Baker
from N’dakinna, which is the traditional ancestral homeland of the Abenaki, Pennacook and Wabanaki Peoples past and present, now called Concord, New Hampshire, USA.


“Utmost Charity: A Call to Deeper Love” is now available as a self-guided, on-demand, practice-based e-course. You can find out more information and register here with our partner, Spirituality & Practice. Scholarships are available.