Q: I am a trying to get a handle on Centering Prayer. Is it OK ... to use the imagery that comes into my head when I sit, e.g., God as Father - perhaps on the lap of God, or being held by God, etc?
A: Getting a handle on Centering Prayer can be a challenge. While the practice is simple it doesn’t mean it is easy. I always recommend reading and re-reading the brochure on the method of Centering Prayer which you can download here, especially guidelines 1 and 3.
The sacred word can also be a sacred breath, a sacred image, or nothing at all, as long whatever we choose is used to return to our center where God dwells. Whatever image you use, stay with that image throughout your prayer but without focusing on it. Glance at it when you are engaged with a thought, like you would with a sacred word, and renew your original intention to consent to God’s presence and action within you. If you find yourself engaging with that image, no matter how comfortable it feels, treat it like a thought and let it go. If this is difficult you might consider changing your sacred image into something which won’t evoke as many thoughts, emotions or feelings.
I would also recommend watching this YouTube video, "Thomas Keating teaching Centering Prayer - Handling "Thoughts" to clarify what is happening during the practice.
I hope this helps, love hearing from you.
Blessings, Fr Carl