Centering Prayer

Centering Prayer

Posted by Jay Suthers on Jul 18th, 2016

Father Thomas Keating

Centering prayer, also known as contemplative prayer, is a form of Christian meditation and is a movement founded by Father Thomas Keating and others in the 1970s. Centering prayer differs from prayer as we usually think of it in that it is a receptive method of prayer. While prayer is usually about talking to God, asking of God, and giving thanks and praise to God, centering prayer is about listening to God.

Centering prayer is not meant to replace prayer, but is instead meant to enhance prayer. Before practicing center prayer, in fact, one might begin with some spoken prayer as a means of opening a space for receiving from God during the Centering prayer session.

The Centering prayer method is really quite simple. Here are four steps as written in the guidelines from Contemplative Outreach:

  1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
  2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
  3. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
  4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

A Centering prayer session will go for about 20 minutes and it is most helpful to do this twice a day if possible. These are similar guidelines to practicing meditation in its many forms. It should be no surprise that Thomas Keating has met with the Dalai Lama to share this practice. In fact a film was produced to document their discussion.

There are some differences between Centering prayer and meditation mainly in that Centering prayer is meant to be a process of transformation in Christ in one another. It is a Christ-centered practice, which makes it uniquely Christian. Scriptural reading and understanding is also a part of this practice.

To learn more about Centering prayer, you are encouraged to visit the Contemplative Outreach web site at They have videos, brochures, and links to a great deal of information on this practice. You are also encouraged to find and attend a workshop. The web site has information on online courses and a current list of locations offering workshops.

I hope this information has been helpful to you in discovering Centering Prayer.

Thank you for reading,


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