One way to think about Centering Prayer is to visualize all incoming thoughts as boats coming down a river. Some boats (distracting thoughts) are exciting and alluring. Others are mundane. Yet we get carried away by each and every boat coming downstream. The point of silent prayer is to get less and less caught up in the various boats coming along the stream of consciousness. As we get less caught up with the boats, the boats become less frequent with more space between them. Then eventually we enjoy complete quiet with no boats, just the calm energized water, which carries every boat.
With fewer and fewer thoughts we’re able to rest in pure being: God in whom “we live and breathe and have our being” (Acts 17:28a). This practice is a fulfillment of Jesus’ first commandment: “Love the Sovereign your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27, Matthew 22:37, Deuteronomy 6: 4-5).
How can we love God with our entire mind when we’re distracted? First we need to still our minds. Then we can experience what God wants to impart. Deep communion with God requires our full undistracted attention. Perhaps Saint Maximus puts it best: “He who truly loves God prays entirely without distraction, and he who prays entirely without distraction loves God truly. But he whose intellect is fixed on any worldly thing does not pray without distraction, and consequently he does not love God.”