The Focus of Centering Prayer 01-24-2014

A distinction between Christian silent prayer and disciplined silences of other Eastern religions… Ultimately, in the Christian context, silent prayer can only be taught by the great teacher, which Augustine calls the Magister Internus (Latin): the Master Within. This is the Holy Spirit—the aspect of God available to us at all times, nudging us and prompting us into deeper and more consistent relationship with God. This is different from non-Christian eastern forms of meditation, where sometimes emphasis ultimately rests on one’s self or one’s teacher. In the Christian context emphasis may briefly be placed on one’s self or a teacher, yet the focus always returns to relationship with God. It’s not up to us or our teacher to “work” in Centering Prayer. It is God’s grace and presence that ultimately heals us. This focus on God, not our own effort, is unique to Christian prayer and is in line with Paul’s theology of grace, not works.

Silent prayer is about what God does for us, not about our efforts. Of course, to increase depth in Centering Prayer we need to maintain designated times for prayer and we need to leave behind our distractions, waiting for God in naked awareness. Yet, in Centering Prayer there’s no goal we’re working toward step by step, as with some spiritual practices. Centering Prayer is an effortless/passive prayer form. To progress, we have to habitually show up for prayer (daily prayer has a cumulative effect). And we need regular time for retreat (people who do regular daily practice of silent prayer and periodic retreats are part of a contemporary movement I refer to as Neomonasticism: see the following Wikipedia article:

So we need to take initiative and show up. Then, after we show up, it’s up to Christ to transform us.