Writings on Centering Prayer

Praying the Scriptures, and 

Contemplative Living

  1. Father Thomas Keating on centering prayer
  2. Praying the Scriptures (lectio divina)
  3. Active prayer
  4. Forgiveness
  5. Silence and solitude

Father Thomas Keating on the Web

Centering Prayer

Open Mind, Open Heart  on the web

For those of you who like to read while online, significant portions of Open Mind, Open Heart are online at http://www.centeringprayer.com/OpenHeart/index.htm. Please tell your friends who are interested in centering prayer of this resource.

Unloading and the fruits of the Spirit

On February 17, 2001, Father Thomas spoke on unloading and the fruits of the Spirit in daily life.  You can listen to a live recording of Father Thomas' teaching.   


The Method of Centering Prayer

The grace of Pentecost affirms that the risen Jesus is among us as the glorified Christ. Christ lives in each of us as the Enlightened One, present everywhere and at all times. He is the living Master who continuously sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to bear witness to his resurrection by empowering us to experience and manifest the fruits of the Spirit and the Beatitudes both in prayer and action.

El Método de la Oración Centrante   The Method of Centering Prayer for Spanish speakers. 

El don de Pentecostes afirma que Jesus resucitado está entre nosotros como el Cristo glorificado. Cristo vive dentro de nosostros como El Iluminado, presente en todo lugar, en todo momento. El es Maestro vivo quien continuamente envia al Espíritu Santo a habitar dentro de nosotros y a dar testimonio de su resurrección, fortaleciendonos para experimentar y manifestar los frutos del Espíritu y de las Beatitudes tanto en la oración como en la acción.

What to do with the ordinary thoughts while praying?

The great battle in the early stages of contemplative prayer is with thoughts. It is important to recognize the various kinds of thoughts and thought patterns that come down the stream of consciousness and to learn the best way to handle each kind.. . . To sum up, the best response to the ordinary wanderings of the imagination is to ignore them; not, however, with a feeling of annoyance or anxiety, but with one of acceptance and peace. Every response to God, whatever it is, must begin with the full acceptance of reality as it actually is at the moment. Since it is part of our nature to have a wandering imagination, however much you might want to be quiet, accept the fact that thoughts are certain to come. The solution is not to try to make the mind a blank. That is not what interior silence is.

 A Traditional Blend 

It seems to me that the Christian contemplative tradition can be compared to a blend of the finest herb teas.  Our primary source is The Cloud of Unknowing, but we have incorporated other “teas” to establish a special blend. 

Fruits of the Spirit

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit are indications of God's presence at work in us in varying degrees and forms. Through them the Holy Spirit is becoming a reality in our lives. By manifesting the fruits in daily life we bear witness to the resurrection of Christ in a most profound manner. It is not so much preaching or teaching, but our rootedness in the Spirit that communicates Christ's life to the people around us-to our family, friends and those with whom we work. If we are rooted in the Spirit, these fruits inevitably begin to appear. 

Intention and Attention

The practice of centering prayer, built upon lectio divina, is based on a millennia of Christian contemplative tradition. The barriers that we have created and our own internal “noise,” however, must be overcome before we can fully allow the silence of God to well up from within and heal us. Our spiritual journey, therefore, requires not only a practice like centering prayer leading to contemplation, but also practices for daily life such as methods of right attention (to what we are doing) and intention (to why we are doing it).  

Centering Prayer as Divine Therapy

To be converted means to change from looking for happiness in symbols of our emotional programs in the culture - it can't be found there and will lead to human misery - and to begin to look for happiness where it really is: in our relationship with God, in our service of others, in our respect for nature, and in our sense of belonging to the universe.

Centering Prayer in terms of the Twelve Step tradition

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are inspired by a profound intuition: (1) the recognition of one's powerlessness to take even the first step toward recovery from the addiction of alcoholism, and (2) the complete turning of oneself over to a Power greater than oneself. As the twelve steps are not a one time climb, neither is the process of Christian transformation initiated and sustained by Centering Prayer. Both describe movement but not in a straight line. The movement is a spiral ascent (or descent) in which one's temptations and failures recycle. Just as one in recovery is continuously working the Twelve Step Program, so one keeps beginning again in the spiritual journey, but each time at a deeper level of trust in God.

New Testament Origins of Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative Prayer is not a technique, although it makes use of methods as starting points to awaken spiritual attentiveness. Contemplative Prayer is a gift of the Holy Spirit. A basic tenet of the Christian Contemplative Tradition is that this gift cannot be earned, but it is freely given by God. Centering Prayer is not that gift, or even a way to make Contemplative Prayer happen. Rather, it is a means of preparing to receive it by opening to God’s presence and action within. The following texts from the Gospel of John are a New Testament scriptural and theological inspiration for the practice of Centering Prayer and Contemplative Outreach. 

Centering Prayer and Transcendental Meditation (TM)

The differences between Centering Prayer and Transcendental Meditation are significant. The use of the Sacred Word does not have the calming effect attributed to the TM mantra. Nor is the Sacred Word a vehicle to go to the spiritual level of one’s being as it is in TM. There is no cause-and-effect relationship between using the Sacred Word and arriving at some altered state of consciousness. The Sacred Word is merely the symbol of the will’s consent to God’s presence and action within us based on faith in the doctrine of the Divine Indwelling. Thus it is a means of reaffirming our original intention to be in God’s presence and to surrender to the divine action when we are attracted to some other thought, feeling, or impression.

An Interview with Father Thomas by Time Magazine, April 5, 1996
A certain amount of silence is almost like food and bread and drink. It's part of human life. It's a place in which one reflects on, on the day and sips through one's motivation and lays aside that which is harmful to others and to oneself, and, and above all, put it this way, silence is God's first language. So to know God, we need to learn how to be silent.

Contemplative Outreach National Newsletter

We shall direct you to the newsletter from the international office.  There is always an article by Father Thomas and reports on what is happening within the network of Centering Prayer practitioners.  Click on newsletter.
Deepening Experience of Centering Prayer, part 1 and part two
When we are doing Centering Prayer regularly (i.e., twice daily), there is a constant wearing away of our opposition to grace. There may be an unconscious resistance to acknowledging something God wishes to show us or to receiving something God wishes to give us. This resistance can manifest itself in different ways: for example, by physical symptoms like pain or a sense of not being able to say "yes" sincerely, or a generalized uneasiness. But if we can just wait it out and continue our regular practice of Centering Prayer, eventually the pocket of resistance begins to dissipate.

Praying the Scriptures (lectio divina)

Fr. Thomas Keating on praying the Scriptures

The monastic form of Lectio Divina is a more ancient method and was practiced by the Mothers and Fathers of the Desert and later in monasteries both East and West. It is oriented toward contemplative prayer.    The ripe fruit of the regular practice of Lectio Divina is assimilating the word of God and being assimilated by it. It is a movement from conversation to communion. It also enables us to express our deep spiritual experience of union with God in words or symbols that are appropriate. There is thus a movement not only into silence, but from silence to expression.

Father Basil Pennington on praying the Scriptures

The basic procedure for lectio divina is quite simple:  

1.       Take the Bible with reverence from its place of honor, and open it to a passage of your choosing.  

2.       Calling upon the Holy Spirit, for ten minutes (or longer, if you are so drawn), listen to the Lord speaking to you through the Text and respond to God.

3.       When you finish, choose a word or phrase (perhaps one that will have been ‘given’ to you ) and thank the Lord for being with you and speaking with you. 


Abbot Bernard Olivera, Abbot General of the Trappists. 

The Gospel is the mouth of Christ, ever-ready to offer to us the kiss of eternity.

The Gospel is the body and blood of Christ, to pray and live it is to eat and to drink it.

The Gospel is the power of God because it shows us the way and gives us the strength to follow it.


Fr. Luke Dysinger, O.S.B.

The Ancient Art Of Lectio Divina.  A very ancient art, practiced at one time by all Christians, is the technique known as lectio divina - a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.


Father Armand Veilleux, OCSO

Lectio Divina as school of prayer among the Fathers of the Desert  (Scholarly)
The Fathers of the desert wished to carry out faithfully in their lives all the precepts of Scripture. And, in the Scriptures, the first concrete precept they found on the frequency of prayer was not that they ought not to pray at this or that hour of the day or night, but that they ought to pray without ceasing.
Upper Room Ministries® 
This web site walks the visitor through the process of selecting a passage of Scripture, reading slowly, reflecting, responding, and resting with the option to start an online discussion. Very fine for those comfortable with reading on-line. Sponsored by MethodX (the way of Christ),  an online Christian community where young adults (18-28+) can identify and explore their relationships with God and with others.
S A C R E D  S P A C E: Produced by the Irish Jesuits
An excellent site to make a 'Sacred Space' in your day, and spend ten minutes, praying here and now, as you sit at your computer, with the help of on-screen guidance and scripture chosen specially every day.

Additional Contemplative Practices

Fr. Thomas Keating on active prayer

On Active Prayer

The active prayer - an aspiration drawn from scripture for use in daily life - should be longer [than the prayer word used in Centering Prayer] - five to nine syllables. The saying of the syllables is synchronized with one's heartbeat. While some people like to use a variety of aspirations for this purpose, it is easier to work a single aspiration into the subconscious. The great advantage of this practice is that it eventually becomes a "tape" similar to the "tapes" that accompany one's upsetting emotions. When this occurs, the aspiration has the remarkable effect of erasing the old tapes, thus providing a neutral zone in which common sense or the Spirit of God can suggest what should be done.


Jesus Prayer by By H.R.H. Princess Ileana of Romania

When I arise in the morning, [the name of Jesus] starts me joyfully upon a new day. When I travel by air, land, or sea, it sings within my breast When I stand upon a platform and face my listeners, it beats encouragement. When I gather my children around me, it murmurs a blessing. And at the end of a weary day, when I lay me down to rest, I give my heart over to Jesus: "(Lord) into thy hands I commend my spirit". I sleep--but my heart as it beats prays on: "JESUS."



The Practice of Forgiveness  

"To forgive isn't only divine. It's human, too," says Everett L. Worthington, Jr., a clinical psychologist who has studied forgiveness for many years. Dr. Worthington himself is living proof of that assertion. Shortly after the publication of his most recent book, To Forgive Is Human: How to Put Your Past in the Past , his own mother was brutally murdered. "I had to decide whether what I'd written was just for other people or was something I could use, too," he confides. He tells his story in the current  issue of Spirituality & Health's print magazine, but the bottom line is this: working through the five-step practice called REACH, which he and his colleagues developed, he was able to achieve forgiveness and experience freedom from anger and resentment.  From Spirituality and Health  (Winter 1999).

Listening with the Ear of the Heart

Acquire a heart and you shall be saved." These are the words of Abba Pambo, a desert father of the fourth century. According to the desert tradition, the focus of ascetical practice and prayer was ordered to the acquiring of a heart . . . Finding one's heart rendered one permeable and available to God's mystery. . . [W]hat happens when the heart is rendered permeable to God's presence and God's mystery. It becomes compassionate. It becomes merciful.

Frank Griswold is the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in the United States. 


Reflections on Sept 11: Contemplation in a world of violence by James Alison

When we talk about contemplation in a Christian context we are talking about quite a specific sort of seeing. We are talking about learning how to be given our desire through the eyes of another. The other is Jesus, the Word of God. So, we are being taught to look at what is through the eyes of the One who reveals the mind of God, that is to be possessed by the mind of God ourselves.

Silence and Solitude: Sayings from hermits
Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self.
--Henri J. M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude

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