Centering Prayer Day 1

Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer.

This past Sunday I began a pre-worship time of Centering Prayer at church.  I knew that I wanted it to be more experiential than a lecture or an informational Sunday School class.  I wanted to give people time to actually practice centering prayer together.

I also knew I needed to explain it a bit and prepare people to incrementally develop time of silence and stillness in order to practice this ancient and yet new again way of praying.

From the Contemplative Outreach website I began to pull together language to use in class. http://www.centeringprayer.com

Centering Prayer prepares us to receive a sacred gift.

In this prayer time we experience God’s presence, gentle as a butterfly, within us; closer than breathing; closer than thinking; closer than consciousness itself.

We detach from what holds us – what holds our attention, our emotions, our biases, so we can be open to God’s presence. “I sleep but my heart is awake.” (Song of Songs).

It is a visceral way to be in touch with the deeper yearning inside you. Cynthia Bourgeault (Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, 130).

In centering prayer, the inner observer’s job is to connect your mind’s lofty ideals with your embodiment’s actions. (Bourgeault, 131).

This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.

“The actual work of centering prayer is consenting to God’s presence and letting go of the present moment and all its content.” Thomas Keating (Intimacy with God, 26).

In the quiet of centering prayer, the consent to return to a sacred word, or your breath, or a sound, is all the activity you need.

At this point in the group (ok, it was only two of us this first week) after getting to know each other a bit and butterfly outlinelearning a little about what Centering Prayer is, we took an outline of a butterfly to trace with our finger and then focus on the image to use as a signal, when our minds strayed, to come back to center.

We ended our time together agreeing to practice Centering Prayer for 10 minutes twice a day – morning and evening. We are not necessarily expecting to get to that blissful state in the first week :0) but we are intending to practice settling in and looking for the Sacred One inside us.

So, this morning, after my morning walk (thank you for no more snow), and some yoga to release my bound up muscles, I sat on my mat in search of a quiet mind.

It was illusive.  It’s really ridiculous how many thoughts come into my mind.  I admit I AM a creative person and it seems to be on all the time! Some people tell me I have too much going on inside my head. Whatever, it’s the way I’m made.

I felt like there were moments when I was on the edge of it and then I’d think “Oh yea! I’m getting it!”  Darn… I’m not supposed to judge or think. I’m to be aware, but not analytical. So, I didn’t get it – yet.

I resolved to say to my mat “To be continued”.sitting by water in the country

Meditation of the Heart (Yaconelli) Day 7

On the seventh day God rested from all the work that had been done (Genesis 2:2).

I’m considering the word “rest” today from the perspective of the ancient Christian tradition that says to pray is to rest. Yaconelli details rest as requiring a release from our work, plans, worries and activity. He writes “when we rest in prayer, we become open and receptive to God’s presence.”

I recall in my first semester of seminary, we were learning about the discipline of prayer.  Our leader told us that prayer is not always about asking for something; “it’s really wasting time with God”.  It’s about hanging out with God with no particular goal or agenda, but simply spending time in God’s presence.

A spiritual director once likened prayer time to my desire to just spend time with my kids.  We don’t have to be doing anything unique, just being together in the same room is good for me. She said, “don’t you think God would like to hang out in the same room with you?” (Duh-ope!)

Like some of my friends, I haven’t been good at a regular time of prayer but, ofSedona sitting up all things, my cat has helped me out in this regard.

While on my laptop (furiously writing seminary papers), my cat, Sedona, will often climb up onto my lap and cover my wrists Sedona on my lapwith her ample self.  I’ve tried to continue typing, but I can neither see over her girth nor lift her with my wrist to get my fingers on the right keys. So, I’ve taken to asking her “Oh, is it time for prayer?” We sit while I stroke her soft fur, enjoying that pleasure and extending the pleasure to being aware of God’s presence, attained not through thinking but through loving, as Yaconelli says.

Amazing grace opens its arms and lets us fall into its love.
Bidden, yearned for, woo’d and pursued
it beckons us all to come home.
(Fa Lane)

Wonder, Fear and Longing (Yaconelli) Day 2

Desire – a craving, longing, or yearning – suggest feelings that impel one to the attainment or possession of something (in our imagination or in reality). To attain something either in our imagination or in our psychic/physical reality.  

Sometimes I think God exists only in our imagination.  That humans, for as long as we’ve had cognitive abilities, have done the best we can to understand how the world works and we attribute the unknowable or, rather the not-yet-identified and known, to an entity we call God. So, God is understood thru the best of our abilities to imagine, identify and express. Only in these limited human ways can we speak about God. I get a little defensive when people start putting words in God’s mouth to claim what God wants or thinks. God, by definition is omnipotent and unknowable. Remember how God put Job in his place? I would hesitate to speak on behalf of such an entity as if my familiarity with God gave me permission to infer the mind of God.

Job chapter 38: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
    I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
    Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know! …
    

12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
     and caused the dawn to know its place,…

16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea,
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
    or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
    Declare, if you know all this.

19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
    and where is the place of darkness,
20 that you may take it to its territory
    and that you may discern the paths to its home?
21 Surely you know, for you were born then,
    and the number of your days is great!

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
    or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
    for the day of battle and war?
24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
    or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?

28 “Has the rain a father,
    or who has begotten the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb did the ice come forth,
    and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven?
30 The waters become hard like stone,
    and the face of the deep is frozen…

33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
    Can you establish their rule on the earth?…

35 Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go
    and say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts,
    or given understanding to the mind?
37 Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?

41 Who provides for the raven its prey,
    when its young ones cry to God,
    and wander about for lack of food?

Therefore, it is only for me to speak my desires into the universe, it is not for me to speak of the universe’s desire, or God’s desire or your’s either – this craving, longing, or yearning that only the individual can know of her own. I do not presume to say our desires will be met by God.  The psalmist wrote: “who is man that you are mindful of him?” Desires are part of the human existence and spoken aloud in prayer in hopes that they will be met.

Psalm 8:3-4
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Sabeel Prayer Wave September 4, 2014

TheWave of Prayer: This prayer ministry enables local and international friends of Sabeel to pray over regional concerns on a weekly basis. Sent to Sabeel’s network of supporters, the prayer is used in services around the world and during Sabeel’s Thursday Communion service; as each community in its respective time zone lifts these concerns in prayer at noon every Thursday, this “wave of prayer” washes over the world.
Sabeel art piece

Sabeel Wave of Prayer September 4, 2014

God of peace, we lift up our gratitude for the cessation of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket fire. In Gaza, people are uncovering the extent of the devastation to this small region where nobody was untouched by tragedy. Some estimate that it could take as many as 20 years to rebuild Gaza. Lord, as food and medical supplies enter through narrow Gaza border openings, we pray that this will be the last time the Gazans have to rebuild. Show your people there a future with freedom and human rights, merciful God, and let your peace and justice prevail. Lord in your mercy…

The Palestinian children in the West Bank and Jerusalem returned to school this week. Lord, give them safe passage as some cross checkpoints or travel near settlements or walk along busy roads. Many children in Gaza will start the school year late. Loving God, provide Gaza with safe school structures and the capacity it desperately needs so that the children there too can return to school and childhood. Lord in your mercy…

Lord, this week Israel announced the biggest plan in several decades to illegally confiscate Palestinian land (nearly 1000 acres/3799 dunams near Bethlehem) and turn it into land belonging to the state of Israel. Israel intends to build a large Jewish settlement there, which jeopardizes the possibly of establishing a Palestinian state. God of wisdom, we pray that the international community acts on this unjust land grab and others so that a permanent political solution can finally make its way to this weary region. Lord in your mercy…

We thank you for the people from organizations who are taking on the important task of counseling some of the traumatized children in Gaza: listening to their stories, providing creative outlets for expression, and offering support to their families to help them start to feel safe again. These social workers and educators are a light in the darkness, nurturing the littlest of your children. Lord in your mercy…

We pray alongside the World Council of Churches for the countries of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. Lord in your mercy…

Conversation at Sabeel

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) section 2 Day 3

Thurman says if we get to the root of our problems, dig them out of the hidden places in our heart, mind and soul, we can give carrot harvestthem to God, so the anxiety is lifted. To root out the cause of our stresses in life we can relinquish them and bathe in centeredness, peace, deep joy and tranquility.
As we do it over and over again, harvesting each year, each month, each day the bumper crop of worries and fears, eventually we learn to rely on God taking those burdens and we find peace.

Meditations of the Heart (Thurman) Day 31

Thurman shares a prayer that he heard lifted in a worship service (p56).

She begins by acknowledging that God already knows our nature and our innermost thoughts.  Since nothing is hidden, she asks God to help us unburden ourselves of very disguise. She prays for strength for all of us to be what we are – humble and grateful children.

If that’s what you are, then how can you pretend to be anything else?  It must be because we can’t quite believe that we are precious and chosen children of the Most High, the ever pervading Love, the source of all that is good and lead to life.

She says, “Because we have talked with Thee here, may we be able to work more patiently for Thy Kingdom, bringing light up the problems that perplex the world, dispelling the night of doubt and fear with Thy sheltering love.  Amen.

Because (and when) we spend time in prayer (which the Dean of our seminary lovingly calls “wasting time with God”) it’s possible to remember who were are and get renewed for living that life.

Just pray christian-poetry-by-deborah-ann-just-pray1

Sabeel Wave of Prayer Nov. 27

Lord, we thank you for the beginning of Advent this weekend – for valuing humanity enough to become one of us, for taking on flesh and teaching us how to love.  God, we ask for your guidance so that we not only reflect on this time with hope, joy, peace, love and joy, but also act upon it.    Lord in your mercy…

We continue to worry about Jerusalem, including the city’s increased violence and Israel’s forms of collective punishment on Palestinians living there, such as home demolitions, revocation of residency rights and many other measures. We are also concerned with the increasingly negative economic effects experienced in the Palestinian community of East Jerusalem. God, we pray for an end to injustice and suffering in this already economically depressed area.  Lord in your mercy…

Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician who has volunteered as a medical solidarity worker during the past three Gaza bombardments, has been banned from entering Gaza through Israel, currently the only possible way in.  God of healing, we pray that this unjust ban by Israel is lifted and that he and other humanitarian workers are not prevented from doing their critical work in this devastated region.  Lord in your mercy…

We are thankful for our friendships and partnerships with many churches worldwide, including The United Methodist Church Global Ministries.  We pray that many people will be inspired to give generously as part of the Global Ministries “Giving Tuesday” campaign on December 2nd for Advance projects and partners worldwide.   Lord in your mercy…

Lord, we pray this week for our community Advent program in Bethlehem, which will reflect on Luke 2:10when the angel appeared to the shepherds, and for our Nazareth activities, including a youth retreat for Advent.  This Thursday at the Dominican Church, Sabeel will hold an ecumenical prayer service for Jerusalem.  Lord, comfort the community as it comes together in prayer. Lord in your mercy…

We pray alongside the World Council of Churches for the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.  Lord in your mercy…