Q: My difficulty with Centering Prayer is distractions of thoughts spilling over and being unable to get to or sustain a deep place in the prayer. I usually sit down to pray and all is well. Then I read a psalm but a feeling or ache in my head starts before I center and linked thoughts just crowd my mind. It is more like a thinking mediation.
At one point in time, I would read a passage from my book Give Us This Day which I switched to from Magnificat, and then doing some centering that seemed to carry me through the day. I go to daily mass and get an ache or bad feeling every time the priest reminder that we are sinners.
God had me retire early at the age of 59 and for a purpose I am still waiting to understand. I knew it was from Him by the way it all fell into place because I was working and caring for an out of town relative. Since she died in 2009 I began getting headaches unsure why. My brothers and I were driving my dad to dialysis for kidney failure. I buried him in 2010 and my brother after Christmas in 2013. But I know they are all right. … I could go on but my question is that maybe my contemplative life style has had an over abundance of stress and therein lies the difficulty. I know God is in charge. Keating’s latest book on Reflections on the Unknowable struck me when he says to let God love you. My husband says the same thing to me. I am finally in a prayer group with beginners since I thought it might be good to touch base with the basics.
A: You wrote, “my question is that maybe my contemplative life style has had an overabundance of stress and therein lies the difficulty. I know God is in charge. Keating’s latest book on Reflections on the Unknowable struck me when he says to let God love you. My husband says the same thing to me.” Yes, you have had many deaths in your family in such a short period of time. These are times of sorrow and profound separation. You have been there for your family, now it is time for them to be there for you. Let God love you back for all the love you gave. It is time to receive – your husband is right. How? One of many ways beside the gift of daily mass is to recommit yourself to prayer, especially Centering Prayer.
You mentioned that “my difficulty with Centering Prayer is distractions of thoughts spilling over and being unable to get to or sustain a deep place in the prayer.” Let me suggest that your intention for praying the prayer may be misdirected. First of all, it is good that your thoughts are spilling over, which means they are coming out. What is coming up is going out. Centering Prayer is not about no thoughts, but letting go of your thoughts to be able to receive the grace of putting on the mind of Christ. You used the phrase “in order to get to.” There is no place to get to, you are already in the presence of God and the Spirit of God is within you. Centering Prayer is a prayer of consent. That is the purpose of the prayer, to practice and celebrate consenting. We are not being called to “get to or sustain a deep place in prayer”; instead we are consenting to God’s presence and action within us and around us.
The reading of Scripture before Centering Prayer can be a vestibule to remind you that prayer is a relationship, and that you want to be clear who you are with – almighty God. It is not to be pondered or reflected on at this time. Let God love you.