Q: After many years of Centering Prayer and feeling that I was just where I should be, things have changed for me. When I go to prayer there is nothing but thoughts, thoughts, thoughts. And I am thinking, “Who am I fooling? Myself? God, if there really is one? Other people?” There is nothing. Nothing! I feel like a cheater, a make believer! There‚Äôs nothing there? Is this all a hoax? I am empty and I don‚Äôt feel like this is the ‚Äúdark night of the soul.‚Äù I feel like it is nothing.
A: Thank you for your question. These are not easy times for you in prayer. It is noteworthy that your questioning begins concerning your own worth. This is the first temptation.
Let’s step back for a moment. Remember in the teaching of Centering Prayer you heard that when we say “let us pray,” we are saying “let us have a relationship with God.” Your faithfulness to Centering Prayer shows your willingness to enter more deeply into relationship with God. Now, in every relationship there are times when there is dryness and feelings of frustration, wondering “Where am I going in this relationship? Is it worth the effort? Am I really being appreciated? It felt so good in the beginning,” etc. What does the lover do at this time — run away or work things out? When the lover stays to work things out, remembering that God loves you unconditionally, then it is worth staying faithful, letting go of expectations and allowing the prayer to go to a deeper level. Remember: this is a life long commitment not just an affair.
These are my recommendations: Re-read the Centering Prayer pamphlet (which you can find here on our website); attend a retreat or another introductory session on Centering Prayer; and read the question and answer sections in Open Mind Open Heart. You may also want to read David Frenette’s profound book, The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening Your Experience of God, beginning with Chapter 2, “Renewing Your Practice of Centering Prayer.”
What you need is a honeymoon and a fresh start to build on your years of commitment to the prayer.
And remember, when you begin to feel as nothing — meaning your fixed point of reference is disappearing — then you begin to allow the Lord to be the center of your life once again.
So just begin again and again and again. ‚Äì Fr. Carl.