Guard of the Heart and Welcoming Prayer Practices


Q: Bob Mischke writes this about Guard of the Heart , from Fr Keating:  “The following are three ways of keeping yourself on course in everyday affairs. The first is to place disturbing thoughts as soon as they arise into God’s lap, or to give them to God as a gift. The second is to apply your attention to whatever you are actually doing, concentrating on the activity or duty of the moment. Third, if you find you are unoccupied when disturbing thoughts arise, pick up a book or take up some prearranged project. All three methods can help to avoid the commentaries that reinforce interior turmoil.” Just wondering, if you have time and no rush, that seems to conflict with Welcoming Prayer where we are encouraged to welcome troubling thoughts rather than resist them. This seems to go back to my old habit of resisting bad thoughts and feelings.

A: What a great question, thanks!

My understanding is that yes, the Welcoming Prayer to encourages us to feel the feelings — “the issues are in the tissues.”  Our “welcome” is to embrace the feelings and commentaries that are already happening.  And the “welcome” is actively embracing the Holy Spirit, the Indwelling Spirit into our experience.   We are welcoming and embracing the “moment as it is.”

As the Welcoming Prayer practice so beautifully expresses, we Feel and Sink Into, Welcome and then importantly,  Let Go – “I let go of my desire for security, affection and control and embrace this moment as it is.”   With practice the emotional programs for happiness diminish in accordance with the timing of the Divine Therapist.

Guard of the Heart, Father Thomas says, is a slightly more nuanced practice.  It assumes that you are already sufficiently on course, or “centered” enough in your daily life, so that when a disturbance arises you notice it before the emotions and mental commentaries take you over and capture your attention.  You give them to God right then and there.  It is just the opposite of “resisting.”  It is a slightly more advanced form of acceptance and embracing what is and avoids being captivated by the “commentaries that reinforce inner turmoil.”  In other words, you were already “centered” and on course enough to allow you to stay Present to the Holy Spirit when something that used to capture or derail us arises.

A personal example is that I’ve done Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer and I am driving to a meeting – very present to the surrounding beauty and grateful for the moments.  A driver carelessly pulls out. I see it in time and slow down.  I smile – give it to God, return easily to being present to the sensations of driving and surrounding trees and my breathing, grateful.  There was no ongoing commentary or emotional upset, in which case I could have used the Welcoming Prayer.

Father Thomas encouraged us to use the practice that work best for us – there is no one right way or combination.

I hope this is helpful.  Let me know if further questions arise or if clarification would be helpful.


Bob Mischke