What is the reward of prayer in secret? It’s the experience of the mystery, the deep knowledge of God that results in divine union. What we have been seeking is found in the silence. The inner room is an invitation to quiet our interior dialogue so that we are able to listen with the ear of our heart to God speaking to us in God’s first language, which is silence. And in the silence, we access the presence of God which has always been with us.
Fr. Thomas asks us to notice the cascading effect of interior silence. When we close the door, we are first quieting external stimuli. Next, we let go of the internal dialogue, all the things we constantly say to ourselves – our thoughts, perceptions, feelings, commentaries, judgments. He says, “Prayer in secret implies no deliberate self-reflection. We are normally aware of ourselves all the time and in every situation. Consciousness of self is the last bastion of the ego. Under its influence, we never quite experience the present moment. The ego acts as a kind of bridge from the past to the future, hindering us from ever being where God actually is, which is in the present moment.”
The discipline of Centering Prayer teaches us to stay in the present moment. When the past or future passes through our awareness we let go by returning to our intention using the sacred symbol. Where God may have appeared to be elusive, in the inner room we come to realize that God is always present. Two things are taking place in the inner room at the same time. By consenting to God’s presence within we are affirming our basic core of goodness, which leads to our increasing trust in God. By consenting to God’s action within we experience the purification of the unconscious, the healing of our repressed emotional wounding.
Our experience in the inner room liberates us from the self. Freedom from the effects of the self motivation makes room for the Fruits of the Spirit, for the experience of divine love.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
O my Beloved, you have searched me
and known me!
You know when I sit down and
when I rise up;
you discern my innermost thoughts.
You find me on the journey and
guide my steps;
you know my strengths and
Even before words rise up in prayer,
Lo, you have already heard my heart call.
You encompass me with love where’er
and your strength is my shield.
Such sensitivity is too wonderful for me;
it is high; boundless gratitude
is my soul’s response.
Where could I go from your Spirit?
Or how could I flee from your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in darkness,
you are there!
If I soar on the wings of the morning
or dwell in the deepest parts
of the sea,
Even there your hand will lead me,
and your love will embrace me.
If I say, “Let only darkness cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
the night dazzles as with the sun;
the darkness is as light with you.
– Nan C. Merrill, “Psalm 139,” Psalms for Praying
- View the video excerpt “Prayer in Secret, Part 2” which is 30 minutes in length.
- Interior silence is different than simply silence. Has the Divine Therapy you experience in your Centering Prayer practice quieted your mind and heart enough so that you experience moments of interior silence? Fr. Thomas says no amount of effort can achieve this, but the more deeply we rest in God, the faster and more completely the soul is purified.