The following spiritual practices were presented at APCE workshops by Tammy Wiens and Meg Rift. Many of the ideas presented here are discussed in fuller detail in "Lord, Teach Us To Pray." (To order call Presbyterian Distribution Services at (800) 524-2612 and ask for #70-440-04-001. The cost is $12.50 plus shipping and handling.)
The workshops encouraged and supported "Sabbath-breakers" who desire to become "Sabbath-makers." Making time for Sabbath runs counter to our cultural obsession with achievement because achievement is usually measured by how much we are doing. Sabbath does not fall neatly into the “doing” category.
Sabbath, by its very nature, is the antithesis of doing and achieving. This creates a dilemma that results in most of us feeling guiltier about making Sabbath than we do about breaking Sabbath. We live in the tension of wanting and needing Sabbath, but are afraid to let on that we actually have time in our schedules for it. What will it take for you and me to stand by our conviction and unapologetically make time for Sabbath? These ideas for 20-minute Sabbaths are intended as tools that help us bring little chunks of the Sabbath day into every day of the week. We are envisioning Sabbath-making as a way of life. We are talking about “Sabbath” as a quality of time, not a quantity of time.
To observe Sabbath is to keep constantly before us our dependence on God who creates, sustains, and provides. Use some of the ideas suggested here for 20 minutes each day in which you intentionally rest from your efforts to provide for yourself, in order to devote your attention to God as your sole provider.
Centering Prayer is a contemporary spiritual practice that finds its roots in the millennia-old discipline of lectio divina. In this form of contemplative prayer, one lives out the desire to be in God's presence simply by resting in that presence, without need for dialogue or action. Instead, a single word directs the intention toward intimacy with the divine. As formulated by Thomas Keating, one of the originators of the method and now its leading teacher, the practice of Centering Prayer can be summed up as follows:
- Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action within.
- Sitting comfortably, and with eyes closed, settle briefly; and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God's presence and action within.
- When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
- At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for several minutes.
Taken from Open Mind Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel. NY: Continuum, 1992: 139.)
"The Jesus Prayer" refers to a short prayer , the words of which are: 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,' constantly repeated. The Jesus Prayer is known to innumerable Orthodox and many other Christians as a form of devotion that can be used at any moment, whatever the situation. The main emphasis is on the repetition of the prayer; it can be said while sitting, walking, or working, silently or aloud.
" More than any other prayer, the Jesus Prayer aims at bringing us to stand in God's presence with no other thought but the miracle of our standing there and God with us, because in the use of the Jesus Prayer there is nothing and no one except God and us."
Adapted from "The Jesus Prayer" by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
Read more about the Jesus Prayer
Lectio divina is an ancient method for praying with the Bible, being open to hearing in the words of Scripture a personally enlivening and transforming word from God. Begin by choosing a brief passage of Scripture, and a place where you can be quiet and undisturbed in your prayer time. After you have taken a few minutes to quiet your mind, turn your attention to the passage you have selected.
- Read a short passage of text that you have decided upon in advance. Read slowly, letting your awareness rest in turn upon each word, savoring it. As you read, be alert for any particular word or phrase that draws your attention in a special way.
- Meditate on this word or phrase, allowing it to engage you fully. Does the word upon which you are meditating connect with some aspect of your own experience? As you hold this word or phrase in your heart, let yourself become aware of any answering words, images, or memories that arise in you.
- Respond to the Word you have heard, simply and directly. Your heart may call out in thanks, or praise, or joy. If the Word has been painful, your response might be one of remorse, or anger, or supplication.
- Rest in God's presence, content simply to be with God.
The word of God is living and active …
Debra, the best source for official guidance on prayer in the PC(USA) is the Directory for Worship, in our Book of Order. See section W-5.4000. You should be able to find it online if you don't have a printed copy handy. While the Directory doesn't mention centering prayer explicitly, it does seem to recommend practices consistent with that discipline. I hope this helps.
Can you please tell me is PCUSA subscribes to the practice of Centering Prayer? I'd like to start a group in my church Ankeny Presbyterian Church, Ankeny IA and it seems no one is famalier with the practice. I need to know if PCUSA can use Centering Prayer as a practice for a small group within a church. Thank you very much. Debi Garner