Day 26: Centering

December 23, 2021

Day 26: Centering

We get straight to the heart of contemplative prayer today. Centering.

The Quakers “used the term centering down….The idea is to let go of all competing distractions until we are truly present where we are.” [1] Or, as Richard Foster calls it, recollection. That is, recollecting ourselves until we are unified, whole. I tend to think of it in musical terms: in unison. Many instruments can play a single note together, and if the musicians are good at playing (and playing in tune), the unified sound will sound will be pleasant to the ear. Even, having a distinct resonance.

When I first really tried contemplative prayer, about 30 years ago, I found it so difficult! Sure, I wanted to seat myself comfortably and then slowly and deliberately allow all tension and anxiety drop away from myself. Sure! Except – I had such difficulty actually succeeding. Contemplation and especially meditation seemed like far-away goals. Goals I would periodically try to shoot for, and periodically miss. Over the next 10 years I found myself occasionally – successfully practicing contemplation.

And, Foster absolutely agrees. He talks about the fragmented and fractures lives so many of us live. “We become painfully aware of how distracted we really are.” [2]

Sure, I have weathered some periodic storms in my life. Regular squalls, too. But with centering down, I allow the Lord “to calm the storms that rage within by saying ‘Peace, be still.’ We allow [God’s] great silence to still our noisy hearts.” [3]

Is it, perhaps, that God is finally breaking through to me? Knocking down walls or barriers that I have long ago erected, perhaps even to protect myself? Probably so. I should hope that I am letting God in. I hope so. I pray so.

As I come to the end of this Advent season, with but one day left – Christmas Eve – I come full circle. I feel like I am back to the beginning, with centering, or being present, or recollection. Whatever you call it, I think it is central to contemplation. Sure, we have examined many ways to come before God in contemplation and meditation, and even actively stand (or walk) before God. Yet, I get the sneaking suspicion that without centering down, I would be having some difficulty in contemplative prayer.

Lord knows, I do try. Periodically, and not daily. (Yes, the Lord and I have had many, repeated discussions in prayer about my periodic awareness, or presence, or faithfulness. And, I am sure we will continue, because I still do not have a daily practice of prayer. After all these years…)

I hope this journaling through Advent has been helpful for you. It was for me. Still, I have one more day. One more day to continue to witness to the power of contemplative prayer in my life.

Dear Lord, thank You for this past Advent season, for my journaling each day. Thank You for the insights I have received. Help me continue to see You for clearly, follow You more nearly, and love You more dearly, day by day.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )


[1] Foster, Richard, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper: San Francisco, 1992), 161.

[2] Ibid, 162

[3] Ibid.

Day 2: Quieting the mind

Missouri Botanic Garden, December 2019 – photo credit Elizabeth Jones

November 29, 2021

Day 2: Quieting the mind

It’s so difficult to hear anything in a crowded room full of people talking. Competing voices, sounds, all kinds of ruckus and noise. Do you want to turn down the sound level, like turning down the car radio?

Sure, sound can be that way in the external world. However, I am thinking of the internal world – the interior space within each of us. How can we clear away the sound, the noise, and even prepare our internal, interior space for prayer? Contemplation, or meditation? This effort is the first thing I seek. I am not always able to get there, it is true, but I try.

As a marvelous writer on prayer and spirituality said, “For too long we have been in a far country: a country of noise and hurry and crowds, a country of climb and push and shove, a country of frustration and fear and intimidation.” [1] Richard Foster is so right. We need to set aside all that clutter and noise inside our heads, and between our ears, too.

Quieting the mind for me has some options, for sure. My favorite ones right now are first, taking deep breaths, in and out. That slows my heart rate, encourages me to sit up, sit straight, and stretch. Stretch my arms, shoulders, do shoulder circles (forward and back), and swivel or pivot my head and neck.

If you feel some muscle or place in your body or torso that feels like it needs to be stretched, by all means do it! Your body will thank you for stretching. And, your mind and spirit will appreciate the physical invitation into the presence of God.

Sometimes it can be enough to quiet the mind. Sure, these different contemplative practices can be so meaningful! But sometimes – it can be enough to have some inner stillness, to center oneself. Advent especially is a time of preparation and stillness. Ask God. The response can be clear. Praise God.

Please, pray with me. Dear God, thank You for this deep-down desire to quiet the mind. Thank You for help to become still enough to hear from You. Being in Your presence is so worth it! Remind me – remind us of that truth, please. In Jesus’ name we pray.


[1] Foster, Richard, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper: San Francisco, 1992), 1.


@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for the excellent image, the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )