Recently I shared the uniqueness of “Centering Prayer” with a good friend who has been hungry to pray but confessed his own distractibility as a primary limiting factor. As we explored several ways that he had previously devoted himself to prayer in the past, I invited him to consider allowing me to lead him in a simple “centering prayer” expercise. He was quite open to it. So I explained it briefly and we settled in for a time of holy listening. We spent just a few minutes listening to a brief passage from one of the Gospels. Each time before I would read the passage to my friend I would invite him to consider a word or a phrase that stood out or resonated during the reading. I encouraged him to then close his eyes and to quietly listen for a word without overanalyzing what surfaces – to simply trust what comes to mind. Sure enough a clear word stood out from the passage to him. I told him to hang onto it. Two more times I read through the same passage with similar instructions inviting him to now listen for a phrase and then for an invitation. Again, some clear images surfaced for him from this ancient form of engaging scripture known as Lectio Divina (Diving Reading).
We then entered into a time of guided solitude allowing the word, the phrase and the invitation to rest in his mind loosely like a peppermint on his tongue. The image of a peppermint was one that simply has developed naturally over time in my office as I happen to keep a bowl of peppermints for guests. It is an easy way to engage yet another one of the senses as we seek to listen for God in quiet. So, my friend unwrapped his peppermint and popped it into his mouth. Then for the next ten minutes we sat in relative silence together allowing the words, phrases and invitations to settle on our tongues. When we would get distracted, these special words would serve as a delicious peppermint to bring our attention back onto listening for God.
Listening for God in silence and stillness can sometimes feel like an impossible task. Richard Foster points out that, “silence is one of the deepest disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification. One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier. We don’t need to straighten others out.”
What might it look like if I took the pressure off of myself as having to always be the primary change agent and allowed myself to simply rest in the company of God?