3. Centering Prayer is the practice of putting aside all those things in our lives that fill up the “clay jar” and prevent us from being aware of our true treasure, the presence of God. We call this putting aside “surrender” or “letting go.”

The goal of Centering Prayer is to help us learn to live more lightly in relation to things, feelings, attitudes, thoughts, relationships, plans, schemes, all our obsessive preoccupations so that the inner maelstrom of our obsessions no longer dominates or controls our lives.

Clutch a pen or some other object in your hand. It is tiring and painful to hold on to things so tightly. Open your hand and let the object drop.

When we practice Centering Prayer, we are learning to stop clutching, grabbing, holding on, and fighting for our little piece of the pie. We are practicing saying that we want to let go of living our way and live God’s way.

For a moment each day, we take all the details of our lives and we put them to one side, so that we might simply sit in God’s presence and tell God it is our desire to open our hearts to the love and light that are our true nature. The things we do all day are not the centre of who we are. We are not defined by how we look, what we achieve, or the things we accomplish in this life. These are just the things we do and the things that are happening on the surface of our lives.

Take some object, put it to one side, move away from it a few steps and say to the object, “Now you just sit down there and behave yourself; I am going over here for a moment to open to God. I will get back to you when I am done.” We are learning in this action to relocate the centre of our lives away from external details to the hidden inner presence of God.

In one of the few places Jesus is recorded as having given any direct instruction about prayer he said,

6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:6,7)

We are going “into our room and shutting the door,” whenever we close our eyes, sit still, and enter the inner holy space of our heart. We reach this place not by “heaping up empty phrases” or using “many words”, but by letting go and receiving the “reward” which is the awareness of the presence of “our Father who sees in secret.”

God is “secret” from our physical senses. We cannot see, hear, smell, taste, or touch God. So, as we withdraw for a time from the distractions of our sensual perceptions our hearts begin to soften and open to the God. It is not that there is anything wrong with our senses, it is simply that most of the time they so fill our perception that we become insensitive to those deeper more subtle rhythms of life that are the presence and action of God at work in all of life.