Prayer is then not just a formula of words, or a series of desires springing up in the heart – it is the orientation of our whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention, and adoration. All good meditative prayer is a conversion of our entire self to God. 44

What could it possibly mean to practice “conversion of my entire self to God”? How might I orient my “whole body, mind and spirit to God”? Merton offers a clue when he adds “…in silence.”

In silence my life is reoriented. Silence opens space in my being for my “attention” to refocus.

The problem with silence is that it cannot be captured as a permanent state. I must return to the noise and pressure of daily life. I cannot for long avoid the emotional turmoil of human relationships. I cannot stay closeted in the safe silent place of my prayer. I need a practice that enables me to carry the silence of my prayer life into the frenetic reality of daily life.

In my spiritual life Centering Prayer has been the means by which I have been able to return to the silence of God’s presence and experience that silence even in the midst of the pressures of my daily life.

In Centering Prayer, as I become aware of being hooked in thinking, I return ever-so-gently to saying my sacred word as a symbol of my intention to surrender to the presence and action of God in all of life.

Centering Prayer is fundamentally a surrender practice. Only surrender has the power to enable the “conversion of my entire self to God”. In the practice of surrender I lay down my demand that the physical material realities of my life (the “whole body”) should change. I attempt to let go of the constant chatter of my thinking. And I turn in my spirit to an awareness of the presence of God.

Jesus said to his disciples,

remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)

This is the presence of which I become aware in the practice of surrender and which accompanies me even in the pressures and tensions of daily life.

What are the forces that draw me away from silence?

What practices in my life nurture the silence and stillness that are my heart’s deepest longing?

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