These Centering Prayer guidelines are attributed to Thomas Keating, Catholic monk

General Guideline:

1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action within.
2. 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.
3. When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

Explanation of the Guidelines:

Part I."Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action within."

1. The sacred word expresses our intention to be in God's presence and to yield to the divine action.
2. The sacred word should be chosen during a brief period of prayer asking the Holy Spirit to inspire us with one that is especially suitable for us.

3. Having chosen a sacred word, we do not change it during the prayer period, for that would be to start thinking again.
4. A simple inward gaze upon God may be more suitable for some persons than the sacred word. In this case, one consents to God's presence and action by turning inwardly toward God as if gazing upon him. The same guidelines apply to the sacred gaze as to the sacred word.

Part II."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."

1. By "sitting comfortably" is meant relatively comfortably; not so comfortably that we encourage sleep, but sitting comfortably enough to avoid thinking about the discomfort of our bodies during this time of prayer.
2. Whatever sitting position we choose, we keep the back straight.
3. If we fall asleep, we continue the prayer for a few minutes upon awakening if we can spare the time.
4. Praying in this way after a main meal encourages drowsiness. Better to wait an hour at least before Centering Prayer. Praying in this way just before retiring may disturb one's sleep pattern.
5. We close our eyes to let go of what is going on around and within us. 6. We introduce the sacred word inwardly and as gently as laying a feather on a piece of absorbent cotton.

Part III."When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word."

1. "Thoughts" is an umbrella term for every perception including sense perceptions, feelings, images, memories, reflections, and commentaries.
2. Thoughts are a normal part of Centering Prayer.
3. By "returning ever-so-gently to the sacred word", a minimum of effort is indicated. This is the only activity we initiate during the time of Centering Prayer.
4. During the course of our prayer, the sacred word may become vague or even disappear.

Part IV."At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes."
1. If this prayer is done in a group, the leader may slowly recite the Our Father during the additional 2 or 3 minutes, while the others listen.
2. The additional 2 or 3 minutes give the psyche time to readjust to the external senses and enable us to bring the atmosphere of silence into daily life.

Some Practical Points:

1. The minimum time for this prayer is 20 minutes. Two periods are recommended each day, one first thing in the morning, and one in the afternoon or early evening.
2. The end of the prayer period can be indicated by a timer, providing it does not have an audible tick or loud sound when it goes off.
3. The principal effects of Centering Prayer are experienced in daily life, not in the period of Centering Prayer itself.
4. Physical Symptoms:

5. Lectio Divina provides the conceptual background for the development of Centering Prayer.
6. A support group praying and sharing together oncee a week helps maintain one's commitment to the prayer.

Extending the Effects of Centering Prayer into Daily Life:

1. Practice 2 periods of Centering Prayer daily.
2. Read Scriptures regularly and study Open Mind, Open Heart.
3. Practice one or two of the specific methods for everyday.
4. Join a Support Group or Follow-up Program (if available in your area.)

Points for Further Development:

1. During the prayer period various kinds of thoughts may be distinguished.

2. During this prayer, we avoid analyzing our experience, harboring expectations or aiming at some specific goal such as:

3. What Centering Prayer is not:


Is Centering Prayer or Contemplative Prayer supported by the Bible? Click here for some comments .

Can the Lords Prayer be said in a contemplative fashion using Lectio Divina principal of being present to each word/phrase? Look at the Aramaic Translation The Lords Prayer in Aramaic

Another view point on what is contemplation:

+++ Matthew 10:23 ("The New Testament", American Bible Society, 1992) I assure you that you will not finish your work in all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.


John 8:24 ("The New Testament", American Bible Society, 1992) I am Who I am.


Contemplative prayer is the prayer of work that never finishes. Pray and ask Jesus to help you to continue your contemplative prayer faithfully each and every day. If you know who you really are, is it possible to ever stop praying every day?


More discussion

How can a professional musician play sheet music? By measuring and using the silence, which is a "no thing", that is spaced between each musical note, so that the music can become expressible through an instrument. No regularly spaced moments of silence means that no music can be interpreted and expressed. Each sheet of music is distinctive when compared to what was ever written in the past and to what may be written in the future. No two sheets of music are the same, much in the same way that human DNA distinctively identifies every person. A blank page expresses nothing meaningful. Words on a page becomes an expression surrounded by empty space. The writing takes on a meaning because of the empty, surrounding space. No empty space means that there is no meaningful expression and is of no real value to others.

Will you consent to sitting still regularly or daily so that you can experience your moments of silence so that the Master Musician can express your music in its fullness through the instrument of daily activity? Would it be satisfactory or beneficial to listeners to allow music to be partially interpreted and performed?

Contemplative prayer comprises moments of silence disposed between moments of action so that your life comes to a fullness, like music comprising silence disposed between notes so that the music can be read and played with full meaning and real expression. You could be like sheet music if you consent to letting God express the true you, like the way a musician expresses sheet music as it is written before it is played. Who are you? What are you like?

Can music be partially expressed in a satisfying manner to those that are listening and experiencing the music? Would a life that is partially expressed be satisfactory or beneficial to others that are connected with that life? Would it be satisfactory or meaningful to partially read a book by reading only the letters and avoiding the spaces disposed between the letters? Would it be satisfactory or meaningful to anyone else to partially write a novel as a long string of letters having no spaces or pauses placed between the letters? Would it be a satisfying and full experience to partially walk through a forest by ignoring the moments of silence? Is it possible to dance without taking moments to pause between dance steps? Each of these activities of life requires moments of silence - a "no thing" - before the next movement can meaningfully and newly begin in which your true self becomes expressed in its fullest sense. Would you consent to becoming still for some moments so that you can follow the dance of life to the fullest and trust that your dance Partner lead the way?

Contemplative prayer is like dancing, in which you pay attention to your Partner's lead during pauses that occur between dance steps and accepting and trusting His cue about which direction the next step takes and following through to the next pause before beginning the next expression.

"I am" could be God's expression or out-pressing of your true inner self - as you really are - in the present moment, if you humbly consent to an experience of this real expression moment by moment; otherwise, what you may be experiencing is you expressing your false self that is not a true expression of you as God may have intended to be expressed. God allows us to freely choose to consent to His true expression of us for the benefit of others around us. "I Am" is God as He is in the past, present and future.

The following is useful in understanding this practice: it is a 20th century interpretation of this prayer by a Catholic monk, as found in:
Chapter 30: Distractions, New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton
Soon after beginning contemplative prayer, the doors of your subconscious mind fall ajar and all sorts of curious figures begin to come waltzing onto the scene. If you are wise, you will not pay attention to these things. Remain in simple attention to God and keep your will peacefully directed to Him in simple desire, while the intermittent shadows of this annoying movie go about in the remote background. They will not hurt you - have no anxiety about these images. It is the divine work of God - do not meddle with His work.

Does contemplative prayer ever finish? If you consent to experiencing your true expression moment by moment for the benefit us and of others around us, why would you finish experiencing a meaningful, full, and true expression of the real you by avoiding experiencing moments of regular stillness or "no thing" between moments of life's active movements?

Read daily from:

Another description of this Method of Prayer:

Find a word or phrase from scripture - something short and meaningful - something that your mind can retain easily.

Find a quiet place. Sit down with your back upright. Sit still.

Gently close your eyes - gather all your desire into a simple word or phrase - and begin to recite your prayer word or phrase, silently, interiorly, and lovingly throughout the time of your meditation. Say it in equally-stressed syllables. Fix it in your mind so that it will remain there - come what may. Use it to beat upon the cloud of darkness about you.

Do not think about the meaning of the word or phrase. Use the word to subdue all distractions - consigning them to a cloud of forgetting beneath you. Keep this word or phrase wholly interior - abandon all thoughts and concepts. Just give your attention to the sound of it though out the time of your meditation, from the beginning to the end.

Whenever distractions arise, simply and gently return to your word or phrase. Meditate for 30 minutes each morning and each evening, every day of your life. Just say your word.

Meditation or contemplation is a way of pure prayer marked by silence, stillness, and simplicity - this is the value of the contemplative journey.

If you need to discuss the contemplative path, it is best discussed in person and on a face to face basis.

Therefore, there are several means for this, for your consideration.

1) Go to and find the listing for a contemplative group near you, and introduce yourself - and get involved.


2) Go to The World Community of Christian Meditation (WCCM) , and find a listing for a group near to you, visit the group and introduce yourself - and get involved.

I am sure that between these two web sites, you can find a contemplative group that regularly meets near you. They will make for wonderful friends on this path.

Final note:
This group [WCCM] supports people who interested in praying the way monks and nuns of the Christian faith have prayed since earliest time of Christianity. This prayer is way to love God thereby fulfilling Jesus' first commandment - to love God with all your heart. A vast number of Christians for over 1900 years have used this method of prayer. However, we must keep in mind that we should not forget the second commandment - that is to love our neighbour also. Therefore, we must try to keep a balanced approach to life.