At the Servant Leadership class I attend, one of the things we focused on was centering prayer, particularly as described by Thomas Keating. Considering the day that I had had and the night to come, I knew I needed this, and I was grateful.
First of all, it’s a Monday. Second, it’s Columbus Day so the bank is closed, and I can’t take care of the ridiculous charges we have on our account that should be closed. Third, I’ve been going full force all day, starting way earlier than I’m used to. Fourth, I’m not sure how long the upcoming birth will be, and I may be up for days.
My saving grace: a nap, the centering prayer, and knowing that a baby is soon to be born.
In our class, we wipe the slate clean in the beginning (which I missed by being a few minutes late). In the centering prayer, you sit in silence, still, with one word that sums up your consent to the will and activity of God to move through you. Twenty minutes.
Now, my background in meditation is Buddhist in nature. I admit that when I first came to this church and heard talk of centering prayer, I thought, isn’t it really just meditation? For some reason, I couldn’t understand. Now, I realize that, yes, it’s just meditation. No, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Buddhist or Christian or anything. It is just being here and now. This way of doing it has a word to bring you back when your drunken monkey brain steers you astray. I could be counting my breaths. I could be counting to ten over and over again.
But this time I had a word, and with that word I had an image of me doing something. Over and over again I thought this word, this movement, gently, “as gently as placing a feather on a cotton ball,” as they said in class. And we sat for twenty minutes that only felt like ten. I wonder if I could have sat for an hour.
In this prayer I consented to God. In this silence, I subconsciously challenged myself to let go of the day, of my will, worries, fears, and agenda. Nothing happened. I wasn’t going anywhere or becoming anything. I just was. I just showed up. I just sat. But I offered my bowl to God. Whether it was empty or full, only God knows. Whether I can make time to do this everyday, God and I both know I won’t. But I hope God knows I’d love to. I know I need to.
They told us in class that Mother Teresa spent four hours a day in prayer, which for her was in silence, listening for the will of God. Asked why she spent four hours in prayer when there was so much to do, she said she spent four hours in prayer because there was so much to do. Clearly she knew her work was greater than her. She knew that she could only do with the help of God.
May we all be so willing.