Centring Prayer

Originally written by Cameron Abernethy for St John’s Church, Edinburgh

Sometimes our hearts and minds can feel too busy to attempt to pray using words and it can be helpful to turn to centring prayer. Like many prayer experiences from across the spiritual traditions, it begins with taking time to notice our breathing and using this as a way of settling into prayer. As we let our awareness move from the thoughts in our head to the simple action of inhaling and exhaling, our bodies can relax and our minds settle down a little.

Within the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the word for breath can also be used for wind or spirit and so denote the active presence of God within the world. We might recall the image of the Spirit of God hovering over creation in Genesis or the dove coming to rest upon Christ after his baptism in the Jordan.  Centring prayer can encourage one to notice the Spirit of God as she rests upon us and draws us deeper into God.

Here are a few simple guidelines for centring prayer:

  1. Take time to find a comfortable position for your body. This is usually sitting in an upright manner, your feet flat on the ground and your hands resting in your lap. This should be a relaxed but alert posture.
  2. Let yourself become aware of the sounds around you, those outside of the room and those inside of the room. Notice the sounds and let them fade into the background.
  3. Slowly turn your attention to your breathing. Pay attention to the breath as it is moves in and out of our nostrils. Keep your focus there for a few moments
  4. As you continue to breathe, begin to think of words to accompany each of the inhalations and exhalations. You might like to think ‘Jesus Christ’ as you breathe in and then ‘have mercy’ as you breathe out.
  5. Stay here for a few minutes and rest in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.