Father David’s post of 11/19/2021 — “Be still and know that I am God” — from Psalm 46 — is the Bible verse I say each morning at the beginning of my twenty-minute sit. I begin by saying each word slowly. Then I repeat the verse, removing words from the end of the verse each time until I get to just the word “Be”.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Then I ring the bell app on my cell phone and then I begin twenty-minutes of silence. I also take three deep breaths as I prepare for this period of silence.
Next Sunday, November 28, we begin the Season of Advent. These four weeks are a wonderful opportunity for you to begin or renew the spiritual practice of centering prayer. Here are a few suggestions as to how to prepare to enter a time of silent prayer during this holy season.
Four Steps To Quiet Stillness in Prayer
1. Don’t be afraid to start with a short period of time. If you are not used to sitting in silence for long periods of time, that is OK. You don’t have to start out with twenty minutes. The practice of centering prayer is not meant to be competitive. Begin with five to ten minutes and then slowly work your way to more. By doing a short period of time, you may be able to schedule a couple of periods of silence each day rather than just one.
2. Choose a one word or phrase as your sacred word. It is difficult for practitioners of centering prayer not to be preoccupied with the thoughts that swirl around inside. This sacred word is one you can return to when you find your mind wandering away from the silence. For example, my sacred word is Jesus, but your sacred word can be any word that resonates with you such as Love, Peace or Yahweh. The important thing to remember is that it be simple and one that you can remember and call upon when necessary.
3. Be sure to be seated comfortably. Sit in a comfortable chair or prayer mat and keep both feet firmly planted on the ground or, if you are flexible, cross your legs if sitting on a prayer mat. Centering prayer is not meant to be painful or uncomfortable, so choose what is best for you.
4. Finally, be kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself if you don’t make it to five to ten minutes. There is always the next day to try again. The important thing to remember is that you have begun to draw closer to God in prayer. God is not going to judge you so neither should you.
These are just a few suggestions as to how to enter into a regular practice of centering prayer. Advent is a wonderful time to begin this as Advent is a season of preparation to welcome and receive the Christ in our lives. It is difficult to be welcoming if our minds and hearts are full of worry and tasks that exhaust us. Centering prayer is not meant to take away the worry and the tasks, but it allows us to gain perspective and go deeper with God. May this Advent enrich your prayer and relationship with the divine.
Fr. David+, OA
Preparing for the Coming of the Christ Child
Father David’s post of 11/26/2021 — In last week’s eBlast, I shared some recommendations as to how to begin a regular practice of centering prayer.
Many of us — and I include myself in this — have difficulty slowing down our minds and hearts. Each morning when we awake from a night’s sleep, we often have a long TO DO list of all the tasks that have to be completed that day. Sometimes our sleep the night before might have been fitful as we worry about all that we predict will happen to us the next day.
I do not have an easy cure for this condition, only to say you are not alone.
Recently I have been aware of how my interior life improves when I see each day as a new day. The clock is reset. The day unfolds without trying to control the outcome. This is not easy. It requires us to slow down and try to empty ourselves of all that burdens us on a regular basis. I am in no way there yet, but I find peace when I can surrender to not knowing what the day has in store.
The Season of Advent invites us for a period of four weeks to move our focus away from all that we must do and place that focus instead on preparing our hearts and minds on the birth of Christ.
As you begin the season of Advent, try this spiritual exercise. As you awake each morning, shake the sleep from your eyes. Then gently and prayerfully commit yourself to living this day as a new day with all its possibilities and challenges. Then hold all of it lightly and experience the day in a new way. Sure, there will be challenges but you might see them in a new way. Instead of reacting, you might embrace your challenges as a way to learn about your own self and what God is trying to teach you. Advent is a wonderful time to try this, and I encourage you to give it a try this holy season.
Fr. David, OA