Centering Prayer


The method of Centering Prayer consists in learning to withdraw attention from our thoughts in order to rest in an open attentiveness to the divine. This gentle releasing of thoughts is known as “consenting to the presence and action of God.” If you notice yourself thinking, you let the thought go.


The core of this method lies in the prompt releasing of thoughts, and not in stopping them from arising. A summary of the process of Centering Prayer follows:


  1. You choose a sacred word as a symbol of your willingness to consent to God’s presence and action within. 

  2. You sit comfortably with eyes closed, and silently introduce the sacred word.

  3. If you are engaged with your thoughts, you promptly return gently to the sacred word.

  4. At the end of the prayer period you remain silent for a couple of minutes.

Do not resist any thought, do not hang on to any thought, do not react emotionally to any thought. This is the proper response to all kinds of thoughts that come down the stream of consciousness. Keating, T. (1997). Active Meditations for Contemplative Prayer (p. 33). New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury.


Father Thomas Keating's 4 R’s for unwanted thoughts, feelings or emotions:


  • Resist no thought.

  • Retain no thought.

  • React to no thought.

  • Return ever so gently to the sacred word.


Father Thomas Keating was also one of the first spiritual teachers to name the Centering Prayer process “the divine therapy”. This therapy results in a purification and healing of the unconscious. This “divine therapy” leads to deepening of your relationship with God.

Centering Prayer is distinctly Christian, grounded in Scripture, and is itself a distinct approach to Christian contemplation.

© 2020 by Robert Barnett