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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the basics of Centering Prayer?

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

    First think of a sacred word, we call it sacred only because it is your word and symbolizes your intention to consent to God's presence and action within. It should be one or two syllables such as Peace, Father, Mother, Abba, Silence, Love, Calm, Yes, etc. Having chosen the sacred word we do not change it during the prayer period because that would be to start thinking again.

  2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God's presence and action within.

    Whatever sitting position we choose, we keep the back straight. We close our eyes as a symbol of letting go of what is going on around and within us. We gently introduce the sacred word. If we fall asleep, upon awakening we continue the prayer.

  3. When engaged with your thoughts return ever so gently to the sacred word.

    "Thoughts" is an umbrella term for every perception including sense perceptions, feelings, images, memories, plans, reflections, concepts, commentaries and spiritual experiences. Thoughts are a normal part of Centering Prayer. We are not fighting thoughts or trying to change our thoughts. We let them come and go, and let them be. When returning to the sacred word, a minimum effort is needed. This is the only activity we do during Centering Prayer.

Where can I find more about the method of Centering Prayer?

Contemplative Outreach Ltd has a host of resources on their web site at www.contemplativeoutreach.org. You can also read Open Mind, Open Heart by Father Thomas Keating, attend a Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop, or attend a weekly Prayer Group in your area.

Do I have to be a certain religious denomination to participate?

No, you don't have to belong to a certain religion or to any religion. However, Centering Prayer is identified with the Christian Contemplative Heritage and is based on Jesus' teachings in the New Testament, St. Matthew, Chapter 6, Verse 6: "When you pray, go to your room and when you shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you." All members of Contemplative Outreach welcome people of all contemplative backgrounds.

Who can I contact about setting up an introductory workshop at my church or for a group of people?

Visit our Contact Us page for a list of contacts in your area.

How can I sign up to receive newsletters and notice of events?

Join our mailing list by visiting this page.

What is the connection between Bethany Retreat Center and Contemplative Outreach?

For many years, Bethany Retreat Center has been the site of Centering Prayer retreats and workshops, often led by Sr. Therese Dush, C.A., the Founder and General Director of the Center. Bethany Retreat Center also has a bookstore well-stocked with literature from Contemplative Outreach. Located on 140 acres of partially wooded lands in the hills of Pennsylvania, the atmosphere is quiet and peaceful.

Is there a National Office?

Yes. Contemplative Outreach Ltd has a web site: www.contemplativeoutreach.org.

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