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The Value of Sacred Downtime

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The Value of Sacred Downtime
Not so surprisingly one of the greatest desires of people today is to know how to pray, to find silence for prayer, to pray silently. The other day I read an article about the extinction of "downtime." Someone else said that to survive in a career today you needed to get up "insanely early," it was the only time you could have to yourself, to think, to plan, to be. 

A growing number of us are longing for depth in a superficial society and for silence in a connected world  overrun by words. 

So let's say you actually did carve out five minutes of silence each morning, or decided to slip into a church or take a walk for prayer sometime each day. Would you know what to do with that time?

The Catholic spiritual tradition offers a lot of options for deep "heart prayer." Different personalities enjoy praying in different ways and we gravitate toward different forms of prayer throughout our lives. 

For example, one method of prayer that is very popular is centering prayer:

Centering prayer is simple; it presupposes that the love of God is the foundation of our being. This love created us and continually creates us anew. Without this love, we simply would not be.

As you pray, you are professing your personal belief in God’s sustaining and foundational love for you. You are not asking for anything particular, nor thinking about God or Jesus, nor formulating specific prayers, nor offering thanksgiving, nor making acts of contrition. You are, instead, consenting to the love that forever is, and silently declaring your faith that this love is trustworthy. It is all you need.

Let us begin.

1. Choose a word. This short word is a symbol of your intention, your willingness to allow God’s presence to be active and fruitful within you. The word is like Mary’s yes. It is your consent, your awareness that you are allowing God’s grace free rein within.

2. Sit in a comfortable place and, if possible, close your eyes. After a moment or two recall the word you have chosen. The word comes from the center of your being, and you use it only to call your mind back when it wanders. The word should not be repeated over and over like a mantra or used like a hammer. It should be laid as gently as a feather on your consciousness.

3. When you become aware of anything, return ever so gently to your word. You will no doubt spend entire periods of prayer doing nothing more than calling your mind back. That is OK. That is part of the prayer. If you are faithful to centering prayer, you will find that this situation changes over time.

4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence for a few moments, open your eyes, and recite the Our Father.

The effects of centering prayer are revealed in the days and weeks and months that follow. It is generally recommended to practice centering prayer at least twenty minutes every day. Or if you are able, it is even better to pray for twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the late afternoon.

If you have liked what you've read, you'd enjoy the guides to prayer and the general explanation of how you grow through praying throughout your life in the book Beginning Contemplative Prayer.

 

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