Do you ever struggle with centering prayer, wishing your “yes” to God’s presence would be more authentic than lasting a few minutes? Do your worry that you are betraying your “yes” with future failings? Do you want your yes to be so authentic and real that there’s no room for any sin or failures?
If there’s no room in your life for future shortcomings, then why would you need to call upon God to help you?
The fact that you worry about being authentic shows, in fact, your desire to be authentic. Our intention to sit in God’s presence and consent to being with Him is true at the moment we open our heart and offer ourselves to Him. The method of centering prayer has a particular approach to returning to our consent exactly because all humans have thoughts that wander. It is how our beloved God made us. It is not a failure.
Personally, I choose to view each return to consenting to His Presence as a little Valentine I give Him. Some days, He receives what seems like hundreds of valentines from me!
When we incorrectly label our actions with pejorative terms like failures, we steal a little of His joy from our hearts. I can only imagine Him shaking His head as He watches us and patiently waiting for us to learn to accept ourselves as we are, so that in our weakness, He can be strong.
The desire to be perfect may be perfectionism, or it may come from a misunderstanding of the Scripture passage, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NKJV). In context “you are to be perfect” means “you are to love as God loves: without partiality.” For more on this meaning of “perfect,” Click here .
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Children aren’t failures.
I’d like to share two additional thoughts.
ONE, we are God’s children. Children have short attention spans, forget parental rules or just plain disregard them, and often get irritable for no apparent reason. We are God’s children in His eyes. He knows what to expect, is delighted when we obey, disciplines us when we don’t, and always has His arms open to give us a big hug when we’re ready to run back to Him. He sees Himself in us just as we see parts of ourselves in our children or grandchildren. We are His delight to behold. He doesn’t want us hanging our heads, thinking we are failures.
TWO, Fr. Thomas Keating, and others who teach centering prayer repeat regularly that we are not to judge our prayer time. No matter how many times we re-consent with a new “yes” and our sacred word, we are not to evaluate those moments or judge them. They are part of our gift to God. We give it to Him just as it is, the way a child’s drawing is beautiful to us, no matter how the picture is colored.
Don’t Worry about Your Thoughts in Centering Prayer, Just Be
Finally, Jesus tells us not to worry. Why do you think He is quoted saying so in the Bible? Did He have to say it more than once to those who sought His counsel? You bet He did. Mt. 25 “