Guide to Centering Prayer (or How to Calm Down and BE STILL)


My First Experience With Centering Prayer

When my daughter Savannah was 9 months old, I needed to go in for an outpatient procedure that wasn't serious but would require 2-3 days of recovery time. I took off work, made arrangements for my mom and Jeff to care for Savannah and prepared for three days of bed rest. I bought a new book, a fresh journal, chose some of my favorite movies and music cds and let others know I would not be available for a few days. While I was writing in my journal on the morning before the procedure, I was surprised and a little unnerved by the fact that I was looking forward to surgery so that I could have some time to myself. "Something is wrong with this picture," I thought and decided then and there that I would start taking short personal retreats on a regular basis.

Personal Retreat at Osage Monastery

I made a reservation at a retreat center called Osage Monastery in Sand Springs, which was only about 40 minutes away from home. It was run by a group of Benedictine nuns, but was open to people of all denominations. I stayed in one of several tiny cabins furnished modestly with a twin bed, a rocking chair and a desk. In the main house, we would gather for meals and centering prayer, which took place in a beautiful chapel with two walls of glass that looked into the forest. We would file in quietly and find a space on the floor cushions or chairs arranged in an inner and outer circle. The sessions were 30 minutes at a time and began with a sacred-sounding chime or gong, followed by 30 minutes of complete silence. Well, except for the occasional shifting positions, sniffle, cough, sigh or growling stomach. It was awkward at first and It seemed to take most of each session to quiet my chattering mind, but each time the gong chime sounded to end the session, I felt calm, peaceful, more connected to God and well, centered.


The chapel at Osage Monastery Forest of Peace where I first learned about centering prayer

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

--Isaiah 26:3

What is Centering Prayer?

Centering Prayer is a silent form of "listening" prayer that allows us to experience and enjoy the presence of God within us. It does not replace other types of verbal prayer and intercession, but instead is a way to simply "rest in God" and to just be with Him. It serves to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ, moving from a place of conversation to intimate communion.


Centering prayer is "receiving" rather than "active" prayer. As you sit in silence, "resting in God", you move from conversation to intimate communion.

How Do I "do" Centering Prayer?

  • First, choose a sacred word as a symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action within. This word will help to "anchor" you so that your mind will be able to settle down. Some examples of sacred words: Lord, Jesus, Love, Peace, Faith, Shalom, etc. I like to choose a word from my daily Bible reading such as praise, mercy or steadfast. I also sometimes choose two words--one for when I inhale and another for the exhale. My favorite sacred word for centering prayer is "beloved". I like to breathe in the words"Be Loved" and think of receiving God's love, then exhale "Be Love" to remind me of how I want to respond to others throughout the day. Other times I will breathe in "Peace" and breathe out "Be still". Ask Holy Spirit to highlight a sacred word for you.

  • Sitting comfortably with eyes closed (sometimes I look at the floor or out the window), settle briefly, and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God's presence and action within. Sit on the floor or in a chair with your back straight. Don't get so comfortable that you become sleepy, but comfortable enough to avoid thinking of the discomfort of your body during prayer.

  • When you become aware of your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word. It will happen. Suddenly you will be convinced that you have to make that dentist appointment right now, start a load of laundry, text a friend, or check Instagram or Facebook. Ask me how I know. Simply acknowledge it (I like to think of thoughts as clouds passing by me) and return to the sacred word. It's normal to have to do this several times during a single session. Don't get discouraged!

  • At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes. Remember that the positive effects of centering prayer are usually felt later in your daily life, not in the period of centering prayer itself. Think of it like taking vitamins. You don't necessarily feel the difference as soon as you take them, but over time, they contribute to your wellbeing.

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give understanding."

Psalm 49:3

Further Suggestions for Centering Prayer

  • Try lighting a candle. Over time, it will signal your body and mind that it is time to pray. I like to burn incense or sage because it reminds me that my prayers are "like incense" rising before the throne of God. (Psalm 141:2)

  • Start with 5 minutes at a time and work up to 20 minutes per session.

  • Aim for two twenty minute sessions each day, but if you only have five minutes, do it anyway!

  • Start a centering prayer meeting group. Gather a few friends once a week to sit in silent prayer together. Take time after the session to share what impressions or visions you had during prayer. You can also share what you feel that God is speaking to your heart.

  • Teach your children! I was hesitant to teach centering prayer in my middle school Bible classes because I didn't know how this group of very active students would respond. To my surprise, they loved it! Several of them even asked "Can we do this in class every day?" It helped them to settle down and prepare their hearts and minds for the lesson.

  • Use the Centering Prayer App! It has passages of Scripture to read before and after your prayer session, and several choices for sounds that signal the beginning and end of each session. Below is the image of the Centering Prayer app icon:


This is the icon for the Centering Prayer app. It's easy to use and offers a reminder of the guidelines as well as choices for which sound you'd like to use at the beginning and end of your prayer session.

For more information about Centering Prayer, visit

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S.O.A.P. Bible Study Method

One of my students wrote in her Bible study assignment,   “Gabriel got a message from God because he stood in the presents of the Lord. I need to stop being the presents of the computer and get in the presents of the Lord…” :)This made me laugh out loud. 5th and 6th graders are so…well, honest and direct. During the first few weeks of my Bible classes, I outline the 7 Commitments of a Forerunner (Pray daily, Fast weekly, Live holy, Do justly, Give extravagantly, Speak boldly and Lead diligently) and we always talk about the importance of what I call having a “daily appointment with the King” (Jesus). We talk about the importance of reading the Bible and “listening” to what God speaks to us through His Word. Many of them also go to the Global Prayer Room at the International House of Prayer too because their parenIMG_3965ts are missionaries like us or have moved here to be trained and equipped to establish and strengthen other prayer ministries in the earth. The S.O.A.P. method of Bible study is one of the lessons I share in the first few weeks of school. Thanks to one of our partners, this year I had individual soaps to use as an illustration. (I love when God cares about the details! My friend has a “thrift anointing” and often blesses us with her finds. Recently I got to donate glue guns and popsicle craft sticks to the supply room! A few months ago, she said, “do you happen to have a need for a bunch of individually wrapped soaps?” Why, YES I do. :) I challenged my students to use the soap and when they washed their hands to pray from Psalm 24 “Give me clean hands and a pure heart.” I also asked them to let it be a reminder to have their “daily appointment” in prayer and Bible study. Here is a brief description of their assignment. I have used this Bible study method for years and I believe it will be a blessing to you too!Scripture—Take today’s Bible reading and read through slowly. Write down the verse(s) God is highlighting to you. Writing it down is not mandatory but I tell my students that there is a “heart to hand” connection and writing it down helps to get it into their hearts. I tell them to think about how when they play their instrument or draw, sometimes their heart is moved. They are skeptical at first, but usually they will come back to me and tell me something powerful God spoke to them as they were writing. Try it! Since a dramatic encounter with God on October 13th of 2000, I have used the One Year Bible for my daily appointment with Jesus. It has a portion of Old Testament, New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb and can be read in 15 minutes each day. You may have a different Bible reading plan. Many of my students like the YouVersion Bible app. They can take the verse God highlighted to them and make a verse image. There are also several daily Bible reading plans to choose from The important thing is that you do it daily.Observation—What is God showing you in this passage? Jot down in your journal any words or events that stand out. Are there any truths God wants you to learn? Warnings? Commands? Guiding principles? Often God’s promises have an “if you…then….” Don’t just write down the promise. What is the condition? Record those in your journal. What is the overall message God is speaking to you in this passage? Be sure to record what God is speaking to that person or group at that time. You can make it personal to you (application) but it’s important to look at the context of the verse. What was happening then? Luke 3:4 speaks of John the Baptist, “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the LORD, make straight paths for him.” But it also speaks of forerunner messengers who “prepare the way for the Lord” today. You and me.Application—Make it personal. How does this verse apply to me today? How does it relate to events in my past? What does it mean for my future? Does God have instruction (something for me to DO—I call it my “marching orders”)? Encouragement? Correction? One morning I was shocked because I had been in an argument with Jeff the night before and Y,ALL…my “word for the day” was Proverbs 21:19 “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a crabby and complaining wife.” Gulp. Sigh.Prayer—Pray from the verse. Prayer is simply a conversation with God. Help me to be loving and encouraging (not crabby and complaining). Or why am I crabby? You may find that as you pray over what He has shown you (revelation is God revealing more of Himself and His heart to yours) He will reveal even more of what He is wanting to show you. Consider journaling your prayers. I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to go back and read a prayer and realize that God has supernaturally answered it!