Week Twelve Summary and Practice
March 21—March 26, 2021
Moses had the prescience and courage to move the place of hearing God outside and at a distance from the court of common religious and civic opinion—this was the original genius that inspired the entire Jewish prophetic tradition.
The prophet’s path is of descent and is never popular or easy. It is about letting go of illusion and toppling false gods.
The prophets are people who are imbued with God’s love for creation and consequent passion for justice. —Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev
Like a poet, the prophet is endowed with sensibility, enthusiasm, and tenderness, and, above all, with a way of thinking imaginatively. Prophecy is the product of poetic imagination. —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
A moral imagination is nothing other than the hope of black faith. Such hope trusts that the arc of God’s universe does in fact bend toward justice. —Reverend Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas
The prophetic tradition sustains the eternal Word of God while the world spins around it, making God’s Word—Love—the center, the axle, the standard of everything the faithful do in the midst of the storm of change that engulfs us as we go. —Sister Joan Chittister
Deepening Our Centering Prayer Practice
David Frenette is a spiritual director and longtime teacher of centering prayer, as well as a longtime friend and advisor of Father Thomas Keating. In today’s practice, we share several of his suggestions to help us deepen our centering prayer practice:
There is a way you can renew the intention behind [your] sacred word so that your motivation for continuing on the spiritual path deepens when your relationship with God changes. Recall how the first of centering prayer’s basic guidelines says that the sacred word is sacred because it expresses your intention to consent to God’s presence and action. When your prayer no longer feels sacred, one thing you can do as a longtime practitioner is utilize the preparatory time before formally beginning centering prayer by taking a moment to renew your intention, the why of your practice. . . .
Here are three possible ways that renewing your intention in centering prayer might take shape for you, depending on the way your contemplative prayer is developing:
- Before the time of centering prayer, you reflect on who or what God is for you at this time of your spiritual journey. Then, with this sense of meaning in your conscious mind, you let your sacred symbol come to you as a nonreflective way of consenting to this more personal sense of God’s presence.
- Your reflections may show you that at this time God is a mystery whom you do not or cannot consciously know. That’s not a problem for practice. As you realize or remember that God is an unknowable mystery and join this realization in your mind with your sacred word, you infuse your practice with an intention that expresses the truth of your relationship with God. Your intention becomes opening to mystery itself.
- Perhaps when you reflect on who or what God is, you find that you are spiritually dry and resistant even to opening to a mystery you no can no longer conceive of. This is still not necessarily a problem when your intention is vast and nuanced. For in these situations, your intention can be to simply surrender yourself to the unknown. Remember, in centering prayer you are saying yes both to God’s presence and God’s action. God’s action includes the purification and transformation of your idea of who God is, your felt ability to say yes to God, and sometimes even your capacity to pray. In the unknowing, the pure consent and the surrender of your ability to pray, you are brought to deep receptivity, so that the Spirit prays in you.
I have had many experiences of what the mystics call “dryness” in my prayer life. Like many people, when it first happened in my early journey, I thought I must be doing something wrong, which was very hard for me since I like to do everything right! With time, persistence, and helpful techniques like the ones David Frenette shares above, we come to realize that our feelings are far less important than the ever-deepening commitment we make to God through our practice.
Experience a version of this practice through video and sound.
David Frenette, The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening Your Experience of God (Sounds True: 2012), 13-14.