Suggestions for Home Practice
Find a place in your home or office where you can be comfortable and quiet, if possible with a comfortable chair or cushion and door that can be closed. Make it clear to others that you need to be undisturbed during your prayer time. Think about what you need to create a sacred space welcoming to your prayer. Possibilities: candles, icons, incense, sacred objects, sacred books, quotations on the wall, art reproductions, postcards, a bell to ring at the beginning and end of each session. Create a place that you associate with prayer and where you would like to pray.
Have a timer available. Using a timer enables you to focus entirely on your prayer during the period allotted. You can use a simple egg timer, buy a dedicated timer, or use a timer on your phone or computer. Radio Shack usually sells timers. Contemplative Outreach offers a free Centering Prayer Mobile App that includes an adjustable timer, opening and closing prayer options that may be read before and after centering prayer, an assortment of bell sounds, and brief instructions for centering prayer. The Insight Timer app will track and time your meditation sessions.
Think carefully about what time of day will work best for your practice. It’s easier to create a regular practice if you are able to pray at the same time each day. Many people find that if they get up a little early this provides them with a time when they are peaceful and undisturbed. The earlier in the day you pray the less likely that your prayer time will be swept away by the events of the day. Other possibilities: when you first arrive at your office, when the kids have left for school, upon arriving home from work, last thing at night.
Set realistic goals. If you know from experience that you are completely unable to meditate for more than five minutes at a time, or that your schedule is so crazy during the week that you can only pray on the weekends, keep that in mind. It’s good to challenge yourself and work on creating new habits, but don’t set yourself up for certain failure. If you’re unsure how much you will be able to do, you could set up a required practice that seems doable, plus an “extra credit” assignment that you could do if you have enough time. Or, start with a doable goal, like 5 minutes of centering prayer a day, and then work up.
Five minutes is better than no minutes! The only bad prayer session is a skipped prayer session. If you find that you are unable to stick to your goals, don’t give up entirely. Centering prayer can help us to acknowledge how much we need God. When we see how unable we are to let go of our thoughts, we recognize our limitations and our dependency on God. A few minutes in prayer can help us to stay connected to God, and God can use our limitations to draw us closer.
Meditation is hard work! Many people think that they are somehow “worse” at centering prayer than other people, but the truth is that most people find it difficult. Like anything else, it gets easier with practice. Everything you put into it you will get back. When it’s hardest, that might be when you get the most out of it.
Many people find it much easier to maintain a home practice if they are practicing in a group once a week or at least every once in a while. The prayer of the other members of the group seems to provide important support. Another option is to find a “prayer partner.” This might be someone who has a similar centering prayer schedule or someone who is interested in talking about the practice. Check in with each other on a regular basis and share concerns. Practice together when possible.
Please don’t hesitate to email me if you have questions or need support. There is no such thing as a stupid question. Your questions will help to make this website better. Prayer and meditation often send us into uncharted, disorienting territories. It’s easy to feel like you’re doing the centering prayer “wrong” because it’s so unlike our other activities and because it’s difficult to let go of our thoughts. Checking in can keep you from getting discouraged. It can also be helpful to attend a centering prayer group and feel the energy of other people’s prayer supporting your own.
Don’t be discouraged. Every day is a new day and a new opportunity to be close to God. God values our intentions and our desire to pray.