In this session we’re going to take some time to summarize what we’ve covered in past sessions rather than breaking new ground.
There are two opposing forces within you: on the one hand there is the false self or your fallen nature, and on the other hand there is the presence of God. The latter is Christ in you or the indwelling Holy Spirit and this is who you really are in the mind of God. When you start the spiritual journey the indwelling presence of God often has only a small influence on you but it is the “mustard seed of the Kingdom” that can grow to become “the biggest tree in the garden”, or the dominant force in your life. I say “can grow” because this isn’t automatic – it takes time spent in God’s presence, time in the deep internal realm of the heart. Many experience a leveling off in their spiritual journey and a frustration that they are not making progress and are not experiencing God more deeply. Often the mustard seed has stopped growing because the core Biblical practice of silent waiting on God is neglected amidst busy lives.
In centering prayer meditation your goal is simply to be in the presence of God and to allow the divine nature room to grow and replace your brokenness. The presence of God brings an inflow of divine energy, renewal, transformation, physical healing, wisdom, clarity and many other wonderful gifts. When the false self dominates our inner world, it causes an outflow of energy. The fallen nature is like a bunch of dark spots or little black holes in your inner world that are the root of many problems such as stress, addictions, anxiety and even physical illness. What dominates your inner world determines what your outer world looks like. This is why the Bible says, “guard your heart with all diligence, because out of it flow the issues of life”.
The presence of God is redefining who you really are. The indwelling Holy Spirit is actually the personality of Christ in you and your true self is a union between you and God because you are not separate from God. This is the mystery of the Body of Christ of which we are part. Christ’s presence in you is just not influencing your life, He is your life. He is your true self. You share in the divine nature. As the “mustard tree” of God’s presence grows within you, God walks on this earth through you. But to the degree that your false self with its unhealthy need for control, affirmation and security dominates you then that is what actualizes in your life.
Silent meditation such as centering prayer is “ground zero” where we experience the transition from the false self to the true self. God’s presence is situated in the deepest part of you, in your “heart” or your spirit. But for 30 or 40 or 50 years your mind has been controlling your life so you’re not tuned in to your heart where Christ’s presence dwells. The false self controls you by thought patterns programmed and developed since childhood in response to pain and unmet needs. Centering prayer is a time where you exercise your intention and your will to switch to the presence of God, to allow your true self to be in control, and a key part of this is not engaging in mental activity.
“Silent waiting on God” is a core Biblical practice that’s necessary to strengthen the life of the Holy Spirit within you. It’s what Jesus taught in His first recorded teaching on prayer in Matthew 6:6 – a prayer that’s in the “inner room” of the heart, that “closes the door” to distracting thoughts and connects with God in the “secret place”. For many the Christian journey reaches a ceiling. While the “fruit” of the false self are chopped off, the root issues are not thoroughly dealt with because not enough time is spent at the spirit-level in God’s presence.
When God’s Spirit has time to move within you in centering prayer, He works to loosen the hold of the false self and to replace it with a greater awareness of His divine life in you. One key to this is not engaging in thoughts because the false self is rooted in mental programs that have developed since childhood. Instead you focus on connecting with the presence of God in silent stillness. Every time you let go of a thought you’re “dying to self” and loosening the hold that the false self has on you. Every time you say your sacred word as a prayer you’re choosing God’s presence as the true source of happiness rather than the unhealthy need for control, affirmation and security that make up the fallen nature.
Silence is a goal of centering prayer because it “morphs into the presence of God”. Silence leads us to a heart-level experience of God simply because we remove all of the distracting barriers and His presence is already within us. Silence is not nothing, it’s the place where your spirit man – your heart – is fully alive and is interacting with God and where mind can’t interfere.
The key to centering prayer is intention, an exercise of the will to “switch” from thoughts and the false self to the presence of God. Prayer is calling out to God from the heart. If prayer is just empty words it’s meaningless, but when it’s an act of sincerity, God responds. Prayer doesn’t need a lot of words. It can be one word. And that’s what the sacred word is: a short prayer expressing your intention and desire, an expression of the heart, of your choice to have God’s work in your life. Abbot Isaac, in commenting on the teaching of Matthew 6:6 said, “God pays no attention to words but looks hard at the heart.” Intention, expressed via the prayer of the sacred word, is the switch between the false self and the presence of God saying “no” to the one and “yes” to the other.
In this deepening series we’ve been expanding what the sacred word means.
- The core meaning of the sacred word is “God, I consent to your presence and action in my life”
- It also means “I surrender”
- It also means “I rest in you”
- It also means “I receive your grace and understand that being loved by you is not something I deserve or need to earn”
- It also means “I receive your resurrection power”
- It also means “I receive your divine love”
Watch the discussion session after a group session of centering prayer.
This is the 6th in a series of sessions aimed at deepening the experience of centering prayer, Christian meditation or “silent waiting on God” as the Bible terms it. This session serves as a “checkpoint” to summarize ground covered to date. To learn the foundations of centering prayer, watch, listen to or read our 8 session introductory course.