A Word From Grace: Monday Edition - Centering Prayer

This week, I’m starting a new series for our Monday blogs on spiritual disciplines. Perhaps that term doesn’t sound too appealing to you, so let me define it. Spiritual disciplines are simply spiritual practices that help us grow in our intimacy with Jesus. When one incorporates these into a regular rhythm of time spent with God, head knowledge about God transforms into experiential relationship with God.
 
Disclaimer: when practicing spiritual disciplines, take care not to turn them into religious formulas: “if I do ______, then God will do ______.” Relationships with humans don’t quite work that way and the same is true of relationship with God. It isn’t a formula; it’s a dynamic back and forth. If the routine gets stale or feels like it’s just not working, don’t be afraid to change it up. You will find that some disciplines come more naturally than others. For example, Bible study or worship through song may come easy, while silence and solitude are a struggle. When exploring spiritual disciplines, I would encourage you to lean into what comes naturally – allow these to become foundational pieces of your relationship with God. However, don’t give up on what is less natural for you. If you persevere in these, you may just discover rich depths of intimacy with Jesus that you never realized could be there.
 
I am going to start with a practice I learned back in high school, but that has resurfaced for me lately: centering prayer. This practice is particularly helpful in our noisy, busy culture and for our noise-filled minds. If you’re like me, clearing out the noise in order to really hear from God can be difficult. Centering prayer can help and it’s pretty simple:
  • First, find a quiet spot where you can be alone for a little while.
  • Next, set a timer. Start small. Five or seven minutes is a good way to start out.
  • Then, choose a spiritual word to dwell on: love, peace, joy, sacrifice, redemption, salvation, etc. I will often ask the Holy Spirit to bring such a word to mind. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t (or I miss it). Either way, pick a word.
  • Now, the idea is to allow God to speak to you through that word. Close your eyes; invite the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts. Ask him to help you tune out distractions and other voices. Start your timer and silently reflect on the word you’ve chosen. Avoid the temptation to check the timer. Just silently and with eyes closed dwell in God’s presence until the time is up.
  • Very likely, your mind will start to wander after a few moments. Any time this happens, don’t get down on yourself; simply return to the word you’ve chosen to dwell on. The chosen word acts as a kind of thought anchor to keep you centered on the presence of God.

Try doing this once or twice a day over the next week. As you get more accustomed to time in silence, increase the time by a couple minutes. It’s kind of like developing a muscle. Time and repetition will increase ability. If a particular session doesn’t go well, don’t worry about it, but don’t give up. As you master this discipline, you’ll be more and more able to spend larger chunks of time silently dwelling on the presence and voice of God. Eventually, you’ll even be able to drop the centering word since you will be less easily distracted.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

- Psalm 27:4

Using this discipline has yielded some of the richest times in God’s presence that I have experienced. I would be thrilled to hear about your own experiences as you try this out, so if you’d like to share, you can reply to this email or send one directly to sean@gfcnj.com
 
In Christ,
Pastor Sean

Sean's Picks

Water From a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries – This book by George Sittser takes a fascinating look spiritual practices of Christians through the ages. I will likely share some insights from this book throughout the spiritual disciplines blog series, but this is a great read whether you’re a history buff or simply want to learn from the collective wisdom of believers throughout history.
 
Regions Beyond – My second pick of the week is a special video message spotlighting one of our Grace missions partnerships: The Alliance. See missions spotlight below:

Missions Spotlight:
Alliance Missons

Did you know that as part of the Grace Chapel family, you are part of a global missions movement called The Christian and Missionary Alliance? And each time you give to Grace, approximately 10% of your giving supports all of our missions partnerships. The majority of this goes to Alliance Missions including the Alliance Great Commission Fund (GCF) which supports over 700 international workers.

So, what is Alliance Missions all about? Below you'll find a message entitled Regions Beyond. This message comes to us from an Alliance international worker. Dave was scheduled to share personally in Quest this May, but due to COVID-19, those plans didn't work out. Instead, he's sharing with us via video instead. Dave, his wife Deb and their family, serve in a creative-access country in North/Central Asia. His message gives an excellent picture of the vision and strategy being employed by Alliance workers around the globe:

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