Practicing Re-Collection (or Centering) Prayer

One thing that came out of our weekend retreat was a number of practices I want to work on and integrate into my life. This mostly came from the morning workshop on contextualizing the “testimony to plainness.” In other words, how do we cut out the excessive parts of our lives in 2009? And the following question, what are excesses in our culture today?

In our conversation on the way home, I talked with my wife about how I often struggle with feeling really agitated and anxious because of the amount of schoolwork (and related projects) I continually have. This can translate into home-life where instead of relaxing and being present with Emily and L, I feel like I need to work on something. I asked Emily how I might be able to surrender this drive, this urge to God and remain open to God’s call everyday and be more available to the family? She suggested looking at Richard Foster and what he says about re-collection, or centering, prayer.

So when we got home I opened up the Celebration of Discipline and read about the practice. He writes that “re-collection” or centering “…is a time to become still, to enter into the recreating silence, to allow the fragmentation of ours minds to become centered” (30-31). The prayer is a simple “body prayer,” here are the two movements:

Begin with Palms down – This signifies release, surrender, giving everything up to God. Make whatever confessions, petitions seem fitting here. I’ve been using this period to release my worries, my desire to excel, and to confession these urges as taking me away from my more direct call from God. I like to end this portion with the first two lines of the Lord’s Prayer (which I read as surrender), “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Then turn your Palms Up – This signifies receiving, openness to God, and communing. Here I try and open myself up to God’s call, find out what I am being called to for the day, receive peace and forgiveness, etc. I then end with the final verses of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.”

This is one practice I am working on doing regularly, it’s an experiment in cutting away the excess and remaining centered in God.Do you have something that’s help you in this are?

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

3 thoughts on “Practicing Re-Collection (or Centering) Prayer”

  1. Hi C. Wess<

    Thanks for posting the suggestions. Here's part of what I came up with.
    (I, too, by the way have found using phrases from Jesus' prayer to be helpful.)

    >>from GIL
    How do we cut out the excesses in our lives?

    Do what is most important first, then the excesses, especially the urgent ones, will drop away on their own. (Or we'll get less sleep;-)

    Reduce the obsession to overwork. A little less ambition or guilt-induced need to put work first. Remember Godly priorities–God, family, the world, myself, then career.

    Be ruthless about eliminating unused stuff in the garage. Being frugal in keeping stuff is good but not if it becomes a case of hoarding and rat-packing.

    Hold books (and movies, magazines, etc.) I want to read in the Light to see if they are what You want me to read at this present time.

    Daniel

  2. Hi Wess– great to see that you’re finding “palms down, palms up” to be useful.

    I’ve used this many times in the past, usually when there’s something in particular that I’m really anxious about and that is obstructing my path, but also when I just can’t seem to come into the Center, for whatever reason. Back in the fall when the economic downturn was gaining steam, I preached a message about anxiety at BFC, and this was one thing I suggested people could do when overwhelmed. I think it’s been useful to at least one person here…

    I really like your addition of parts of the Lord’s prayer to the two movements–I may give that a try.

    Blessings!

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