The 10-Day silent retreat I attended was focused on centering prayer. Centering Prayer is a discipline of praying without words. Your full attention is focused on just being with God. The recommended time period is twenty minutes two times a day. I have only practiced it that way during two seasons of Lent. My working, doing the dishes, paying the bills life does not seem to allow for that much time to be devoted to prayer. On the silent retreat, however, I was praying like that for 3-4 hours a day. It was intense. The sessions were thirty minutes. That may have been a welcome challenge for those who have made room in their lives for twenty minutes a day two times a week (at least it appeared that way to me), but for me it was difficult to keep my mind focused only on the presence of God using my sacred word to remind myself of the intention of my prayer.
A great centering prayer time is when the gong, signaling the end of a session, surprises me. That’s when I know that I have been with God. Being with God in centering prayer is like laying out in the sun for a while. You are doing it because you want your skin to turn dark. You want to be transformed. You expect that after a certain amount of time you will get a little brown. That is how it is with centering prayer. You can’t see your transformation happening as you are praying. You might notice, as I did, that it was a little easier that time to be less distracted, but you can’t judge or evaluate your centering prayer. You just do it. You do it expecting that it is doing something to you, something for you, something you very much want. You want to glow in God’s glory. You want to be the person He created you to be.
Centering prayer is like the May snowfall that did not stop for about 24 hours. It just dropped and dropped and dropped all day long. I wondered if we would get snowed in. You don’t have weather reports or anything while you are there. Well, it stopped and it melted just as quickly as it came. Snow just does that; it comes and goes on its own timetable. So does intimacy with God. One centering prayer session is out-of-this-world lovely. You can’t explain it; you just know that was good. The next is okay. It’s like snow. It’s like God. It’s all good.
Centering prayer was very active and cleansing for my soul, not to mention the joy that God loves me so much that He delights in my decision to will to be with Him. I am recognizing that the center of my experiencing the Divine Presence is my will. My distorted will is the only thing keeping me from ruling in the Kingdom of God now. My weakened will succumbs to Satan’s schemes to draw my will away from willing to be one with God.
Romans 8:26-27 describes the prayer without words.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. ”
Wordless prayers are gifts of the Spirit. He prays when we can’t pray. He prays when we can’t express what we were created to express to our merciful heavenly Father.
God always wants the best for us. His goodness is what draws me to prayer that does not use words but uses only the intention to be with Him and receive more fully the love He has for me.