Centering Prayer



By Jon Larsen (June 2005)

prayerSubmission of heart is the central issue in our obedience to God. Obedience is the acid test of our love of God (John 14:15). It is also the surest way into abiding in the Lord (John 14:23) and seeing him as He is (John 14:21). Abiding, remaining in Jesus, is the necessary precondition of fruitfulness: apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Submission is the central issue in centring prayer, often called contemplative prayer, because it is about opening ourselves to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for Him to do what He wishes to do in our hearts. Contemplative prayer is about moving beyond the formal acquaintance level of vocal prayer, beyond reflective, then responsive meditation on scripture, to seek intimacy with God, and self-surrender to Him. It is the act of being still so that we might know he is God.


It is helpful to spend time in confession and thanksgiving before seating yourself comfortably for centring prayer. Then pray:

Father God,

thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit into my heart

through faith in Jesus.

I come to submit myself to Your nurturing.

I come to open my heart and mind to

Your counselling and purifying of me.

Open my mind to see those things of Yours

which are at present hidden from me.

Send Your love into my heart.

May it be like fire to change my life

by the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Free me to do Your will on earth

so that I bring people with me to heaven.

I ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Maintain this silence of heart before God for 10-20 minutes. This may need the discipline of a timer! Thoughts will come. Deal with distracting thoughts which draw you away from looking to God by gently praying again:

Lord, I submit to You.

Other appropriate prayer words or phrases to help you return are:



Holy Spirit

I adore You




I am Yours




Your agenda




Lover of my soul

It helps to choose a single word or phrase so that you mind is not engaged in choosing, and is thus more open to the Spirit. Resist the desire to enter into intercession for yourself or for others. This is time to give God opportunity to do what he wants to do in your heart. It is time to let the Holy Spirit make real the stillness and empowering of the Sabbath rest of God in you:

“There remains then a Sabbath rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters into God’s rest also rests from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us therefore make every effort to enter into that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:9-11.

This is about giving time to the Holy Spirit to let Him bring your heart to a place of resting from your own works, and learning to enter into His. This is a time for silent adoration, letting the love of the Spirit release you from the bondages of culture and personality and nurturing. He will deal with those things silently and faithfully. His love will redeem your love and draw you into intimacy in Christ.

This time is not about visualising. You have no idea what the Risen Christ, the Father or the Holy Spirit look like. It is about letting Him be Sovereign. So don’t be put off if God does not send great revelations or feelings. This time is not primarily about you. It is about submitting to God, Who is good and has great purposes for your life.

Lord, I submit to You.


Father God,

I ask that the grace I have received

may sink deep into my heart,

and bear much fruit in my life

to the glory of Your Name.

Please keep me in the peace of Your presence,

and fill my heart with thanksgiving throughout this day,

for Jesus sake. Amen.


Most people find the Lord’s prayer helpful as they emerge from centring prayer, using each part of His prayer thoughtfully as a catalyst for devotion to the purposes of God in our lives, as a reminder of areas needing intercession, and as a focus of worship.


This should always follow, for the scriptures read in faith and submission are God’s love letter to the church, as well as our source of understanding His Heart.

POSTSCRIPT (Added September 2005)


I do pray that many who were at the CMF Conference this year have investigated contemplative prayer. It is often called centering prayer, because it is about coming into the centre, Who is God. I pray that you have been richly blessed as you have learnt to pause each day and gaze on God and let Him gaze on you. I pray that this has rescued you from the stress of doing, and that it has re-established in your heart the peace of knowing that Jesus alone is the Saviour. We are only effective in the measure in which we abide in Him, and so let his Holy Spirit flow through us in saving grace.

If you have thought at all about this process of contemplative prayer, of resting regularly from our own labours and letting God be God, you might have turned to Romans 8:26-27: “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 with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

These verses talk of the loving search for Himself which God sets in motion in our hearts. They underline the fact that it is the Holy Spirit Who gives us the desire to seek Him, and that it is He Himself Who keeps the seeking going, and continuously keeps the door open for intimacy with God. They speak of the fact the Father and the Spirit co-operate with each other in building a relationship with each one of us.

In the loving search for God, as we silence our hearts before Him and use only our prayer word, we co-operate in this process. When we pray in tongues under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we also co-operate in this process. We also acknowledge that God alone is the Saviour, the source of wisdom, of grace and of salvation. We give Him our minds and our lips as instruments in the work of salvation – in our own hearts and in the hearts of others.

Thus, contemplative prayer and praying in tongues have a great deal in common. And perhaps those who are blessed with the gift of tongues should allow these two types of prayer to flow into each other.

I have found much blessing, when the Spirit, or my own mind, brings an important issue to my attention during a time of contemplative prayer, when I have held that matter up to God by praying in tongues. My attention remains fixed on Him, and my mind and heart remain free to return to the prayer word which symbolizes my loving submission to Him. I easily return to my silent openness to Him when the urge to pray in tongues is spent.

So I often move from one type of prayer into the other during the time I have allocated for prayer. That often gives us direction as my wife and I pray together at the end of our time alone with God.

I commend to your the great value of persisting in these ways in the loving search for intimacy with God. Do not give up because nothing much seems to happen during some time of prayer. God is at work, and the evidence of His work will appear if we persist and press in to Him. You will be surprised at the way He works in situations which you have only held up to Him in this way.


Comments are closed.