Often it is good simply to be silent and still before God. To try to empty the
mind as best we can, and just to wait upon God. But this is not easy! The
Gospel story of the room which had been swept clear of devils, only to find
itself filled up with ten devils worse than the first, might serve as a
salutory reminder of the dangers.! Unless you are very experienced in the life
of prayer, and have a spiritual guide to accompany you, you will almost
certainly need to take something with you into the silence. It may be a
Biblical word or phrase, a symbol or a picture. Or it may be that you can use
1. using a biblical word or phrase This is often called 'centering
prayer', and is has some similarities to eastern meditation in that it involves
the use of a single word/phrase repeated like a mantra: such as 'Jesus',
'peace', 'shalom', 'love' 'Abba'. Like a mantra the word/phrase serves as a
focal point, a marker to return to when distracted by other thoughts. Centering
prayer begins with the intention to be with god; practitioners advocate doing
it twice a day, in sessions of approximately 20 minutes each. The format is
simple: choose your sacred word or phrase; position yourself comfortably;
repeat the word/phrase when your thought sintrude during this time of prayer;
then conclude the session gradually and gently. The aim is not to receive new
insights or understandings, but simply to place your self in god's presence.
2. Sight. Try to focus your attention on a simple object, like a lighted
candle. Don't think about it. Just look at it. Allow yourself to concentrate
just on the candle. When your concentration wavers, as it surely will, just
bring it back to the candle again. Remember that the object of the exercise is
actually not looking at the candle at all, but rather looking 'through' the
candle to the emptiness beyond, where God is. Using the candle as a way of
clearing your mind, creating a space where God can enter.
3. Sounds. You can do much the same thing, but using sounds. This time focus
your attention on your hearing. Be aware of what you can hear. Name the sounds
that are loud and close by, and then gradually name those that are further
away, until you are concentrating on those sounds at the very edge of
audibility. Again, you are using your hearing, to hear 'through' the sounds, to
the silence around and beyond them, where God is. Using your hearing as a way
of clearing your mind, creating a space where God can enter.
4. Smell. You can do the same sort of thing, but this time using your sense of
5. Breathing. Another way in, is to focus on your breathing. Not to breathe
deeper or shallower than usual. Just to breath normally, and then to
concentrate on your breathing. Be aware of your body taking air into the lungs.
and then expelling it out. Concentrate on it, and allow your concentration to
clear your mind of other things. If your concentration wavers, just bring it
back to your breathing again. You might find it helpful to imagine yourself
breathing in the life giving Spirit of God, and breathing out sin and pain.
6. The whole body. Or you might try being aware of the whole of your body. Sit
with your back straight, your hands relaxed and open on your thighs, and the
soles of your feet flat on the ground. Imagine that there is a thin piece of
string attached to the back of your head, and running taut up to the ceiling!
So that your body is held upright. Now, start by being aware of all the
sensations in your feet. Don't move the feet, just be aware of all the
sensations that are there. Take about ten seconds. Then move up your body to
your ankles, and notice all the sensations there. Next your thighs, then your
knees, and so on, right through to the top of your head. When you've been all
around your body once, do it again, slowly and gently. You may notice all sorts
of odd aches and pains, that you didn't know were there! (You may feel that
your body is trying to tell you something!) But just let them go, and move on.
Many people find this a very effective way of clearing the mind and thus
preparing themselves for prayer and God