As winter approaches and the Covid-19 pandemic continues, dread can enter our hearts and minds. Though the arrival of a Covid-19 vaccine(s) is highly probable it will still be late spring or summer before the necessary percentage of the population has been vaccination to ease the pandemic. Many of us are suffering from “pandemic fatigue” or even “pandemic anger.” We want (or demand) that the social restrictions be lifted so we can get back to “normal.” But humans are not controlling this pandemic – the virus is.
Though at times my faith wavers, I trust that God is greater than the virus and that God will bring forth good from that time of suffering. We know that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). I seek to love God and neighbor in midst of our shared trial.
As a society we are learning how to live with the virus. New medical treatments are being developed to treat those afflicted with the virus. New behaviors, like keeping social distance, wearing face masks, washing hands, and avoiding large indoor crowds help reduce its transmission. Old practices like phone calls, exercise and prayer help us maintain hope in the midst of the challenging time. Particularly the spiritual practice of contemplative prayer can be most beneficial in helping one to quiet the reactive thoughts and emotions that can overwhelm us at times.
Contemplative prayer has a rich and broad history within the Christian tradition. The heart of contemplative prayer is simply being with God. Various spiritual practices seek to open our hearts and minds to the indwelling love of God. For example, you can use the power of imagination in order to visualize or experience the stories of the Bible as your own story, such as imagining yourself as one of the two sons in Jesus parable in Luke 15. Another is the daily practice of gratitude which invites you to set aside time to give thanks to God for the many blessing you have receive. These are but two of many spiritual practices.
The contemplative spiritual practice that I have embraced is Centering Prayer. I have written about on my blog here and here. Centering Prayer is a method designed to prepare our minds and hearts to receive the gift of God’s gracious presence. Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer; rather it casts a new light on them. The twenty minutes of silence teaches me to Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). Centering Prayer is also called the Prayer of Consent, in which we let go of our own thoughts, reactions, desires and feelings, so that God may commune with us. We let go, to let God. Learning to let go has strengthen my resilience and patience during this year of Covid-19.
The Guidelines of Centering Prayer
- Choose a sacred word or a sacred breath as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
- When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so- gently to the sacred word. Thoughts include body sensations, feelings, images, and reflections.
- At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.
I will be co-teaching a four week Introduction to Centering Prayer (on Zoom), beginning Tuesday, November 10th from 9-10:30am. Rev. Luna Gebbengreen will be co-facilitating with me. The class is open to anyone who wants to learn how to start their own practice of Centering Prayer. Further information and registration are at minnesotacontemplativeoutreach.org/enrichment