Part of the Contemplative Prayer practice is to begin by turning your attention to the task at hand. A moment to turn your thoughts and your vision inward to this time of silence, of sitting in whole acceptance, and one-on-one communion.
Most folks start with a bell or gong. I use a well-worn Tibetan singing bowl. And if I am sitting with another person, I have a timer that rings a small chime at the beginning of the sit, and again at the end, so no clock-watching is necessary.
The Centering Prayer program runs:
- A chime or bell to enter into your time of contemplation
- A short reading of just a few sentences. Some practitioners also use Lectio Divina (we may talk about that later)
- Sitting in silence for the Centering time (I prefer a 20 minute sit)
- A chime or bell signalling the end of your time
- With eyes still closed, repeating the Our Father, or a similar piece, comfortable to you.
I will be adding a few new reading pieces along the way for that initial step-in, that I refer to as the “Call to Prayer.” When I was growing up as a kid in the Southern Baptist Church, we had a similar spot early in the program, before the first prayer of the service, that we listed as the Call to Prayer. That’s where I drew the name. Most weeks, the choir led us into that time of worship with the song “Spirit of the Living God – Fall Fresh on Me.” And sometimes the hauntingly beautiful “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”
I liked the idea then of the concept of “drawing near unto the throne of Grace,” as the preachers called it, as an outward and visible sign that in this time, at this place, we were stepping out of our day-to-day lives to leave aside what is outside, and concentrate wholly what is on the inside.
In that time of silence and contemplation there are no rich and poor. No sick and well. No smart and dumb. And most importantly no saints and sinners. Just us.
For the contemplative life, the call to prayer needn’t be so musical (I’ve tried it, and music also works very well!) and the prize is brevity. We don’t want to start wrestling in our minds with great, puzzling theological concepts just as we are about to calm the Monkey Mind. Silence the random thoughs, and Center on a simple loving relationship with that is above, around, and within us.
Refer back to this post later, if you get astray from what a Call to Prayer IS. Henceforth, I’ll present the calls for your use. Maybe write them in a notebook (I keep mine on old school index cards in a little box.) Pull one out and read it as you still your mind, silence your soul, and sit for this brief time of prayer and contemplation.
Keep the Faith!
Lord, you are my promise and my rock.
Guide me for your promise is sure.
As with the Lectio, the Call to Prayer may be repeated three times – as you wish – to pull you deeper into your centering, as if drawing three deep breaths.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
by Helen H. Lemmel (1922)
theme based on Hebrews 12:2 – “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of his glory and grace.