Centering Prayers is a collection of inspired prayers crafted as brief preludes or postludes to periods of personal, contemplative prayer. Each radiates God's love. Tailored for the seasons and months of the year, they integrate a spiritual theology with certain mystical depth. You will want to read them slowly and pray them quietly, one day at a time.
"In Daily Companion, Peter Haas offers intimate prayers that rest on the deep rooted tradition of his faith. His vulnerability and longing lead you to your own journey. His fearless asking: Strengthen me in love. Draw me into your life, draw you to deeper places. He acknowledges, You are the shadow that crosses near in the silence of prayer. Praying these prayers with Haas becomes a daily chant reminiscent of those in monasteries the world over, kneeling in prayer in the silent hours before dawn."
Author of Gift of the Red Bird, Waking Up to This Day
Prayer is essentially a relationship. People who pray only when they have a need are obviously ignorant of what prayer is all about. They will be swimming in shallow waters of spirituality, getting only their feet wet in terms of spiritual growth, only to leave the pool when nothing substantial needs to be prayed for or about. When the next need arises, such people will step back in the waters. Without realizing that prayer is a relationship, such people will not venture beyond to deeper waters, and learning how to seek God and to depend on God totally. For Presbyterian minister Dr. Peter Traben Haas, centering prayers are to assist people to go deeper into the love of God. A brief prayer is offered each day for a full year, all of them designed to help one cultivate this relationship with God. Each month begins with a brief spiritual meditation. January is about one being known by God. February exhorts the seeking of Truth. March is an invitation to cultivate the relationship with God. April prepares one to focus on the crucifixion, the death, and the resurrection of Christ. May reminds one about being liberated toward gracious living. June shows one the light and presence of God. July guides one toward accepting God as our spiritual companion. August teaches us to listen and practice awareness of our surroundings. September teaches us that God is true wisdom and we ought to seek Him whenever we need wisdom. October invites one to connect with God more as the Autumn season commences. November builds trust. December tells us to wait, watch, and wonder at the marvelous love of God through Christ who dwells among us.
There are three things I like about this book. Firstly, it is the brevity of the daily prayers. It reminds me that prayers need not be long and unwieldy. Short prayers help us to remmber what we pray. It allows us to focus. It allows us to use the least number of words to maximize our spiritual sensitivities. Although on some days in which are prayers are longer, the idea is simple and often centered on a main theme. Despite the additional words, readers will be able to sense that there is a big idea in each of these long prayers. Take hold of this big idea and center our prayers accordingly. Second, there is usually one single thought of God's character each day. The prayers are directed with a focus on the character of God. Rather than coming to God with a full laundry list of our requests for quail and manna, it focuses on growing the awareness of God's presence in our lives. Far too often, people pray without settling themselves down to listen.The prayers enable us to focus and listen for God's character to reflect back to us. Thirdly, each prayer is an attempt to help readers use the prayers to connect with God. This is the biggest reason to buy this book. With regular praying, one's ability to connect with God will be strengthened each day. For human beings are creatures of habit. Once they embark upon a year long program to center their prayers toward a relationship with God, their prayer life will be transformed. Indeed, when this happens, people will want to pray more and more. Then, one will no longer be contended with anything that is "pray to get" but a joy exuberant from one who "gets to pray."
-Dr. Conrad Yap, Panorama of A Book Saint- November 2013
Paraclete Press sent me a review copy of Centering Prayers: A One-Year Daily Companion for Going Deeper into the Love of God by Peter Traben Haas. In the preface, the author (who is a pastor, and the founder of ContemplativeChristians.com) talks about his hopes that these brief daily prayers will "nourish a deepening experience of God's love, especially when read as a prelude or postlude to periods of contemplative prayer." They're beautifully-written prayers, most of them just a few sentences long, that use evocative language for God (the prayers are addressed to "Eternal Love," "Source of the Creation," "Beloved Comforter.") The language is immensely soothing; it's astonishing how some well-chosen words like these can actually calm my heartbeat and my breathing. I've been reading the prayers daily at my prayer desk, either in the morning or (even better) in the evening, when I have the time to ponder each word slowly.Wherever you are in your prayer life — beginner, or seasoned veteran — this book has something to offer you.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer, Random Acts of Momness
I have been using this daily companion prayer guide in my personal devotions since the beginning of this year. Now, after almost eight-weeks of regular use, I feel qualified to provide an honest review. I will begin by saying that I have enjoyed these preludes or welcoming prayers that lead my spirit into a place of union and fellowship with God and I'm sure my delight in these prayers will continue as I enjoy the devotions through the coming year.
I think a good place to begin my review is with the introduction. Centering or meditative prayer is different from what many persons in my tradition understand prayer to be. My background is Protestant Evangelical and centering prayer is outside of the practice of what many people in my church family experience on a regular basis. Historically, it has been my experience; prayers of petition, supplication, and praise are the normal for most Evangelicals. Therefore, a bit of explanation and qualification is helpful in distinguishing what is different about this style of prayer. Peter Traben Haas provides us a very good disclaimer in his introduction, About the Prayers, he writes:
"The brevity of most of the prayers is an intentional effort in service of the contemplative prayer practice. Although almost all of the prayers use thee first-person singular "I" instead of the more universal first-person "we," I recognize that our prayers are always in some way interconnected with the human family, across all times and places. Our communion of prayer is not limited by generations or locations. Prayer integrates time and eternity, earth and heave, and transcends any one person's silent devotion and evocations of pain, ecstasy, or earnest plea. Thus, while this simple book of prayers will most likely be used by individuals devotionally, at no point are we ever really alone in this sighing of spirit to Spirit. We are praying as well as being prayed, as a continuing loving universal body becoming love." (p. xv)
Centering prayer is a place of union, intimacy, and holy communion with the Godhead...a place of few, if any, words. This little book of prelude and/or postlude prayers by Peter Traben Haas is a helpful guide leading the pray-er into the mystery of holy intimacy.
While these prayers, as the author reminds us in his introduction, might be more often used for individual devotions, I have found as much joy and prayerful community using them on occasion with one of my discipleship and prayer groups (3-4 men).
Centering Prayers is a wonderful resource and I feel I'm only just beginning to plumb the depths of the gift that it truly is. I hope others, familiar with the practice of centering prayer as well as those new to the practice, will be equally blessed.
iCrucified: Pressing on to be like Jesus- Jeff Borden
I serve as pastor for a medium-sized congregation that worships in a gorgeous, soaring mid-century sanctuary with a cream brick interior and tall, fluted windows. I call it a neighborhood cathedral. But what I love most about Westminster is not its building but the people's desire to grow spiritually. It's a congregation of openhearted friendliness.
We have lovely choirs, mission outreach ministries, and a terrific staff. We have no debt. Yet while I'm deeply grateful for our blessings, I came to Westminster looking for something more. Now the congregation has joined me in my search: we are hungry to grow deeper together in Christ and are feeding that hunger with contemplative practices.
When I came to Westminster I had already started a blog and written a book about contemplation, and I shared my interest with the pastoral search committee. For me, I said, the rediscovery and application of the wisdom of the contemplative dimension of Christianity has been a way to grow spiritually. Then I suggested that, after decades of pursuing many other goals, Westminster might be a good candidate for a congregational emphasis on contemplation.
The church called me and supports my efforts to introduce contemplative practices. I anticipated some resistance, of course, and hoped to limit grumbling and anxiety by introducing contemplative elements to the monthly session (board) meetings. Instead of starting with our normal business meeting in the conference room, we began in the chapel with dimmed lights, the Christ candle lit in the center of the room, and the chairs arranged in a circle, so that we were all facing one another.
I led the board through several calming prayers, helping us "relax until calm" and "get into our bodies" by noticing our breath and feeling our heartbeats. Then we did lectio divina. Session members welcomed the change and found the 30 minutes so refreshing that some of them began to refer to the chapel time as their "spiritual spa." One member told the group that "our worship time has transformed our meetings." He went on to say that instead of feeling burned out after the meeting, he went home feeling renewed and encouraged by the love in the community. This was a welcome sign of growth.
In 2013 we decided to read all of the Bible during the year and to deepen our prayer life, particularly through centering prayer, a meditative prayer practice grounded in the trinitarian love of God and resourced from the depth and breadth of a contemplative Christian tradition that goes back to teachings such as Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God," as well as Jesus' teaching on prayer: "But whenever you pray, go into your inner room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret" (Matt. 6:6).
While there are many different types of meditative prayer, the unique characteristic of centering prayer is that it is a receptive, resting prayer rather than a concentrated, active prayer. The difference is this: in centering prayer when one becomes engaged or distracted by a thought, feeling, sensation, or noise, one ever so gently returns to a chosen word such as Jesus, Abba, or love. Thus centering prayer is not a continuous mantra prayer. After ten or 15 minutes, one begins to notice that the distractions and thoughts are less frequent; one does not return to the chosen word as often.
In other forms of meditation we focus on a word or on the silence, while in centering prayer we consent to God's presence. Our goal is not to have no thoughts or to continuously say a certain word but to consent to the presence of the Spirit of God in the silence.
I was encouraged when a regular centering prayer participant told me, "this prayer and the writings of Thomas Keating have changed my life." A member of our Lenten centering prayer class said that her daily centering prayer practice has allowed her to reduce her daily depression medicine significantly—with her psychiatrist's permission. Others have told me that while they value the practice, they can't stand how many thoughts run into their minds when they try to sit down and do centering prayer. One church member flat out told me, "I can't do it. It's like I'm getting pummeled with thoughts all the time." "Yes," I say, "I understand. It's like that for me too, but the value of the prayer and its effectiveness in our life can't be measured by how many thoughts we have."
In conjunction with a program to read the Bible in a year, we've welcomed a brief lectio divina service prior to the 9 a.m. traditional Sunday worship service. We meet in the chapel in a circle with a candle holding the center, and I read a section of the lectionary for the day. I read it slowly three or four times, providing for increasing silence and giving the participants time and space to listen deeper than the surface meaning of the text. We're listening for something more than just information; we're listening for transformation. In this way it's as if the silence helps us surrender our need to be in control of the reading and to consent to the scripture and the Holy Spirit "reading" us.
Last Lent more than a hundred people attended each week of an eight-week introduction to centering prayer. We concluded the class with a three-day centering prayer retreat held at a nearby monastery. Retreatants appreciated the silence of this post-Easter retreat and the growth and love that occurred in the time together. Encouraged by the positive feedback, we began evening and morning centering prayer groups.
Last year a Wednesday vespers service marked the conclusion of our children, youth, and adult programming. It was an extraordinary experience to sit in silence for five minutes with 50 children and youth. I was deeply encouraged as I observed them grow peaceful at the end of a busy day. You could hear a pin drop in the sanctuary—a real miracle.
This fall we have retooled the vespers service, but it still includes five to seven minutes of silence for centering prayer. Afterward I share a brief reflection based on the day's lectionary readings and conclude with contemplative communion—an acoustic style of communion accompanied by Taizé music and silence.
This year a midsummer contemplative vision weekend will feature guest speakers from Contemplative Outreach, as well as a liturgical arts and music component to draw in those who are skeptical. The weekend will help the congregation focus our current vision process using insights and principles articulated by teachers such as Thomas Keating and Richard Rohr.
Since Sunday morning worship services are the primary time when the entire church community gathers, we use centering silence there as well. After the welcome, greeting, and announcements, but before the call to worship, I invite the congregation to take a few minutes to rest in the silence together and to ask the Holy Spirit to bless them with one thing they need through our time in worship. I can feel a collective sigh as we sink into the silence together—something, I suspect, that many have not done all week.
Others look at me as if I'm speaking a foreign language. I'll never forget the time when a mature Christian man raised his hand during a class on prayer and asked, "But pastor, how can saying nothing and sitting in silence actually be prayer?" We all had a good laugh before I launched into a passionate answer. Apparently it helped him, because he's been attending one of our groups this fall.
While these are wonderful highlights, the number of people engaged in a contemplative practice or group are actually only about 20 people out of 450 regular worship attendees. That leaves a lot of room to grow. But the seed of silence has taken root. I pray that it bears abundant fruit in our community.
As the world spins from one crisis into another, we need a daily practice that holds the center and draws us forward in love. Those who have experienced the fruits of prayer in their own life believe that meditative prayer provides just such a gentle transformation. Resting in God's love in prayer we sow the seeds of silence. When we experience the silence grow in our lives, we reap fruits of the Spirit, including love, joy, and peace.
In The Habit of Being Flannery O'Connor describes the world as a place "we cherish at the same time struggle to endure." Some might say that's a good description of the church. But I believe we can do better by being less. We can take a break from all our striving, sit down in the silence, and simply be with God.
Pastors are apprehensive about how to "be Christian" and "do church." I am certain that this apprehension dissipates with a twice-a-day meditative prayer practice. Our perspective on the problems significantly shifts so that we are no longer holding the center but being held. That makes all the difference.
I am certain too that Christian community can articulate its relevancy and connectivity in our time by reclaiming the wisdom of the contemplative way, held in trust by the monastic communities, and now released and available to the wider church in unprecedented ways. We can focus on growing deeper together in Christ through spiritual practices, especially meditative prayer, letting silence grow in us wherever we are.
The Christian Century: Thinking Critically, Living Faithfully.
Focus! Focus! We've said that to our children and ourselves, but the catch is knowing what, or rather Who, to focus on -- and also how or when.
As I look at the review copy Paraclete Press kindly sent me of Centering Prayers by pastor-writer, Peter Traben Haas, the poetic words enable me to see the focal point and adjust my sights clearly to get centered on God.
Each month of the book's year-long daily devotionals begins with a timely word "as if God says to me _____." Then each day of that month includes a theme in the title, followed by a brief prayer that comes from the Christ-given heart we have in common-union at the center of ourselves.
To provide you with examples of what to expect, I turned to the preface for my birthday month, July, and read:
It is as if God says to me:
You are a lamp and my love is your fuel.
I love you and wish to anoint your life with the kind of light that heals your deepest darkness.
I am with you on your journey.
Follow the Son who knows the way and is always close.
Once I'd read that, the inevitable interruptions and morning routines occurred, but after the children had safely caught their school buses for their first day back to class, I turned to the centering prayer for today, entitled "Returning to you in surrender."
Bless all students returning to school.
Bless all teachers returning to teach.
Bless all leaders returning to lead.
Bless all workers returning to labor.
Bless all beggars returning for more.
Bless all heart returning to you in surrender.
Remind us all that your gift of grace takes us all the way home.
Hopefully, prayerfully, that amazingly timely word to me speaks to you too, and yet we cannot help but be aware of the troubling times around the world where too few choose to surrender to God's way of love as revealed to us in Christ. And so, after closing this highly recommended book, I opened its pages at random and found a prayer dated June 27 that speaks to current needs, too, in the prayer "The miracle of many voices becoming one."
Refresh me by your Spirit.
Lead me into peace and understanding with others and help me experience the miracle of many voices becoming one in you.
Yes! and amen. So be it in Jesus' Name.
Mary Harwell Sayler, In a Christian Writer's Life