Friday, March 15, 2019

Centering Prayer for Everyone

Picture Book: Journey to the Heart:                                                              Centering Prayer for Children
Author: Frank X. Jelenek
Illustrator: Ann Boyajian
Summary: This beautiful book encourages all children of God to take a journey by simply sitting quietly and being with God. Even preschoolers can follow these simple steps. 

First the concept of soul (the deepest part of your heart - the home of God inside you) is introduced and explained as the destiny of this holy journey. This book is trinitarian: I am made in God's image and I'm like Jesus, too, and a part of me is filled with the Holy Spirit.

It is recommended that you choose a secret word or phrase for the Holy One you seek. It's like a key that opens the door to begin the journey. After sitting  silently, with eyes closed and feet on the floor, repeat your word like a whisper in your heart where only God can hear it and will whisper back "I love you." An introductory phrase is suggested (Welcome Holy Spirit, pray with us and in us today.)
The book addresses the inevitable distractions, the noises outside and inside of you. (...that's okay just say your secret word again, silently and slowly in your heart. Let your thoughts go... Let them float right out of your head.)
Six minutes of silence are suggested. It is important to know and trust that God will hear you. 
The directions are geared toward a small group experience, but praying in this way while alone twice a day is encouraged, such as part of a morning routine and before going to bed. The author is a member of Father Keating’s Contemplative Outreach, a highly respected organization dedicated to teaching centering prayer practices.
Hanna’s Comments: I think meditation is key to a balanced, meaningful life. Centering prayer is the church's purest form of it. Teaching this practice to your faith family would be a gift and a way to make them not only more resilient but also more godly. Unlike most PBT books, I do not recommend reading this entire book aloud. Glean from it wisdom for yourself and your audience. Use the words in a way that best serves them and your particular objectives. I used this book at a prayer station recently. The program was for adults, but centering prayer is so intimidating that I thought adults might respond to the picture book since it is so inviting. They did. Most importantly for this book, it gives you the conceptual grounding and language to help anyone access the beauty and benefits of the practice of centering prayer. This book comes from The Roman Catholic Church, so it recommends ending the practice with the Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer). This is optional, of course, but it would be a nice way to integrate Jesus' teaching about prayer into your lesson. 
Original Publisher & Date: Paraclete, 2007
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently… (Psalm 37:7); Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10); Call to me and I will answer you (Jeremiah 33:3); When you pray, go to your inner room… (Matthew 6:6); The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13); … the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
Idea(s) for Application: Use parts of this book to help folks of all ages in your faith family learn more about the grounding spiritual experience of centering prayer. 

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