Ron Harmon, Council of Twelve Apostles
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce….[S]eek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare….For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. -Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7, 11
I grew up singing “Spirit of the Living God” at campfires and retreats. The lyrics seemed to open something inside me and invoke a deeper yearning. The song shaped my understanding of the spiritual journey for many years. For me, divine encounter was an active process of head and heart. Specific actions led to specific outcomes. I was in control of the process.
Life’s challenges have a way of testing our assumptions. What happens when songs and words of times past fail to stir our hearts or create receptive space in the dry desert of our souls? What happens when that for which we yearn most seems no longer attainable? This inward reality led me to centering prayer. Cynthia Bourgeault writes, “Basically, the method of Centering Prayer consists in learning to withdraw attention from our thoughts-those incessant creations of our busy minds-in order to rest in a gentle, open attentiveness to divine reality itself” (The Heart of Centering Prayer, Shambhala, Kindle Edition, p. 13).
Cynthia’s words were both revelatory and perplexing. If I totally relinquish control, even my capacity to think, how will I know if God showed up? What does it mean to create receptive space for the Spirit’s transformative work? My first experience with centering prayer lasted for 10 long, meandering minutes. My thoughts were all over the place. The experience revealed my captivity to my own thoughts.
I continued to study and experiment with this practice. I became more comfortable letting go of my thoughts and resting in a posture of trust. When I engaged in the practice I was more present, thoughtful, and comfortable in my own being. Although I could not identify a specific “spiritual” experience during the practice, I could not deny something significant was happening within.
As I journey through this Lenten season, I remember the One who found clarity in desert places and embodied the ultimate act of letting go. I struggle daily to follow this example but find hope in the gentle yet persistent invitation to new life, hope, and inner freedom.
I surrender into your love.
Set a timer for 20 minutes. (If that feels like too much at first, choose a time that will be comfortable for you as a starting place, committing to expand that time in future prayer.) Allow the rhythm of your breath to draw you deeper and deeper into silence. As you breathe, claim one sacred word (Christ, peace, grace, trust, etc.) emerging in you as an anchor to return you to the intention of your prayer when your thoughts begin to wander. Gently release the thoughts and images that come, making space for presence to the One who is with you here and now. Release, return, “be vulnerable to divine grace” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:10b).
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.