Thank-you so much for these opportunities, Cynthia. I have a question about intercessory prayer. Before my launch into centering prayer and study of the Wisdom Way, intercessory prayer was a major focus of my prayer life. Now I find a dissonance with my former practice. Does our heart pray for those we love and are concerned about each time we hit the prayer mat in Centering Prayer? How do you pray for others?
Good question, Liz, and one that I explore in much more depth in my new book, The HEART OF CENTERING PRAYER (in part III, the Section of The Cloud of Unknowing, where this anonymous medieval mystic addresses exactly the question you have just posed.) But the long and short of it is that Centering Prayer and Intercessory Prayer are different modes of prayer. Intercessory Prayer is cataphatic: it makes use of our FACULTIES (memory, reason, intellect, will, emotion). Centering Prayer is apophatic. It bypasses these faculties to simply rest in a deeper, more interconnected oneness. Thus, when you’re doing Centering Prayer, you really are already at one with all the individual people and petitions you raise up in Intercessory Prayer; you’re just expressing the same music in a different way: like Bach and jazz are really different, but they’re both beautiful kinds of music.
It’s typically good to intentionally separate these practices in your prayer time, since, as you observe, they do push in different directions. When you’re in Centering Prayer, just do Centering Prayer. Then emerge from it, intentionally, into a time of intercessory prayer. Or reverse the order, whichever way is most natural for you, or do them at completely different times of the day.
The important thing to understand is that they are both valid and authentic modes of prayer, enriching and bootstrapping each other: to the glory of God and the comforting of the world. Let this be your benchmark for sincerity and avoid any temptation to see one as “higher” than the other. Everything belongs.