Meditation - some basics

There is a fine line between prayer and meditation. Some say that prayer is a conversation with God, and meditation is us listening to God. But these delineations don’t always hold. Some meditations can feel like a deep unspoken conversation, and some prayers feel more like listening. The practices below might better be described as ‘meditative prayers’ and be used by individuals or in groups.

  • Timing. If you have never practiced mediation before, or feel uncomfortable with silence don’t feel you have to sit in silence for half an hour the first time you try one of these practices. You could start with five minutes and work up. Most people who practice meditation regularly recommend at least 20-30 minutes as a good time to aim for.
  • Comfort. It is important that you are comfortable during meditation so that your focus is not on your body. However lying down or resting in a comfy chair might make you feel more sleepy than anything else....
  • Focus. Some people think that if they can’t focus for 30 minutes (or five minutes!) then they can’t meditate. Here’s the secret…hardly any one can absolutely focus for that amount of time. If your mind wanders then simply bring it back to your prayer intention. Even if this happens every 30 seconds be patient and stay with it. Meditation is a difficult discipline in our busy world.

“For me prayer is space and stillness to find what really matters.”  Tamara, SCM Friend

Meditation: Centring Prayer

Though this prayer has been around for centuries it has been popularised recently by Thomas Keating, a Cistercian Priest. The intention of this prayer is simply to be still and know God’s presence.

First, choose a word that fits your image of God. Don’t worry about having the 'best' word, just one that works for you. ‘Love’, ‘Holy’, ‘unknown’, and ‘close’ are a few examples. Commit to this word for the duration of the prayer, as changing it will start you thinking again. You can choose a different word each time.

Then, sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, take time to settle, and silently say your chosen word to yourself over and over. If you are distracted then simply gently return to focus on your word.

Drawing this prayer to an end, try to sit in the stillness for a couple of minutes before opening your eyes.

This resource was written by Aileen Few, SCM's Resource Worker 2009-10

Resource type: 
Prayer and Liturgy
Resource theme: 
Encountering God
God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit