Centering Prayer is like this for me. As I let the thoughts and the emotions come and go, I gain deeper insight into myself. Outside of prayer, I recognize that for the thoughts and emotions I’ve acted on weren’t real. These thoughts come and go, but the consequences of acting on them are long lasting.

This simple insight creates a space in me where I ask myself: why am I thinking these thoughts? Why do I want to respond to a thought, usually false, with something that may be long-lasting and painful. The answer comes in silence, and it is my practice that allows me to understand this language of silence.

It goes like this. When I pray without following the thoughts that come up, and don’t add my ‘story’ to them, God speaks to me in silence, and I understand myself in the silence. It’s not easy to explain this, but I know it’s true. God speaks in silence of what He wants to tell me. Those thoughts and emotions, so wrapped together, are like a dog chasing its tail. The thought starts the emotion, then my ‘story’ adds another thought, which starts a different emotion, on and on. But as I sit though the inner turmoil and experience the pain, the spaciousness of God in me will ease the thought from the emotion, and in His silence, He will ease the turmoil and pain. Words are hard to use here, but this is the experience.

The more I stick to a regular practice, the more I understand what God is ‘speaking’ to me. I’m getting better at it. Thoughts and emotions still carry me away at times. But now at least I have the space between thoughts and emotions and actions that I do and say less things that have a lasting painful effects. God is speaking to me in love, His love. And the bottom-line of what he tells me is: ‘Lawrence, I love you and I’ve got you! Go into the spaciousness within you, the space I created for you. There, you can always trust that I love you and I’ve got you. Listen in silence, be still, you will hear of my love, and you will experience my love.’

Over time I have had my challenges and I experience that what the God in me is communicating to me in silence is true. It comes down to this: even when things are not OK, it’s OK, because God’s got me and God loves me. That is what I want to share about the practice of Centering Prayer.

Lawrence Hamilton, Folsom Prison, September 2014