The term was used by Thomas Merton, and taken up by Thomas Keating who founded Contemplative Outreach in order to support people worldwide in practising contemplative prayer.
The following description is quoted with thanks from the centeringprayer.org.uk website:
“Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, that is prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship.
Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of verbal prayer into a more receptive prayer of resting in God. This method of prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him. It is the opening of heart and mind – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond words, thoughts and emotions.
Contemplative Outreach worldwide
Fr Thomas Keating, an American Cistercian Monk, founded Contemplative Outreach in 1984 to bring the ancient practice of silent prayer to contemporary society and to provide a support system to sustain it. Contemplative Outreach is now a world–wide spiritual network of individuals and small faith communities committed to living the contemplative dimension of the Gospel in everyday life through the practice of Centering Prayer, and to providing spiritual formation programmes.
Ecumenical in outlook , Contemplative Outreach seeks to dialogue with the contemplative dimension of other religions and sacred traditions.”
Centering prayer is not just sustained attention to a special word or image or to one’s breathing, but the surrender of one’s whole being to God.
Thomas Keating (Open Mind, Open Heart)
www.centeringprayer.org.uk – based in the South East of the U.K
www.couk.org.uk – Contemplative Outreach UK
www.contemplativeoutreach.org – the founding organisation in the USA
Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault
Open Mind, Open Heart by Thomas Keating
Foundations for Centering Prayer and the Christian Contemplative Life; Open Mind, Open Heart; Invitation to Love – a collection of some of Thomas Keating’s most important books