How Centering Prayer Saved My Life

I was in my mid-twenties, pregnant with our second son, a prodigal daughter far from the God I blessed every night in my childhood prayers. My world tipped on its axis when my father died at the age of 48. Seven months pregnant, I was afraid to grieve, afraid of losing my unborn child, afraid of life without Dad. I became very sick.

A week after Dad’s death, the God I’d abandoned let me know He never abandoned me. God sent me a dream that put my doubts about God to rest. This prodigal ran home to God.

My husband and I joined a new members class at my mother’s church where we joined a meditation class led by another new member.

Sit. Breathe. Repeat a centering word. Bring your thoughts back to your centering word when they begin to wander. Repeat for twenty minutes, twice a day.

I met Jesus in those meditations. My centering word became Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus. During meditation, Jesus flooded me with unconditional love. He quieted my monkey-mind. He filled me with strength and energy for my job as a stay-at-home mom of two beautiful, unruly little boys. Joy ran through my veins.

That twice-a-day centering prayer practice also prepared me for what was to come.

There were problems during my third son’s birth. Those frightening moments were prophetic of what lay ahead. Hypotonia. PDDNOS (Pervasive Developmental Disabilities, Not Otherwise Specified). Delayed milestones. Tantrums. Aggression. Autism. Manic swings with virtually no sleep two weeks out of every six. Anxiety Disorder. Severe kyphosis of the spine.

Did centering prayer really save my life?

Nothing I did as a mom seemed to help my son. None of the therapies; none of the love; none of the counseling—personal, marital, and family. Nothing could “fix” our son. The inability to fix sucks the life right out of a person, right out of a marriage.

But daily, as I sat and whispered Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus, the Lord showed up. He showered me with unconditional love. He let me know that I was more than Joel’s mom, Matt and Justin’s mom, Wally’s wife. I belonged to God. I was rooted and grounded in God. My life had purpose. My true self began emerging.

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Through centering prayer, God gifted me with courage to go on, and energy to explore the options for my son and my family. I gained the discipline to keep meditating, to write about my journey with Joel, to accompany others on their faith journeys. God shed illumination on Joel's gifts, the fact that he was perfect in God's sight. God whispered to me, "There's no need to ‘fix.’" With acceptance came peace.

Centering prayer gradually led me to other spiritual disciplines. Lectio Divina is one of my favorites. I meet with friends on a weekly basis. We read out loud, three times, a short scripture and then go into the quiet; dropping from head to heart, listening for God’s invitation. Just as in meditation, Jesus meets us there. In the silence He speaks to us individually. As we share what we hear in the quiet, God ministers to us collectively. Our stories bless one another.

Centering prayer and Lectio continue to save my life on a daily basis. My husband and I now own and run a contemplative retreat center—Cloudland—outside of Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University. Here, we pass on God’s blessings through spiritual direction, centering prayer, lectio divina, and worship to college students and other seekers so that God may save their lives as well. 

The author of four books, including The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities (Judson Press, 2014) and Autism & Alleluias.Kathy is also a spiritual director, nature lover, novel reader, YA novel writer, and meditation teacher. She and her husband provide a space to meet with God at their contemplative retreat center, Cloudland, outside of Oxford, Ohio. If you are interested in a retreat or spiritual direction, you can contact her through her website: Patches of Godlight