“What God arranges for us to experience at each moment
is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.”
Jean-Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment
Composer, Mary Mrozowski, one of the founders of Contemplative Outreach
The Welcoming Prayer is a
“powerful path for connecting the inner consent of Centering Prayer with the outer requirement of unconditional presence in daily life.”
The Rev Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault
The Welcoming Prayer is a crucible that can hold our prayer when we are being overwhelmed by an emotion during other forms of prayer or at any time in our daily lives when we are troubled by our feelings.
When we find that it is difficult, if not impossible, to let go of an emotion or state of being, we can instead embrace that state. This is a way of accepting what is rather than trying to push it away. In a profound way, the Welcoming Prayer helps us live the truth that “all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28).
Be Aware: Notice the sensation of the emotion you feel. Where is it in your body? Notice your state of being. Where do you feel this emotion? What does it feel like? Is it a familiar sensation? How do you sense it in your breathing? Try to be fully present to the sensation. Pay attention to your natural tendency to resist it or to repress the emotion. You don’t need to analyze the sensation; just notice it.
Welcome: Welcome the feeling by naming it and saying, for example, “Welcome anger,” “Welcome frustration,” “Welcome anxiety.” Accept that it is there and that you can just be the way you are without trying to change. Welcome God into the midst of your feeling.
(It is important to note that you are actually welcoming the emotion as the place where God wants to meet you. This is not the same as condoning the situation that produced the emotion.)
Move back and forth between these two steps. Don’t try to get over the feeling, solve the situation, or make it go away. Rather, just notice and welcome your emotion and God until the overwhelming quality of the feeling begins to subside. Welcome Jesus’ presence and love even in the feelings that you experience.
Let Go: When you are ready, gently let go of the reactive feeling. Say something like, “I let go of my anger.” Or “I let go of my anxiety.”
It may also be helpful to pray the following as an expression of your deepest desire to surrender to God in the moment:
Welcome, Welcome, Welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and the healing action and grace within.
You are not letting go of your emotion forever. You will certainly feel angry again. As Cynthia Bourgeault puts it, “This is not a final, forever renunciation of your anger or fear; it’s simply a way of gently waving farewell as the emotion starts to recede.” It is coming back home to the Center with God.
Practicing Welcoming Prayer
- Recall a recent experience which produced a reactive response in you, e.g., anger, jealousy anxiety, etc.
- Step back into that experience and into the emotional response that gripped you without trying to analyze it, fix it, or justify it.
- Welcome the uncomfortable feeling. Let it be a gift to you from your body to focus you in the place where Jesus wants to meet you.
- Let go. Using the prayers above (naming the feeling and then naming the desire for security etc), gradually pray a prayer of surrender and allow your focus to shift from the experience itself to God meeting you in the experience.
“Welcoming Prayer is the practice that actively lets go of thoughts and feelings that support the false-self system. It embraces painful emotions experienced in the body rather than avoiding them or trying to suppress them. It does not embrace the suffering as such but the presence of the Holy Spirit in the particular pain, whether physical, emotional, or mental. Thus, it is the full acceptance of the content of the present moment. In giving the experience over to the Holy Spirit, the false-self system is gradually undermined and the true self liberated.”
Father Thomas Keating, O.S.B.
Turning toward our suffering is a critical part of welcoming everything pushing away nothing. This invitation means that no part of ourselves for our experience and he left out: not the joy and wonder, nor the pain and anguish. All are woven throughout the very fabric of our lives. When we embrace that truth, we stepped more fully into life. Frank Ostaseski, The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, p. 102
“Welcome the grief. Welcome the anger. It’s hard to do, but for some reason, when we name it, feel it, and welcome it, transformation can begin. Don’t lose presence to the moment. Any kind of analysis will lead you back into attachment to your ego self. The reason a bird sitting on a hot wire is not electrocuted is quite simply because it does not touch the ground to give the electricity a pathway. Hold the creative tension, but don’t ground it by thinking about it, critiquing it, or analyzing it.” Richard Rohr, meditation on Welcoming Prayer, 9/2/17
“Longing for God is the most important factor of this prayer, because only on the basis of this inner urge to surrender to God is there hope for progress on this path.” Sr. Ludwigis Fabian, O.S.B.
“I am where I need to be. Everything around me includes and hides the sacred.” Mary Mrozowski