How centering prayer saved my life

By Kathleen Deyer-Bolduc

I was in my mid-20s, 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 God never abandoned me. God sent me a dream that put my doubts about God to rest. The prodigal ran home to God.

My husband and I joined a new members’ class at my mother’s church, where we ended up in 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 20 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 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.

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 or family). Nothing could “fix” our son. That 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.

Through centering prayer, God gifted me with courage to go on. Energy to explore the options for my son and my family. Discipline to keep meditating; to write about my journey with Joel; to accompany others on their faith journeys.

Centering prayer gradually led me to other spiritual disciplines. Lectio Divina (“divine reading”) is one of my favorites. I meet with friends on a weekly basis. We read aloud, 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 along God’s blessings to college students through spiritual direction, centering prayer, Lectio Divina and worship, so that their lives may be saved as well.

From one degree of glory to another

Before the bottom falls out
from under my feet
(and oftentimes after)
I whisper Maranatha,
Come, Lord Jesus.
You respond,
not with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
but with cellular transformation.
Body/mind/spirit revolution!
Every day I trip or fall,
call your name,
recall your Word.
You scoop me up,
remind me to wait and watch.
Listen for the mystery:
never-ending transformation
from the inside-out.
A life-time’s journey
From darkness to light.

Co-owner with her husband of Cloudland, a retreat center in Ohio, Deyer-Bolduc is author of several books, including “The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities” (Judson Press, 2014) and “Autism & Alleluias” (Judson Press, 2010).

Available from, “Spiritual Disciplines Made Easy” (Workshops for Church Life and Leadership, #C902), authored by Deyer-Bolduc, introduces spiritual practices for everyday folks that can bring about personal transformation.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.