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Mental & Spiritual Health Minute: Welcoming Prayer

Welcoming Prayer
The Rev. Dr. Debbie Brewin-Wilson, PhD, Episcopal Mental & Spiritual Health Crisis Ministry

The Welcoming Prayer is defined as “a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life” (Contemplative Outreach). It developed as a fruit of Centering Prayer practice.

Mary Mrozowski, a Centering Prayer practitioner and founding member of Contemplative Outreach, developed the Welcoming Prayer. She based it on the teachings of Father Thomas Keating and the 17th-century French Jesuit, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, as well as her own life experience. As Mrozowski taught the Welcoming Prayer, people found it so helpful and transformative, it spread throughout Contemplative Outreach—and beyond.

The practice of Welcoming Prayer helps us to release thoughts and feelings that help keep us tied up in our “false-self system,” as Father Keating named it. This practice helps us to acknowledge painful emotions and discern the Holy Spirit’s presence with us in our suffering. In other words, it helps us to be fully present in the moment, which supports a path of healing and freeing the true self.

Contemplative Outreach offers workshops on the Welcoming Prayer, and some training programs for it can be found online. It’s recommended that you have a solid Centering Prayer or contemplative prayer practice before using the Welcoming Prayer, but here are the general procedures for using the practice.

It’s important to remember with this practice that you are not welcoming whatever disease or trauma is causing your physical or emotional pain; you are welcoming your response to it; you are accepting your feelings about it. It’s best to begin practicing the Welcoming Prayer during the small, everyday frustrations in life, such as waiting in a line at the store or being stuck in a traffic jam. Practicing with these less intense events helps to prepare us for the more consequential upsets in our lives.

The prayer practice consists of three movements:

  • Feel and sink into what you are experiencing this moment in your body.
  • “WELCOME” what you are experiencing this moment in your body as an opportunity to consent to the Divine Indwelling.
  • Let go by saying “I let go of my desire for security, affection, control and embrace this moment as it is.”

(Contemplative Outreach publication, The Welcoming Prayer.)

For example, let’s say you’re sitting in a traffic jam on Route 80, and you see someone driving on the shoulder, passing all of the stopped cars. You start to tense up and say some not-so-nice things about that driver, but you catch yourself in that moment of tension:

  • Feel what’s happening in your body—your hands gripping the steering wheel, the shallow, rapid breathing, the knotted feeling in your gut—and sink into that sensation.
  • Say, “Welcome, anger.”
  • Let go by saying, “I let go of my desire for security, affection, control and embrace this moment as it is.” Alternatively, practitioners have simplified this final step and suggest that you could say something like, “I let go of the desire to change this feeling,” or “I let go of my anger,” or even, “God, I give you my anger.” (Tom Frontier, My Shepherd King.)

This practice takes only a few seconds to do, and it can be done anywhere, in any situation. Over time, it helps us to become more fully present in our lives and to cope with the emotional ups and downs we all experience. It can also help us through the more serious times of trial in our lives.

If you would like to set your intention to work with this practice, perhaps you could use Father Thomas Keating’s The Welcoming Prayer [PDF] as part of a morning prayer time:

“Welcome, welcome, welcome.

I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it's for my healing.

I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.

I let go of my desire for power and control.

I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.

I let go of my desire for survival and security.

I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.

I open to the love and presence of God and God's action within. Amen.”

—Thomas Keating

May the Welcoming Prayer bless you and help you to become more spiritually grounded and resilient.

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