In a world teeming with distractions and challenges, finding peace and spiritual growth can seem like an elusive quest. However, within the teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating, specifically in his classic work “Open Mind, Open Heart,” lies a transformative practice known as the Welcoming Prayer. This practice offers a profound method for not only facing daily life’s trials with grace but also for fostering a deeper relationship with the Divine.

The Essence of the Welcoming Prayer

At its core, the Welcoming Prayer is a practice designed to consent to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional responses to the events and situations we encounter every day. It’s a technique that invites practitioners to live in the moment, acknowledging and accepting whatever feelings arise, thereby opening themselves to God’s transformative love. This prayer is not about suppression or denial but about a radical acceptance that leads to spiritual and emotional freedom.

The Purpose of the Practice

The primary aim of the Welcoming Prayer is to deepen our relationship with God by consenting to His presence in even the most ordinary activities of life. It serves as a tool to dismantle the emotional constructs of the false self—a self built on attachments, aversions, and the illusion of control. By addressing our stored emotional wounds through the practice, it aids in the healing process, facilitating a journey of transformation into the likeness of Christ.

Freedom from the False Self

The Welcoming Prayer offers a pathway out of the traps set by the false self. This false self is characterized by its constant search for security, affection, and control, often leading to a reactive rather than responsive life. The practice empowers individuals to make choices free from these compulsions, enabling them to act freely and lovingly in the face of life’s challenges through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Historical Background

The formulation of the Welcoming Prayer is credited to Mary Mrozowski, a pivotal figure in the Contemplative Outreach community. Inspired by the 17th-century French spiritual classic “Abandonment to Divine Providence” by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, along with Fr. Keating’s teachings and her personal experience of transformation, Mrozowski developed this practice. It quickly became a cornerstone of spiritual development for many, spreading rapidly through the Contemplative Outreach network.

The Welcoming Prayer Method

This prayer involves three distinct movements:

  1. Feeling and Sinking Into: Acknowledge and deeply feel what you are experiencing in your body at the moment.
  2. Welcoming: Embrace these feelings as an opportunity to consent to the Divine Indwelling, recognizing them as invitations to deeper communion with God.
  3. Letting Go: Verbally express your intention: “I let go of my desire for security, affection, control and embrace this moment as it is.”

Through these movements, practitioners of the Welcoming Prayer embark on a journey of radical acceptance. As Mary Mrozowski eloquently put it, to welcome and let go is a gesture of profound love and faith, an open-hearted embrace of all that we are and all that we encounter.

In embracing the Welcoming Prayer, we find not just a method of prayer but a way of life—a practice that invites us into a deeper, more loving relationship with both ourselves and the Divine. It teaches us to live in the present, responding to life’s vicissitudes with grace and freedom, guided by the transformative power of God’s love.