Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 305–329 | Cite as

Centering Prayer as a Healing Response to Everyday Stress: A Psychological and Spiritual Process

  • Jane K. Ferguson
  • Eleanor W. Willemsen
  • MayLynn V. Castañeto


Eastern forms of meditation have been widely studied for their effectiveness in stress management (Walsh and Shapiro American Psychologist 61:227–239, 2006). Yet few empirical studies have been conducted on the health effects of Judeo-Christian contemplative prayer practices. This study contributes to research in this underdeveloped area by exploring the outcome of a contemporary form of Christian meditation called Centering Prayer (Keating 1986) on everyday stress and on Christians’ approach to communicating with God. The impact of 10 weekly 2-hour group sessions and individual practice of Centering Prayer 2-times daily by 15 Roman Catholic congregants was hypothesized to decrease participants’ stress and increase their collaborative relationship with God (Pargament et al. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 27:90–104, 1988). Pre-post quantitative and qualitative data on Centering Prayer versus comparison groups supported the hypothesis.


Centering prayer Contemplative prayer Meditation Stress Unconscious 


Author note

This study was excerpted from a Doctor of Ministry dissertation on Centering Prayer as a Healing Response to Everyday Stress at a Roman Catholic Parish in Silicon Valley (2006) completed by the first author and principal investigator, Jane Ferguson, at Pacific School of Religion, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA. The statistical analysis was done in collaboration with Eleanor Willemsen, Ph.D., professor of psychology and advanced statistics at Santa Clara University, and May Lynn Castañeto, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Pacific Graduate School of Psychology. The authors wish to thank the parishioners of St. Mary’s Parish in Los Gatos for their commitment and participation in this study.


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Further Reading

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  2. Koenig, H. G., & Cohen, H. J. (Eds.). (2002). The link between religion and health: Psychoneuroimmunology and the faith factor. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Plante, T. G., & Sherman, A.C. (Eds.). (2001). Faith and health: Psychological perspectives. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  4. Richards, P. S. (Ed.). (2004). Casebook for a spiritual strategy in counseling and psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane K. Ferguson
    • 1
  • Eleanor W. Willemsen
    • 1
  • MayLynn V. Castañeto
    • 1
  1. 1.Pastoral Care and Community MinistrySt. Mary’s ParishLos GatosUSA

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