The devil has done something so deceptive and twisted that it should serve to make us angry. He has taken prayer and made it to be – not unto God – but a way for he and his demons to enter the minds of those who practice this method called “contemplative or centering prayer”.
And when we encounter warnings about this, it has the potential to make those of us who love speaking to the Father to freeze up and gasp, “What if I am doing contemplative prayer and don’t even know it?”
That is where being informed is valuable.
We are going to answer two questions: what IS contemplative prayer? And what is it NOT?
What IS contemplative prayer?
This method of praying is where the one who prays, seeks for and enters into “the silence”. You will find many proponents of “the silence” among Christianity today. Beware of them.
What this means is that the one who prays will endeavor to rid his mind of all thought. Sometimes they will begin with a special place, such as a prayer room or labyrinth or even “thin places” where they think the supernatural can more easily be accessed.(source) They will then empty their mind of all thought. This isn’t the normal “Ok, I shouldn’t think about that stressful situation at work now” kind of emptying. No, they empty their minds of all thought whatsoever, good and bad.
To get to this point of an empty mind, they will chant a mantra. A mantra is saying a word over and over until you reach a state of altered consciousness. If you think it is good to do this, research the eastern religions and their methods of prayer.
However, proponents of contemplative prayer try to “Christianize” this pagan method of reaching out to the supernatural. They will choose a Christian word to chant until they reach the same altered state of consciousness that Buddhists do.
The process itself is the same for mystics of all religions—in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in Hinduism with transcendental meditation and Yoga, in Sufism (Islamic mysticism), in the meditation of New Age spirituality, and in contemplative prayer. Participants are advised to choose a “sacred word.” But the repetition renders any words meaningless (ask a psych prof), so it doesn’t really matter whether a Christian says “Jesus loves me” or a Buddhist says “Hail to the Lotus.” The repetition induces an altered state of consciousness in which the practitioner senses a “union with the divine,” having presumably contacted the god of choice.
*From booklet called “So You Want To Practice ‘Good’ Contemplative Prayer?” — excellent information, click here to read. You can also get it on Kindle at Amazon by clicking here.
So what is so dangerous with this altered state of consciousness? Lighthouse Trails defines it as this:
A meditative or drug-induced non-ordinary state of mind. In a religious context, a state where the seeker is drawn out of his normal thinking processes into “self-realization” or contact with what he considers the divine or divine wisdom. – Kevin Reeves (source)
When a person opens their mind up like this to the supernatural – both sides of the supernatural are given invitation to enter there. This is the devil’s open door to come and deceive that person on many levels.
Where did this come from or begin? Here is one explanation:
Centering Prayer was created by Fr. Thomas Keating, Fr. Basil Pennington, and Fr. William Menninger. In the 1970s they were all monks at the Trappist monastery in Spencer, Massachusetts. After inviting Zen Buddhists and Transcendental Meditation masters to dialog and lead retreats, they looked for a way to bridge the gap between Christianity and eastern religious practice. (read full explanation here)
Now let us ask you a question that every sincere Christian should ask themselves upon meeting new theology in the church or supposed new revelation: where in the Bible does it support this? Did the apostles or Jesus Himself ever teach that we should pray this way?
Those who promote contemplative/centering prayer and “the silence” will often point you to Psalm 46:10. “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
What they won’t tell you to do is to take this verse in the context it is written. If you look at the rest of the chapter, it is about how God conquers the heathen. The nations are in upheaval with wars and fightings – even the earth itself seems to be in turmoil. Verse 10 is not a call to contemplative prayer and “the silence” . . . instead, it is a call to the people of God to stand still and see what the Lord will do by crushing the heathen and being exalted in all the earth.
What is contemplative prayer NOT composed of?
Contemplative prayer is not found in a man who earnestly seeks the face of God with all his faculties intact. His reasoning, his emotions, and his physical powers are still at his command. He falls on his face before his God, sometimes in deep remorse and repentance, and sometimes in anguish of soul for the souls of others. He is able to recognize his own sin because the Spirit still lives within him to convict him of his sin.
Prayer is simply talking to God. It is not repeating one word, but pouring out your heart, your mind, and your soul to the One who loved you enough to die for you.
It is good. It is right. And it brings results.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16b
Fervent in the Greek means “to be active, efficient; mighty in”. It implies an active, engaging time of prayer. In our language today, fervent means “having or displaying a passionate intensity”. How would it be possible to pray fervently and passionately with an empty mind?
You may also hear Matthew 6:6 used to support “the silence” and contemplative prayer. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Matthew 6:6
But once again, if you look at the context, Jesus had just cautioned His followers to not do things to be seen of men like the Pharisees did. The verse prior says this: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” Matthew 6:5
Jesus was not promoting going into “the silence” or centering down deep within ourselves like you will sometimes hear mentioned. He was simply saying that prayer should be to and for God alone . . . not done with the purpose for others to see and applaud us for our praying.
Prayer as Jesus taught it is simple. It is not using many words to impress anyone. It is not done with the purpose to get praise of men. Prayer takes immense pleasure in speaking to our Father about what concerns us. It is praying for the saints. It is wrestling with the conviction of sin and bowing in repentance and humility at the cross. It engages all of your mind and heart. It is active and pulsing with life.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus gave us the blueprint of what prayer should look like. It involves praise, submission to the Father’s higher will, seeking forgiveness, asking protection and guidance, and leaning on Him for our every need.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Sometimes it even involves fighting a real spiritual battle on your knees. Think about this: have you ever found a strong spiritual giant in the Christian faith who has stood in the gap for others . . . that does not have a real and powerful prayer life? This should serve as an encouragement to us.
Our prayer life is a good indicator of our spiritual strength.
If our prayer life is weak, we will be weak in the battle against the devil. But if we pray with all of our strength, heart and mind . . . and we pray believing in the complete power of the Holy One, then God has the power to defeat the devil through our lives and our testimony.