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Monday, August 26, 2013

Is Contemplative Prayer Biblical?

In the past few years the mention of contemplative (or centering) prayer has come up in the Christian community.  It is of great concern to me and here is why:

Contemplative prayer is about emptying your mind and focusing on one word or thing and expecting God to give direction or make His presence felt.  So far some of you might think that sounds okay.
After all, the Bible says to Be still, and know that I am God, right?  Well, it may also be interpreted "Cease striving" which gives a whole other dimension to that verse.  There is nothing mystical about prayer when I read about it in the Bible.  We know God through His Word.  Apart from that, we are putting ourselves in the path of dangerous mysticism.

Just looking at some Scripture verses, I find that the contemplative prayer idea actually does not line up with what Scripture says about the mind.  Romans 12:2 talks about the renewing of the mind, Philippians 4:8 talks about what people should fill their minds with, also Psalm 1:2 mentions "...And in His law he meditates day and night."  1 Peter 1:13 mentions preparing your mind for action.  Yes, that may not be talking about prayer specifically, but the Bible never says to empty your mind.  I remember it talks about treasuring God's words  (Psalm 119:11).  When it talks about praying, it tells me to pray according to His will and with thanksgiving and to let my requests be made known to God.  The disciples' prayer gives one terrific example of prayer as well!

The thing that is frightening about the "contemplative prayer" or "centering prayer" idea is that I remember reading or hearing about transcendental meditation which is a pagan practice that involves ... guess what?  Emptying the mind and focusing on something.  Yes, this whole concept takes off of false religions rather than focusing on the truth of the Word of God.  Matthew 6:7 even talks about not heaping up empty phrases as the pagans do supposing they will be heard for their many words.

Sure, it's good to focus on something like a Bible verse and look at passages of Scripture.   I don't need to empty my mind (although sometimes I struggle to think clearly at all with my NCS).  I do realized that it is good to put past sin behind us and forget what lies behind, but this does not mean that we should not have our minds filled with the things of God from His Truth (from the Bible).   I need to be reminded of God's promises and cast my anxieties on Christ.  I need to remind myself to be thankful and to delight myself in the Lord and in His Word.

Who are some of the people connected to this contemplative prayer movement?  People like Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, Gary Thomas, etc.
Here is a website that lists some more:
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=8359

Some links that describe "Centering Prayer" or "Contemplative Prayer" are:

http://carm.org/centering-prayer

http://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-prayer.html

http://www.gty.org/blog/B121015 (This also has a series of posts on Steps To Successful Prayer that looks interesting http://www.gty.org/blog/B120502 .)

Here is one example of how this kind of contemplative stuff is getting into books and Christian circles:
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1722
 

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