Sunday, January 24, 2010

BEWARE of PRAYER- of the contemplative kind



As Christians we are admonished in GOD'S Word to pray, and there are all sorts and types of prayer: intercessory, petitional, supplicational, prayers of praise and worship, etc.

Essentially prayer is simply talking with our Creator who is also the Heavenly Father of all those who belong to the LORD Jesus Christ. Having fellowship and communing with our GOD is a delight to Him, and He yearns to have us so engaged in such loving interaction.

Because we know that praying to the LORD pleases Him, we might be overzealous in embracing anything that is called 'prayer' and that may well be why some have adopted methods and practices that are not biblical.

What I'm referring to 'contemplative prayer/spirituality'. While it sounds nice, when one gets to the heart of this matter, its very essence is not Christian at all, much less biblical in its content; rather it's a blending of Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu beliefs all rolled into one, and then given a spin by the "ancient church fathers" of the Catholic church.

As stated just previously, prayer is talking with God, communicating to Him our love and affection, our needs, desires, hopes, confessions, etc.

So what then is contemplative prayer and spirituality?

For the answers I've turned to a few different sources (view some video clips posted at the end of this article for excellent overviews and summaries of this phenomena):


From Lighthouse Trails Ministry (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/cp.htm) we find this explanation:

Contemplative Prayer—A mystical prayer practice that leads one into the "silence" but in actuality leads away from God.

Definition of Contemplative Spirituality: a belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is often wrapped in Christian terminology; the premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all).

And from another source -

Contemplating Contemplative Prayer: Is It Really Prayer?

Contemplative Prayer, also called Centering Prayer or Listening Prayer, has been taught by Roman Catholic monks Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and Basil Pennington, as well as by Quaker Richard Foster (more about this man's work later in the article) and is being advocated by many others.

According to http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/, "Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures)*, The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.

* The Lectio Divina is a method of contemplative prayer where repetitive reading, and quoting of a passage of scripture is performed in a mantra-like manner in order to evoke a spiritual experience and or revelation of sorts. This practise is never endorsed or encouraged in the scriptures themselves, and is simply a variation of Hindu style prayer. The LORD told us in scripture that when we pray, we are not to use "vain repetition" Matt. 6:7.

What are some of the ministries that are promoting "Lectio Divina"? Apparently NavPress is encouraging kids to engage in this practice:

Watcher's Lamp: Vatican: Lectio Divina is Privileged ...

and other ministries as well as can be seen at the following link:
http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com/?s=lectio+divina

Contemplative/Centering prayer was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970's by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts."

According to St. John of the Cross, who is heavily quoted by CP advocates, entering an "advanced state of Contemplation" requires education and training. This type of prayer has "nothing to do with the words and petitions of what is commonly called prayer. It is not articulate; it has no form."

Certainly one of the ironies of CP is that it essentially is not prayer.
It is a Zen Buddhist concept that truth is beyond words (this is also a Taoist view; Zen's roots are in Taoism and Buddhism). Zen teaches that truth must be realized as one practices sitting meditation (zazen), cultivating an empty mind by letting go of thoughts so that rational thinking is transcended; or perhaps, as in the Rinzai school of Zen, one's awareness is triggered by koans such as, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" or "What was your face before you were born?"

According to Zen, Buddha's "real message remained always unspoken, and was such that, when words attempted to express it, they made it seem as if it were nothing at all."

The Unity School of Christianity, a church founded on New Thought principles, and whose founders were influenced by Eastern beliefs, is a forerunner of the New Age Movement. Jesus is known as a "Way-Shower" (not "The Way, the Truth and the Life as stated in John 14:6?) and is believed to have become the Christ when he attained perfection; all people are believed to have the inner potential to be the same as Christ. In a Unity booklet, "The Adventure Called Unity," it states that prayer involves:

"[C]oncentrating one's entire intellect on God, affirming a positive statement of truth, meditating on Divine Principles, and finally turning within one's own being in a wonderful time of quiet which Unity calls 'the silence,' wherein one becomes receptive to the 'still small voice' of God."

From www.gotquestions.org we have another facet revealed as to what contemplative prayer is all about:

Contemplative prayer is not just “contemplating while you pray.” The Bible instructs us to pray with our minds (1 Corinthians 14:15), so, clearly, prayer does involve contemplation. However, praying with your mind is not what “contemplative prayer” has come to mean.

Contemplative prayer has slowly increased in practice and popularity along with the rise of the emerging church movement—a movement which embraces many unscriptural ideas and practices. Contemplative prayer is one such practice.

Contemplative prayer . . . is a meditative practice where the practitioner focuses on a word and repeats that word over and over for the duration of the exercise. While contemplative prayer is done differently in the various groups that practice it, there are similarities. Contemplative prayer involves choosing a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God's presence and action within.

Contemplative prayer usually includes sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settling briefly and silently, introducing the sacred word. When a contemplative pray-er becomes aware of thoughts, he/she is to return ever so gently to the sacred word.

From Lighthouse Trails Ministry once again:

The purpose of contemplative prayer is to enter an altered state of consciousness in order to find one's true self, thus finding God. This true self relates to the belief that man is basically good. Proponents of contemplative prayer teach that all human beings have a divine center and that all, not just born again believers, should practice contemplative prayer.

This sort of thinking is Gnostic in its more mystical aspects; certain sects of Gnosticism believed in such a 'divine spark' that dwells in all humans, and that the search for truth need go no further than one's own heart; that such a heart is certainly not inherently sinful, but good.

Listen to What Contemplatives Have To Say About This Form of Prayer and the Contemplative Lifestyle:
"For Fr. Bede, being universal meant to be centered and grounded. He generated this universality of heart through his daily practice of meditation and contemplative prayer, and this opened him ever more to the myths, symbols and teachings of the other great religions of the world." (emphasis added)

What other great religions of the world did our LORD Jesus solicit wisdom, and spiritual guidance from? There are those that purport that during the 'years of silence' between boyhood and when Jesus first began His ministry, he secretly traveled to Egypt and, or India and learned from the ancient wisdom of those cultures.

Such suppositions are without any historical corroboration whatsoever; if in fact He did glean from such sources, they certainly weren't reflected in His teachings as demonstrated in the holy scriptures.

We have no need to learn from the other great religions of the world; we have the exclusive source of the Truth as represented by the Bible, a claim readily provable by demonstrating that it is indeed God's Word, via the medium of prophecy.

Man, Monk, Mystic by Pascaline Coff, O.S.B. Speaking of Bede Griffiths.

"This understanding of the unity of the human family is central to Christianity (emph. mine).Our spiritual journey, especially contemplative prayer, together with its practices for daily life, are processes of becoming aware of just how profound that unity is with God, ourselves, other people, other living beings, the earth, and all creation."

Thomas Keating in The Transformation of Suffering

How and why is 'unity of the human family' central to Christianity? We certainly are not unified as a race, spiritually speaking! Of the Pharisees, the LORD Jesus said, "Ye are of your father, the devil" John 8; whereas in John 17, He prayed to the Father saying, in reference to His disciples, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world"

Where does such a unity exist between God and the Earth? God is transcendent from His creation, that is, He created all by His spoken Word, not of the essence that is Himself. He is certainly separate from His creation, as its not a part of Him; thus no unity exists between God and His creation, for this is pantheism (God is all) at its core, or even panentheism (God is in all).

What sort of unity will we discover, through contemplative prayer, that we supposedly have "with other living beings"? What are these other living beings Mr. Keaton is referring to? Animals? Angels? Fallen Angels?? Spirit beings such as are found in Hinduism, Theosophy and other non-biblical religions?

"... beyond our methods and understanding is an ultimate reality that is open to all people regardless of their religious traditions. The overwhelming sense of this groundbreaking conference was the unifying force of a contemplative prayer practice."

Jena Hatchett WCCM 2001

It would seem Jena Hatchett would assert that "ultimate reality" supersedes "religious traditions", and in the context of what she refers to, this should alarm Christians: No doubt she would consider Biblical Christianity a 'religious tradition' and her idea of an 'ultimate reality' would stem from one's own understanding and perspective of 'personal truth' an entirely relativistic notion, and one that supports such practices as contemplative prayer!

More from http://www.gotquestions.org/ as stated below:

Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with God. Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and does not rely upon truth or fact. Yet the Word of God has been given to us for the very purpose of basing our faith, and our lives, on Truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What we know about God is based on fact; trusting in experiential knowledge over the biblical record takes a person outside of the standard that is the Bible.

To gain some insight into the terminologies of contemplatives, please look at this link from LIGHTHOUSE TRAILS Ministry:

The Secretive Language of Contemplatives

Another good point from www.gotquestions.org is:

Although [contemplative prayer] might sound like an innocent exercise, this type of prayer has no scriptural support whatsoever. In fact, it is just the opposite of how prayer is defined in the Bible.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6).

“In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:23-24).

These verses and others clearly portray prayer as being comprehendible communication with God, not an esoteric, mystical meditation.

Bottom line - This form of so-called prayer is nothing more than Eastern meditation dressed up to look compatible with Christianity; yet just another method in which Emergent Church and New Age leaders are attempting to homogenize all 'faiths' into a singular whole, unified religion for the coming new world order.

Another book Christians must be wary of is Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, where he promotes such practices and the desert fathers who developed this practice for the Catholic church.

Yet Richard Foster isn't alone in his endeavor to promote this work; others have done so also, and their names may shock you: men like Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah, Henry Blackaby,
Bill Hybels, Max Lucado, Charles Stanley, and others.

For a more comprehensive look at this subject, please feel free to read this article by Crossroads Ministry:

Contemplative Prayer - Seducing Spirits and a doctrine of devils

Once gutted of spiritual truth, the Christian church will be left empty of its spiritual life; Emergent leaders realize that some form of spiritual reality must fill the gap, and this is where such disciplines will come into play. The spiritual reality experienced by engaging in such practices are actual, but this hardly means that they are in accordance with Truth. After all, Satan can perform seeming miraculous feats, and bring people into all sorts of spiritual experiences . . . that doesn't mean its the TRUTH!

As believers we must exercise extreme caution as to what we allow into our lives and the lives of our children. Far better to err on the side of caution than to become lax, and reap the consequences of that which the LORD has warned of, even forbidden in the pages of scripture!

2 Cor 6:17
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you,

Lastly, here is a list of video clips I found on youtube that you may find useful in understanding this unbiblical form of 'prayer':

Contemplative Prayer, is it biblical?

Ray Yungen Contemplative Prayer Preview - Part 1

What Is Contemplative Prayer?

Contemplative Prayer-WorldView Matters Brannon Howse Pt. 1

For more on this, see this list of youtube clips:
YouTube - contemplative prayer


May the LORD Jesus, the Good Shepherd lead and guide us in all Truth, for therein is our foundation and our spiritual well being!

agape,

brother James Fire