What is Contemplative Prayer?

What is contemplative prayer?

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.

The concept of contemplative prayer has slowly increased in practice and popularity each year since the mid 1990s along with the rise of the Emerging Church Movement – a movement which embraces many non-biblical ideas and practices. Contemplative prayer is one such practice. It is being marketed through a new DVD “Be Still and Know” which features popular evangelical leaders promoting this type of prayer.

Contemplative prayer is rooted in Buddhism and Hinduism. Contemplative prayer, also known as centering prayer and Mantra meditation, is a meditative practice of going through “Silence.” It requires shutting down the mind by the use of a favorite word or phrase repeated over and over to shut off your thinking processes. According to Abbott Thomas Keating, this is how it is done: “Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within. When you become aware of thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word. At the end of the prayer period, remain silent and they claim you will then encounter God in the spirit realm. Rather than encountering God through His Word, Christians are now seeking to use Bible passages as mantras in an attempt to experience God in a whole new way.

What’s wrong with this type of prayer?

This type of “prayer” has no Scriptural support whatsoever. In fact, it is just the opposite of how prayer is defined in the Bible. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” [Philippians 4:6; John 16:23-24]. These verses, and others, clearly portray prayer as being comprehendible communication with God, not an mysterious New Age meditation.

Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with “God.” Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and doesn’t 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.

Contemplative prayer is no different than the meditative exercises used in Eastern religions and New Age cults. Its most vocal supporters embrace an open spirituality amongst adherents from all religions, promoting the idea that salvation is gained by many paths, even though Christ Himself stated that salvation comes only through Him [John 14:6]. Obviously, contemplative prayer is in opposition to biblical Christianity, and should definitely be avoided.

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