March 18, 2006
Thoughtless prayer? I am not referring to prayers that are said in haste.
I am referring to what is known as contemplative/centering
prayer, a form of mysticism that is having a resurgence in Emerging Church
circles. The term "contemplative prayer" is really a misnomer.
The dictionary meaning of "contemplate" is "view or
consider thoughtfully." "Prayer" is "a reverent
petition made to God." To contemplate God and His greatness, one uses
thoughts to do so – and hopefully those thoughts are influenced by the
Word of God as the Holy Spirit illuminates it to our hearts.
But the craze of "contemplative prayer" is one of emptying one’s mind and seeking God’s presence in His creation as a way to feel near to Him. But there is no biblical precedence for such an act. In fact, it is based upon the heretical belief that God is present in His creation. One promoter of "contemplative prayer" explained it this way.
"One of the wildest aspects of mystical Christian thought lies in the simple truth that God is everywhere. And if God is in fact everywhere, then God is in all things, and all things are in God. "
This is known as "panentheism," that is based upon a misconception. Just because God is omnipresent does not mean that His Spirit resides in material things. His creation certainly bears witness of His power and glory, but His creation is not to be the focus of our praise. When a Christian crosses that line, they’re on very shaky ground. The Apostle Paul warned us:
"Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature [the thing created] rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen" (Romans 1: 24-25).
Trying to find God in the things that He created is the very heart of idolatry – men make idols because they cannot serve a God that they cannot locate with their senses. There is nothing new under the sun – the Israelites made an image, the golden calf, fashioned after their imagination’s conception of the God that led them out of Egypt. And similarly, in the apostasy of the Emerging Church, there is a return to the idolatry of the imagination and the use of icons. The Romans passage above connects the false worship of the things created, to God giving them over to unclean homosexual acts. It’s no surprise then, that the Emerging Church wants to be "inclusive" to homosexuals and acceptant of their lifestyles.
The proof text that is used for the contemplatives is "Be still and know that I am God." They really have to dig deep to find such justification for their Christianized mysticism. But a text out of context is a pretext. Look at the context of that passage in Psalms:
"He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah" (Psalm 46: 9-11).
None of the commentaries I could find interpret that passage as an attitude of prayer. Here’s a few entries for Psalm 46:10:
"(i) He warns them who persecute the Church to cease their cruelty: for also they will feel that God is too strong for them against whom they fight." The 1599 Geneva Study Bible.
"Be still, &c.--literally, "Leave off to oppose Me and vex My people. I am over all for their safety." (Compare Isaiah 2:11, Ephesians 1:22)." Fausset, A. R-- Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible.
"10): Be still, and know that I am God. (1.) Let his enemies be still, and threaten no more, but know it, to their terror, that he is God, one infinitely above them, and that will certainly be too hard for them; let them rage no more, for it is all in vain:" Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible.
The Bible, rather than teaching any mind-emptying practice, instructs us to be alert when we pray: "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well…" (Col. 4:2-3a 4:2). This is a far cry from the centering postures of the mystical initiates. And Jesus Himself taught his disciples to pray in what is commonly called "The Lord’s Prayer." There is no mindlessness in any of that!
The Seduction of Christianity
Back in the 1980s, there were elements in the church that tried to bring these new age ideas in the back door. God raised up a voice to expose those efforts and to document the sources of the Eastern influences of contemplative/centering prayer, visualization, and guided imagery. His name was Dave Hunt and his book, "The Seduction of Christianity" opened the eyes of thousands of believers. That Christian best-seller, I believe, held back the tide of apostasy in the church. But now there arose up a new generation in the church, which know not Dave Hunt.
Some of the streams of thought that Hunt exposed are now once again being heralded as revolutionary ways of thinking about God. The writings of Roman Catholic mystics of the past are resurfacing in popularity within evangelicalism. Names like ‘John of the Cross’ and ‘St. Teresa of Avila’ are being tossed around in the Emerging church circles. The writings of people like Thomas Merton and Richard Foster are being heralded as enlightening, in spite of the fact that their mysticism has been exposed for its occultic nature long ago.
The same influences in the church back in the 1980s that embraced the mind sciences and sanitized their psycho-spiritual exercises, today affect the seeker-sensitive and church growth movements. Men like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels point to Crystal Cathedral’s Robert Schuller as a great influence in the direction of their teachings. They laid the foundation for the rise of the Emerging Church – all of whom promote an inclusive ecumenism with the Roman Catholic Church and any who name the name of Christ.
Robert Schuller based his theology on what was popular in the culture – in other words, based on what itching ears want to hear – a real democratic Christianity. Back in the 1980s, Schuller promoted the teachings of Dr. Herbert Benson, a man who Christianized TM (Transcendental Meditation). He featured Benson’s "Relaxation Response" techniques in his "Possibilities" magazine. Benson showed Christians how to use a Christian version of a mantra to repeat over and over again in order to reach an altered state of consciousness. (Go to http://www.myalgia.com/Treatment/herbert_benson.htm to see how he explains that this sort of meditation can work for anyone, irregardless of one's belief system.)
There are some common ideas in the philosophies of new age mystics and the Emerging Church proponents:
Those who promote contemplative prayer also have a low view of walking in obedience to the Lord – in fact, they call such an idea "legalism." But in reality, these Eastern meditative practices are a door to the occult and the apostasy. This type of meditation is not taught in the Bible. Centering prayer is an entryway into the religion of the antichrist because it directs the practitioner to the so-called higher self and the belief of the god within. True followers of Christ must distance themselves from these evil influences or risk being seduced by the serpent that is emerging in these last days.
Heavenly Father, Creator of heaven and earth, we exalt You and praise You for Your continual blessings and longsuffering toward us. Give Your people discernment in these perilous times and protect us from the schemes of the enemy. Thank You for sending Your Son to redeem us and Your Holy Spirit to guide us and direct us in a time of unparalleled deception. Help us to have a love for Your Word and for others who do not know You but are chasing after power for themselves. Show us opportunities to snatch people out of the flames of pending judgment and lead them to Your Truth. Forgive us today for our sins and shortcomings and lead us in the way everlasting. In the name of Your Son, Yeshua Ha Mashiach. Amen and Amen!
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