I work with a wide variety of Christians in a largely Evangelical area. Some of them are particularly skittish and nervous about the concept of contemplative prayer. Some claim it’s nowhere to be found in Scripture.
What would you say to such a person?
This is a great question! I confess, because I’ve never been uncomfortable with contemplative prayer, I’ve never really considered the need to make a defense for it. Simply let your Bible fall open at random; the chances of it opening to a psalm about meditating on the Lord or his statues are pretty high.
I would also want to say that there are lots of elements in our contemporary worship habits which are not mentioned in Scripture, that Scripture does not have an explicit list of how we should do church or how we should manage our personal spiritual disciplines. The Bible provides us with broad principles, which gives us a lot of freedom (and a lot of responsibility to apply those principals with integrity).
I would also be tempted to say (though this is often a really tough sell, especially for those already skittish about such things) that as believers, we are in the business of redeeming culture. Every person is made in God’s image and has God’s law written on his or her heart. A cultural practice such as Eastern/New Age meditation, is certainly a misdirected spiritual behavior because it isn’t directed toward the One True God. It isn’t that there is no value in that practice; on the contrary, I believe Western Christianity has quite a lot to learn from Eastern spirituality, especially since our spiritual roots are Middle Eastern. So we have the power (and responsibility) to redirect what is misdirected, to re-orient reality toward the Kingdom of God.
People are often more hard-nosed about Eastern practices because it is so other to us Westerners (and the Southern Hemisphere has yet to have any influence anywhere near what the East has in our society). So, it’s scary, unfamiliar. We’re afraid of it, so we throw the proverbial baby out on the street and slam the window shut. To be fair however, our generation didn’t have to deal with New Ageism when it first became a phenomenon. We haven’t had to watch, helplessly, as many of our friends became swept up in its deception. So we want to remember to be gracious toward one another’s fears and intolerance.
Keep asking good questions,