Contemplative Prayer

Dear Renea,

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?

Dear V,

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,
Renea


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7 Responses to Contemplative Prayer

  1. Adam Jones says:

    Music in church is sometimes designed to have musical sections so that the congregation can meditate on the words they have been reading. I find great value in this sort of thing. Monks of old would spend hours not talking or interacting with anyone so they could meditate on their lessons, and they came away from these meditations with valuable teachings that they shared with others. Meditation is a stronger part of the Christian heritage than many realize.

  2. 🙂 Great response.

  3. mywordlikefire says:

    Contemplative prayer is exactly the same as Eastern/new age meditation, which opens people to spiritual deception. Here is an article by a former “mystic,” and thank you for letting me have my say.
    http://solasisters.blogspot.com/2010/10/what-is-spiritual-formation.html

    • reneamac says:

      Thanks, MWLF, for commenting.

      I’m glad you bring this up, because it’s true there are some who porport a type of contemplative prayer as Christian (Christ-centric) which isn’t: these folks for example. But these folks are a tiny minority who do not practice contemplative prayer as the large majority of Christians do. So to claim that all sheep are wolves because some wolves walk in sheep’s clothing is a fear-based way of looking at the world and a deterrent against the nuanced freedom which comes with the abundant life of Christ. I think our former mystic friend is overcorrecting.

      Note the specific language used here about focusing on God and Christ, not just some “something that can be practically anything.” Clearly, as Christians, in everything we do—prayer, dishwashing, hiking, working, watching movies—we grow in disciplining our hearts and minds so as to continually make Christ the a priori focus of our lives.

  4. Susanne says:

    Hi Renea. I only came across your blog recently whilst reading some things about contemplative prayer, breath prayer, etc etc. I wanted to leave a comment to say that as Bible-believing Christians, we do not need to borrow from pagan mysticism. We have the Spirit of God in us through faith in Jesus Christ, Who gives us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1v3). The website link you gave in your comment above (centeringprayer.com) points to a Catholic priest or monk who has adopted pagan spiritual beliefs and given them Christian ‘clothing’. He wrote the forward to a book on ‘Kundalini’, which is an occultic Hindu spiritual power:- “Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality: A Pathway to Growth and Healing, by Philip St Romain, illus. Intro. by Thomas Keating (1991) ISBN 0-8245-1062-3”. This is idolatry.
    Peace be with you.

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