The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer

One of the continuing snares Christians often encounter in their churches (of almost every denomination) is contemplative prayer. Is it biblical? Why are so many discernment ministries sounding the alarm? After all, doesn’t the Bible say we are to meditate on God’s Word?

The answer to that last question is YES! We are to fill our minds with Scripture and think on those verses night and day–or as often as possible.

The problem with contemplative prayer is its mystical/Eastern (non-Christian) roots and its mind-emptying techniques (entering the “silence,” breath prayers, chanting mantras, etc.).

On her Sola Sister’s Blog, Christine Pack shares some excellent resources along with “red flag” terms you can look for as well as insights from her own experience in the New Age:

The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer

By Christine Pack (Article reprinted in full)

An excellent article by Pastor Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel explains why Contemplative Prayer practices (which are now in every Christian denomination that I know of) are unbiblical. Contemplative Prayer often enters into churches under the following guises:

– Spiritual Formation
– Spiritual Disciplines
– Ancient Future
– Contemplative Spirituality
– Taize
– Centering Prayer
– Lectio Divina
– Jesus Prayer
– Labyrinth
– Walk To Emmaus

Writes Gilley:

“Spiritual formation seeks to lure evangelicals into ancient Catholic and Orthodox contemplative practices in order to draw closer to God, experience His presence, and hear His voice apart from Scripture. In order to embrace this mystical form of spirituality, contemplatives are willing to compromise at virtually every turn. Central doctrines such as sola fide and sola Scriptura are shrugged off as secondary. Methods never found in the Bible as the true means of spiritual growth and of knowing God, are emphasized. And complete heretics such as Thomas Merton are seen as reliable spiritual guides to spirituality. The contemplatives have sold out to Catholic mysticism and abandoned the clear teaching of Scripture. Sadly, in the process many undiscerning evangelicals will follow suit.”

I grew up in a very liberal church (i.e., a church devoid of the true gospel), in which Contemplative Prayer practices were recommended routinely for those who came seeking help with “a stale prayer life.” After I left the church as a young woman and went into the New Age, these mystical practices were also an enormous part of my newfound spirituality.

When God saved me at 35, I repented of these practices and recognized them for what they were: a Satanic counterfeit designed to tricks non-believers through whipped up mystical experiences into thinking they were experiencing God. But sadly, it wasn’t long before these practices began flowing into what had once been solid, evangelical churches (including my own precious church, where I was saved).

So in a way, I feel I have been surrounded by these wicked mystical practices all of my life. I know them from the inside out, and I know how deceptive they are. They can deceive unregenerated people into thinking for years – in many cases, a lifetime – that they have a real, active, ongoing relationship with the God of the universe.

Many of these people will think they are Christian when in fact they are not. They will have aligned themselves with other professing Christians, they will attend weekly services in a church, they will be doing all of the things that they think they are supposed to be doing in order to be reconciled to God (tithing, attending church, serving the community, sending teams to foreign countries to dig wells, build infrastructure, etc.), and a great many of them will be lost, lost, lost. These are the people God is talking about in Matthew 7:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Do you understand what I’m saying here? These are not self-professed atheists or Hindu’s or Muslims or witches. They aren’t down at the local mosque or temple or witch’s coven…..they are in churches. These are people who are deceived. Perhaps they are people you know and are close to: spouses, children, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, parents, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. If you know anyone who has become ensnared in the deceptive mystical practices of Contemplative Prayer, please share Pastor Gilley’s article with them, or any of the other many, many articles/programs about Contemplative Prayer that can be found on this site, as well as a number of other excellent sites, including:

Berean Research White Paper: Contemplative Prayer

Twin City Fellowship

Biblical Christianity

Christian Answers For The New Age (CANA)

Apprising

Worldview Weekend

Fighting For The Faith

Additional Resources

The 101 of Contemplative Prayer

Testimony of a Former Mystic

A Time of Departing(an excellent primer on how mysticism is entering today’s churches)

Contemplating Contemplative Prayer: Is It Really Prayer?

Lectio Divina and “Hearing God’s Voice”

John Piper Encouraging Lectio Divina

John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist Church Endorsing Books by Contemplative Spirituality Mystics Dallas Willard and Richard Foster

Beth Moore and John Piper Lead “Lectio Divina Lite” Prayer at Passion 2012 Conference

Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. – by Kevin DeYoung

Just Do Something – by Kevin DeYoung (audio)

On John Piper and Lectio Divina

Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence

What Is Mysticism?

What Is Mysticism? (5-Part Series by Dr. Gary Gilley) – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5

Mystical Youth Ministry

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4 Responses to The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer

  1. linda jackson September 17, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

    I feel sick inside my pastor has been teaching this and I have felt extreamly confused and he kept explaining it till it almost made sense and then Once I was home and began to reasearch scipture it feels as though hes twisting it.25 years Ive poored into this ministry and it was good but the last 2 years it seems to be changing and now this and knocking the very bible my heart hurts for all thoses ive served with that are blinded by this .Im beyond words…..

  2. Isaac January 14, 2020 at 8:15 pm #

    Hey, I noticed that you guys quoted Gilley, “Central doctrines such as sola fide (faith alone)” You might want to consider James 2:24. Hope it helps. God Bless.

  3. George Everson February 26, 2020 at 10:29 am #

    Dr. John Piper on his blog Desiring God actually advocated a form of Reformed Contemplative Prayer. I agree with him and other practitioners of this as long as it stays close to the principles of Scripture. Too often the evangelical either wants to engage the heart (i.e. emotions) and not the rational mind or the mind and not the heart. Whereas Jesus quoted the Old Testament passage from Deuteronomy saying ” you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Not just a rationalistic understanding of Scripture that does not engage the heart nor an emotional experientialism that demands the mind be turned off but rather an engagement of the whole heart and whole mind and whole being.

    As to lectio-divinas and ancient-future I can attest that much good has come from these movements. Lectio has been a practice I have used for years that has helped me to understand the Bible as more then just a book of rules and regulations. And the ancient-future movement the liturgical renewal has been a love of mine for ages. It turns worship for me into something more then just a sing-along and a Bible study. It turns worship back into what it was meant to be – worship in all its different aspects; adoration, confession, thanksgiving, petition, with the reading of the Word and the Sacrament both high points of worship.

    What I am trying to say in all of this is that Jesus had a holistic approach to worship demanding it engage our whole beings. I fear today’s evangelicalism has either become so rational it forgets the other aspects of the soul or so emotional/experiential it neglects to feed the mind.

    Thank you for listening to this little appeal.

    Sola Scriptura, Sola Fides, Sola deo Gloria

    George Everson,
    Lynchburg, Virginia

  4. KAREN Graves November 13, 2020 at 6:04 pm #

    The Word of God is able to divide what is of the flesh and of the Spirit. When we meditate on the Word of God it touches all our spirit, our heart, all senses! And we are then able to discern what is of God and what is not. To empty our mind and engage our heart and get silent waiting for God to speak is like trying to manipulate God! He has spoken to us through the Word of God,who is Jesus, and if and when He wants to talk to us further, He will do so. But there is nothing we can do to ‘make” Him speak to us! Outside of the Word He will speak when He is ready. As one takes part in practices that are off-base (God calls them abominations ) he is open to even more deception. Those who embrace contemplative prayer are not discerning the value of the written Word and instead are wanting to “hear” from God rather than know Him and His ways by meditating on who He says He is and what He says His Will is for us. We have been warned in Deut. 18:9-14, not to have anything to do with eastern meditation practices. They open us up to demon spirits.
    Ask any Born Again XMuslim, Hindu, or Buddist. They will tell you Contemptative prayer is no different than Demonic Eastern Religious Practices. Add “Christian yoga” to that same demonic practice. Wake up Church! Quit being so ignorant of Satan’s devises! Read the Word,renew your mind to the Word (Romans 12:1-2, and Meditate on the Word of God! Psalms 1(the whole Psalm). Read what you will reap spiritually when you practice what is written in this Psalm, the Holy Word of God!

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