Last edition, we considered the overall picture of deception of the New Age/New Spirituality that is stealing upon us. We touched on the Alpha and the era it ran in the 1800’s, now a subtle and most deceptive Omega is upon us of which we are to be well aware of.
This edition, we will take a look at a more personal aspect, that of Contemplative Prayer. Contemplative Prayer, also known as Centering Prayer, is meant to lead one into – well, contemplation. This means to look at or view a concept or a pending decision with continued attention; to observe or study thoughtfully. In the case of Contemplative Prayer, this method of contemplating is to choose a sacred word, really another meaning for a ‘mantra’ and every day schedule 20 minutes evening and morning to come aside and start to concentrate with continued attention on the favourite sacred word and while doing that, try to ignore all other outside thoughts and feelings, letting them go as boats floating away down a stream. All very gentle, all very placid.
If any of those daily thoughts come back into the mind and interfere with the flow, the person is to repeat the sacred word. This is to be kept up until all those annoying, bugging thoughts and feelings disappear completely. In other words, the mind is void of its normality. When this state is achieved, it is called reaching a state of pure consciousness, or a mental void known as ‘the Silence’. This end result is supposed to put the person in direct contact with God. The person is then in the centre of their being and has found their ‘True Self’. This whole process suspends your real life thinking and is meant to dismantle the ‘False Self’ which really is who we all are on a ‘normal’ daily basis.
This form of prayer – this ‘Contemplative Prayer’ - is really a mystical prayer practice. It leads one into ‘the Silence.’ Christianity in its enthusiasm to accept this method of prayer to lead people to God, actually finishes up leading away from God. The Hindu swami or yogi, the African medicine man or witch doctor are all mystics who go off into a trance to consult and commune with spirit entities, who give them knowledge and/or power. While in this ‘Silence’ in their trance, there is direct contact to this ‘god’. This method of prayer and contact is directly from the mystical spirit world, not from the study of the true Bible.
The dangers are that this mystical ‘Silence’ produces an altered state of consciousness where you are basically in a self-induced hypnotic state, open for suggestions from the ‘being in your inner self’ that you find in that ‘Silence’. In today’s Christian world, it has nice Christian terms attached to it, but in essence, it is the old pagan pantheism (all is God) or panentheism (God is in all) as mentioned in the last editorial. Promoters of Contemplative Prayer teach that all mankind, both religious and non-religious have a divine centre and that all people should practice, to find their inner self, to find God within you.
We all need to realise that we are in a battle for the mind. Deceptive powers that exist in these last days are active and wanting to take every soul away from Jesus Christ and deceive them into a false belief religious system, to ultimately be completely lost. To achieve this Satan will do his uttermost to come as close as possible to the true that, “...insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
A well planned strategy has put confusion into this dangerous method of ‘worship’. Nice terms are given for the same practice in Eastern religions. For instance the term ‘sacred word’ is used instead of ‘mantra’; ‘the Silence’ is used for ‘trance’. This terminology can disarm the unsuspecting Christian and start a lead into a completely false method of worship – even changing god’s completely, unwittingly. Contemplative Prayer has been the historic name for this practice, but in the late 1970’s Catholic monks, Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington changed it to ‘Centering Prayer’. This has even been updated to a later version of ‘Listening Prayer’. There is no problem with prayer. It is one of the most important ingredients of the Christian journey. But we also need to remember that believers of all faiths pray to their deities, seeking advice, pleading for help, offering praise and thanks. All Christians need to realise that this method of communication is neither ‘Christian’ or ‘prayer’.
In effect, this is really ancient sorcery in a new guise with Christian terminology. Another deception to be wary of is that ‘meditation’ in our western world means to think deeply about a subject, mull it over with much consideration, the ups and downs of a decision, and the consequences. But in the eastern world in the mystical Hinduism and Buddhism, ‘meditation’ means to empty the mind in order to open it to the spirit world, leading to mystical experiences, hearing the voice of ‘God’ himself. Ultimately this Contemplative, Centering, Listening prayer, or whatever other title it has, is nothing more or less than Christianised version of Eastern meditation.
Another area of concern is breath prayers. This method of prayer is to pick a single word or short phrase and repeat it in pattern with your breathing rhythms. A former New Age believer who came out of the New Age, became a Christian, accepted Christ into her heart and came across this breath prayer, exclaimed with astonishment, “That’s what I did when I was into ashtanga yoga!” To add to this subtle parallel, Tricia Rhodes, one of Rick Warren’s favourite authors gives this method of breath prayers a slightly different perspective. “Take deep breaths, concentrating on relaxing your body. Establish a slow, rhythmic pattern. Breathe in God’s peace, breathe out your stresses, distractions, and fears. Breathe in God’s love, forgiveness, and compassion, and breathe out your sins, failures, and frustrations. Make every effort to stop the flow of talking going on within you, to slow it down until it comes to a halt.”
Sounds nice, but it is dangerous. Think about the doctrine involved here. Nowhere in Scripture do we read just by breathing in can we partake of God’s peace and love, or by breathing out get rid of our sins. This is all very humanistic and mystic, that you can do an awful lot by yourself and at your own command.
The end goal, or the master achievement of all this ‘worship’ style is to reach ‘the Silence.’ William Johnston, a Jesuit priest and Zen Buddhist master wrote, “When one enters the deeper layers of Contemplative Prayer, one sooner or later experiences the ‘void’, the ‘emptiness’, the ‘nothingness’... the ‘profound mystical Silence... and absence of thought’.
Another Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello writes, “To silence the mind is an extremely difficult task. How hard it is to keep the mind from thinking, thinking, thinking, forever thinking, forever producing thoughts in a never-ending stream. Our Hindu masters in India have a saying; ‘one thorn is removed by another.’ By this they mean that you will be wiser to use one thought to rid yourself of all the other thoughts that crowd into your mind. One thought, one image, one phrase or sentence, or word, (your mantra) that your mind can be made to fasten on.”
But now putting a Christian perspective on this in his book ‘Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth,’ Richard Foster writes, “Contemplative Prayer immerses us into the silence of God. How desperately we in the modern world need this wordless baptism!... Progress in intimacy with God means progress towards the Silence... Every distraction of the body, mind and spirit must be put into the kind of suspended animation before this deep work of God upon the soul can occur.”
In all this, you basically put your intellect on hold. You dismiss all thoughts, hold no thoughts, react to no thoughts, retain no thoughts. Never do we find in the Bible Christ saying; “Stop thinking, stop reasoning, clear your mind.”
In fact we read quite the opposite. Jesus used a parable to explain the dangers of one leaving his mind empty and void. “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.”
It is rather obvious as we have been working through this method of prayer that there is much repetition to get to the desired state to talk to this god. In the book ‘The Lost Virtue of Happiness,’ by J P Moreland and Klaus Issler, they state, “We recommend that you begin by saying the Jesus prayer about three hundred times a day... When you first awake, say the Jesus prayer twenty to thirty times... Repetitive use of the Jesus prayer while doing more focused things allows God to be on the boundaries of your mind...”
Another Christian author, Roger Oakland who writes against this dangerous practice comments in his book, ‘Faith Undone,’ “I have been to the country of Myanmar (Burma) twice. On both occasions, I observed both Catholics and Buddhists practising repetitive prayer... over and over again by counting beads. Yes, Catholics and Buddhists both have a Rosary arrangement to keep track of the numbers of prayers. When asked why they used the beads, it was the same answer, ‘to focus their thoughts and get in tune with the spirit world.’”
Don’t be fooled into this mesmerising practice. Jesus strongly counselled against such practice. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them...” —Matthew 6:7,8. In the following verses, He then gave to all mankind the wonderful master prayer for all time – the Lord’s prayer in verses 9-13. We definitely do not thoughtlessly recite a mantra as do the Eastern religions, till we go out of our mind into ‘the Silence’.
As we process all this material on Contemplative Prayer, and we have only just barely touched the surface of this vast subject, there is one obstacle that actually becomes our enemy – and that is our own mind. It is always thinking and one has to stop it thinking by repetitive words. It wants to keep thinking, but we have to continue to stop it thinking and give it over to a void. It is actually a ‘suspended state of animation’, it is an ‘altered state of consciousness’, one has to empty the mind of every thought, feeling and enter the ‘Silence’.
This is diametrically opposed to that of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He taught us to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” —Matthew 22:37. Not to empty our brain completely and put it in neutral. The purpose of going to church is to inform and educate the mind to meet Jesus at His coming – not to empty the mind to achieve a mental void. If any counsel is given to practice such prayer methods, turn away from it, it is a deception.
To Avoid Deception
Every one of us must realise that we are in the Laodicean church state and a quick glance around us, will certainly verify that. Need more be written!!! We must become aware of the dangers. Yes, Laodicea is the last church and it would only be logical that it be in the state we would expect; but it doesn’t mean we all have to sit placidly and continue to bathe in the lukewarmness of this church condition. No, there is counsel in Revelation 3:18 to do some purchasing of gold, white raiment and eyesalve. Wake up dear friends and be spiritually alert. The devil also knows Laodicea is the last church and he is ingeniously keeping far too many people right in that state and as God starts working to shake the world, be rest assured he will be active to mislead any soul who will listen to his devisings.
When this false system is presented, we should immediately measure it by the yardstick. Our immediate reaction should be, “Where is this confirmed in God’s word? Can I verify this in Scripture?” If this is unable to be provided, turn away from such uncertainty and search out the Scriptures for your own learning and understanding, because rest assured there will be more deceptions sneak up and we will need to lean back on our study and learning. Even with chapter and verses given by such promoters of these theories, check out the context and read around the verses quoted. Yes, there may be perfectly good Bible texts provided and even sound so logical, but with no actual relevance to the true subject at all.
Promoters of Contemplative Prayer try hard to convince listeners that Jesus Himself used mystical prayer methods of emptying His mind and going into ‘the Silence’. The Bible gives no support to such theology or practice that Jesus behaved in such a manner. Texts have been known to try to support this regardlessly, such as Mark 1:35 where Jesus “departed into a solitary place; and there He prayed.” This certainly does not mean he repeatedly went into a mantra or sought to enter a mental void to talk to His heavenly Father. That is a real stretch to try to build such a fanciful story from that verse. Just to read the verses around that particular verse 35, Jesus was constantly followed by crowds seeking His help and healing, so much so that His disciples and He had no time to eat (Mark 6:31). It was just a natural need that Jesus and His disciples would get away into a quiet place to retire from the crowds.
Jesus’ Solitary Prayer
Perhaps one of the most agonising times in Jesus’ prayer life was at the Garden of Gethsemane. The pressure of persecution had been building for some time and Jesus had just performed the Last Supper. He then goes on into the garden to pray. This is the point of rejecting the call to save mankind or accepting. Will He go through with it or give in to the pressure? “Take this cup...” Such a battle He was going through with His Father – and we have in the record of Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22, that He went through all the shameful humiliation, all the brutal beatings and the fatal torture of the cross, bravely enduring for every single one of us.
All of Jesus’ prayers were special and important, but these three prayers of agony on the evening before his crucifixion were undoubtedly the most important of His earthly ministry. If any record was going to be kept of Jesus going into Contemplative Prayer, surely it would be alluded to here. Three things come from this prayer of Jesus that we can learn from to combat the theory of Contemplative Prayer.
There is no record at all of Jesus going into solitude so often mentioned by the advocates of Contemplative Prayer. He did not seek isolated solicitude, he went, “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed.” — Luke 22:41. Jesus also knew something the disciples didn’t, He knew there was not much time before Judas would return with all the administration of the church, to arrest and take Him. With the minimum of time, Jesus goes to plead with His Father and offer those three powerful prayers.
This Scripture says He not only prayed three times, but under the agony prayed virtually the same prayer three times. His mind was alert and very active, able to keep those sincere words in His mind clearly in His memory. This bears no resemblance of mindless repetitive chanting of a ‘sacred prayer word’ or ‘mantra’! With all this pressure upon Him, at no time was He out of His mind or senses, but clearly conscious of the huge burden He was carrying.
In Luke, we are told that Jesus “...Being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Here Christ was sweating blood, a rare condition caused most often by severe psychological stress. This particular description of Jesus’ agonising experience is recorded by the author Luke, a well educated man who was himself a doctor – a beloved physician
Jesus was not only distressed psychologically to a high degree, but also physically. He did not go into a hypnotic trance to avoid the pain of the cross, He endured every last bit of it for every one of us. As we draw this to a close, there is absolutely no evidence of Jesus ever giving any part of His mind to this Satanic mystical hypnosis. “...the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”
What ever Jesus went through, He calls us to go through with Him. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”
~1 Peter 2:21
Study based upon Part One of ‘The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer’, by Howard Peth