Are you fascinated with forms of contemplative prayer?
Are you in awe at the deep spirituality of many of the "saints" of the past and throughout the history of the Protestant and Catholic church?
Are you intrigued with so called ancient christian mystics like Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis of Assisi or Thomas Merton and their alleged spiritual connection with the Divine? Or today's mystics like the Coptic Orthodox "desert father" Dr. Atef from Egypt or Thomas Keating?
If this is the case, and you claim to be a christian, chances are you either have not taken the time to find out what is behind these practices of contemplative prayer and the people mentioned above (many of which I have not included–the list would be too long) and therefore continue to be fine with it, due to a lack of knowledge. Or you have read up on it, studied the methods and find no problem with it at all, which is one of the things I really worry about.
It's my opinion, and my fear that many christians simply have no idea. Many young people especially may be dabbling into these things with very little knowledge about what is really behind these practices of contemplative or centering prayer.
Maybe there are people you trust and look up to who may have encouraged you to check these things out to help you get closer to God or have told you about the DVD, "Be Still"
just released which discusses ways to pursue forms of silence in order to listen to what God may have to say to you, unaware of the misuse of scriptures like Psalm 46:10
. Is this passage actually referring to contemplative prayer or is it God proclaiming His sovereignty in the midst of war and turmoil? (read the whole chapter instead of just one verse).
I think this is becoming one of the slickest lies from the devil facing the church today. Contemplative prayer seems to be the vehicle but what I believe to be the driving force is a fascination with the experiential. "I want to touch, taste, see, feel, hear God". Experience God, eat, drink, feel, smell, use all of your senses. Everything is driven by YOUR experience. Your "feeling" God. You want to really feel Him. You want to experience Him (as if that were a validation of true spirituality). I understand how someone would want to experience a closer relationship with God. I certainly want to do that as well, but the way this is being sold today to the church through the slick package of contemplative prayer and sensory-experientialism, (me me me my way of experiencing God on my terms)–is not the way God had intended it to be. –––But what difference does that make because the bible must be studied through MY experience anyway–how I see life, and why should I have to adjust my actions and life to what the bible instructs me to do? That would be a bit patriarchal wouldn't it? Isn't that right Brian? Doesn't God want me to be happy?...me to be happy..........meeeeee to be happy........me......me...........me......................me...............
(sorry for the sarcastic tirade)
I believe that today's so called postmodern youth is tilled, ready and ripe fertile soil for this trap of emotional feeling driven self-centered obsession with an experience of the presence of God sensation. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised since our entire culture is obsessed with the gratification of SELF.
I realize the ones chasing after contemplative prayer and spiritual disciplines, as encouraged by Richard Foster, believe that they are drawing closer to God into some divine self-denying, (taken up into a higher spiritual dimension than the average superficial contemporary American christian), spirituality kind of similar to the very very super spiritual ancient "christian" mystics such as the catholic monks and desert fathers.
...just a little side note...I don't understand how some people think these ancient desert fathers have achieved a spirituality far beyond anything we could ever attain to even though it is highly questionable they even understand the TRUE gospel message being completely engulfed in Roman Catholic deception
of the true faith in Jesus Christ by unmerited grace alone
It's not just the fact that these practices of contemplative prayer are emotion/feeling driven and are a prime target for the devil to toy with the christian like a yo-yo since it must be a feeling of spirituality which validates my relationship with God, but the fact that there is such an emphasis on emptying the mind in order to listen to the leading of God is so foreign to anything in the bible that one must stop for a minute, and think..."what am I doing?" "Am I crazy?" And please don't tell me that Lectio Divina
is praying the scriptures to God because I don't think taking a word or phrase, proclaiming it sacred, and repeating it over and over again without focusing on the content of the truth contained in the passage is achieving closeness with God. If anything it's a violation of scripture. See Matthew 6:7
It certainly appears that the bible tells us to use our minds. It seems clear in 2 Cor. 10:4-5
that our fight as christians is against ARGUMENTS, any pretension that challenges the KNOWLEDGE of God and we take captive any THOUGHT to make it obedient to Christ. How does a christian do that if he is to empty his mind in order to get close to God?...huh?...doesn't make sense. (I hope it doesn't "feel" right either)
What about the verse
that says to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND and with all your strength"?
How about what it says in Colossians 3:2
to "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things"?
What about the peace of God guarding our hearts and MINDS in Christ Jesus ?-Phil. 4:6-7
...keep reading, it talks about our minds again through verse 8
What about the prophesy of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:33
? He says He will put His law (Word) in their MINDS and heartsRomans 8:6
has some important things to say about the mind.
Take some time to read Psalm 119
. Notice how many times you read the words law, word, testimonies, commandments, statues, precepts. They're in just about every verse. Look how frequently these words are mentioned. (King James Version):
In total these are mentioned 174 times. There are 176 verses in Psalm 119. That certainly doesn't look like a God who is asking us to empty our minds so he may speak to us. Quite the contrary, we should be filling our minds with His words, precepts, statues and laws. This will position us to hear God, through His Word.
I could go on and on and on. The entire bible is filled with statements, instructions and warnings about our mind, our thoughts, our reason.
When one realizes the fact that the bible is the inerrant, inspired-by the Holy Spirit-Word of God then ignoring it's truths in order to empty the mind is the worst thing a person can do. We desire his salvation, and even the feeling of it but our hope should be in His word. Psalm 119:81--"My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word."
Psalm 119:114 says "Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word." Yes we may want to feel his salvation and security but whether we feel it or not our hope is in His truth, His word, His bible.
It is through His Word one is able to abide in him
and become sanctified
No where in the bible does it tell us to turn off our minds in order to allow Christ to enter into our experience and to engage in the "feeling" of Christ. It's a trick. When people in the bible drew closer to God it seems like something DID occur. It's called repentance. If we ever get near to God, in His presence, we will despise ourselves in repentance like Job did
. What happened to Daniel
when confronted with God's holiness? The others with him ran away in fear and Daniel lost all strength, his comeliness or vigor was turned to corruption and he fell face down on to the ground. Isaiah 66:2
says that the person who gets God's attention is one "that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." What about Isaiah
, when in the presence of God hearing the angels cry "Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory". Isaiah then proclaims "Woe is me! for I am undone". He realizes he is a man of unclean lips, iniquity and sin. His sin is then purged and it was at that point that he was ready to fulfill God's agenda.
The mark of true spirituality is daily DYING TO SELF
and sin and becoming alive through Christ. This is a description of objective MARTYR'S FAITH
in the resurrected Christ based on scripture and able to withstand intense agony.
You see it's sad. It's sad that some christians think they have to indulge in feelings and emotional experiences to validate their relationship with God. This makes such christians a prime target for the enemy. They are not relying on the infallible word of God to strengthen their relationship with Christ but rather they are relying on one experience after another. They are relying on prayer techniques and methods not even spoken of or taught in the bible.
1 Timothy 4:16--"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."
2 Tim. 3:16, 17--"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, And is profitable for doctrine, For reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, Thoroughly furnished unto all good works".
The Holy Spirit will allow us to enter the presence
of God but it is only achieved through acknowledging our sin
before the holy God, agreeing with him about our sinful condition, and turning our lives completely over to him through repentance, holding nothing back
. This will get God's attention. He promised He would forgive anyone
who confesses their sin to him and cleanse them from all unrightousness. Jesus' crucifixtion on the cross paid for our sins by his blood, just like the sacrificial lamb. His resurrection allows us new life in Him. Now this is how you "feel" God, through His redemption. There isn't any other special secret knowledge or access into God's presence. This is the only thing you need. Please don't pursue other paths, they are dead ends.
I'd like to end with a quote from Brian Flynn's book; Running Against the Wind:
"Could it be they are infatuated with the seductive feeling that accompanies it—and like other contemplatives, feel the need to get closer to God? But this presents a dilemma, for it is the finished work of Christ on the Cross that allows us access to the throne of God, and that access is immediately available to us the moment we are born-again. It is not just for an elite group of people who are "mature" enough to handle it; no, it is for all who have been born of the Spirit and justified by faith."
(Brian Flynn; Running Against the Wind, 2nd Ed., p.145).