In the last several articles, I began to expose the false teachings of mysticism along with its modern New Age concepts that have crept into the church. As previously discussed in my recent articles, the principles of this teaching are far from new. Simply put, they are repackaged satanic lies couched with Christian jargon and sold in books by popular so-called Christian authors. Aside from trying to judge their motives we can, and we should, evaluate their writings and teachings to determine if they are biblically correct in interpretation and understanding of God’s Word.
Centering Prayers, Breath Prayers
A simple method of contemplative prayer, often called “centering” prayer, has several steps: a person chooses a single sacred word and repeats it inwardly—slowly and often. Eastern religions refer to this as a mantra. During a conference on contemplative prayer, the question was put to Thomas Merton, “How can we best help people (not just Christians) to attain union with God?” His answer was very clear. He said, “We must tell them that they are already united with God. Contemplative prayer is nothing other than coming into consciousness of what is already there.”
In my last article, I defined pantheism and panentheism. These two words basically mean that everything is God and God is in everything. Popular so-called Christian authors of the contemplative movement oftentimes quote from their contemplative prayer peers to gain notoriety and authority to themselves in order to justify their teachings.
In Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, one will find plenty of these contemplative prayer mystics quoted and named by Warren. Notwithstanding, he himself will make references and recommendations for readers to practice contemplative prayers. “With practice,” Warren writes, “you can develop the habit of praying silent ‘breath prayers.’”1 He adds: “Use ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath.”2
Likewise, Brennan Manning recommends William O’ Shannon’s book, Silence on Fire and Thomas Keating’s book on centering prayer titled Open Mind, Open Heart.
In Silence on Fire, O’ Shannon blasts the Christian’s biblical God: “This is a typical patriarchal notion of God. He is the God of Noah who sees people deep in sin, repents that He made them and resolves to destroy them. He is the God of the desert who sends snakes to bite His people because they murmured against Him. He is the God of David who practically decimates a people.... He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger. This God does not exist.”3
It is important to note that the purpose of contemplative prayer is to enter an altered state of consciousness in order to find one’s true self, thus finding God. This true self relates to the belief that man is basically good. Christian proponents of contemplative prayer teach that all human beings have a divine center and that all, not just born-again believers, should practice contemplative prayer.
In his book, Signature of Jesus, Manning writes, “The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being.”4
In his book, Here and Now, Henri Nouwen writes, “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center.”5
In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “Even people who have yet to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ—can and should practice them (spiritual disciplines).”6
In his book, Abba’s Child, Manning writes, “If I find Christ, I will find my true self and if I find my true self, I will find Christ.”7
According to the website, “A Sacred Journey,” Lacy Clark Ellman posts this about centering prayer:
“The practice of centering prayer, though ancient in roots, is modern in design. Based on the contemplative practices of the Desert Mothers and Fathers of early Christian monasticism wherein practitioners prayerfully engage passages of Scripture, the method of centering prayer as we know it today was developed by mystic Roman Catholic priests Thomas Keating, M. Basil Pennington, and William Menninger in the 1970s.
“With a desire to make contemplative prayer more accessible—an ancient posture of prayer and practice which emphasizes abiding in the presence of God, leading to union with the divine—Thomas Keating and his colleagues created a practice which would utilize the style of the contemplative practices of the East that were so popular with seekers at the time while still being rooted in the Christian tradition.
“Centering prayer is a meditative practice. However, it does not focus on words but on the places of interior silence and stillness where God abides and invites practitioners toward a deeper connection with Christ Incarnate—the perfect union of human and divine.
“This is the invitation of centering prayer, a practice which, when engaged regularly, slowly transforms us at our very core in a way that is beyond words, teaching us to not only abide in the presence of the Divine but also cultivating a sense of inner silence and stillness.”8
Meditation is the first of the disciplines taught in the book, Celebration of Discipline by Foster. The idea of being still and emptying yourself is not taught anywhere in the Bible. The use of repetitive prayer is nothing but vain repetition that Jesus spoke against in Matthew 6:7.
1 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Running Press, 2003), 299.
2 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Running Press, 2003), 89.
3 William H. Shannon, Silence on Fire (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2000), 109-110.
4 Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus, (Multnomah Books, 1988), pgs. 211, 218.
5 Henri Nouwen, Here and Now, (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1994), 22.
6 Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, (Harper Collins, 1988), 2.
7 Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child, (NavPress, 1994), 12.
Deceptive Quotations Regarding Contemplative Prayer
“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” —HENRI NOUWEN
“Ask for a simple prayer to express your willingness to meet God in the silence … a simple statement …such as “Here I am.” … Help yourself return to your original intent by repeating the prayer that you have chosen.”
—RUTH HALEY BARTON
“Everyone is born a mystic and a lover who experiences the unity of things and all are called to keep this mystic or lover of life alive.” —MATTHEW FOX
“If we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.” —BETH MOORE
“The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart.” —HENRI NOUWEN
“We need to become aware of the Cosmic Christ, which means recognizing that every being has within it the light of Christ.” —MATTHEW FOX
“What works for me is a combination of disciplines: I do yoga, tai chi which is a Chinese martial art and three kinds of meditation—vipassana, transcendental and mantra (sound) meditation.” —JACK CANFIELD
“Isn’t it a pity that people are going into LSD to have spiritual experiences, when we have a tradition in the Church [contemplative prayer] which no one knows anything about?”—THOMAS MERTON
“My acquaintance with eastern methods of meditation has convinced me that … there are ways of calming the mind in the spiritual disciplines of both the east and the west [and] many serious seekers of truth study the eastern religions.” —THOMAS KEATING
“When we go to the center of our being and pass through that center into the very center of God we get in immediate touch with this divine creating energy … that the divine energy may have the freedom to forward the evolution of consciousness in us and through us, as a part of the whole, in the whole of the creation.” —M. BASIL PENNINGTON
“Pick out a word or two. Tell your children to sit quietly and repeat the word in their heads—not thinking about the word, just repeating it.” —POPE JOHN PAUL II