Updated October 22nd, 2021- I’ve added a clarification from Marcia Montenegro about the phrase “emptying the mind.” Since this clarification, I’ve added a little more explanation when I say “emptying the mind” like detaching the self and silencing the mind. THANK YOU, MARCIA!
Is it okay to empty our minds (reaching a state of nothingness) in order to hear the still, small voice from God? What is Christian mysticism and why is it a problem? How does Eastern religion influence these “Christian practices?”
If you’re like me, you might be familiar with some of the practices more than the terms. You might know the phrase, “still, small voice,” but unfamiliar with the context. You might be confused, “Wait, what is emotionalism, Christian mysticism, and these other terms? Why aren’t you focusing on the Gospel and Christ?”
Some Things To Consider
Last week, I covered emotionalism and its dangers for Christians. See: Should We Use Our Emotions As Truth? Basically, emotionalism means we use our emotions to discern what is true over the Bible. The reason why I am covering these topics is because these deceptions distort the Gospel and Christ. They sink into the church unknown, just as scripture warns.
(ESV) Acts 20:29, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
Wolves are blending in as sheep. Their teachings will not appear as toxic unless you know what to look for. This is why we need to know our Bibles and we need to know the context of scripture.
Unfortunately, Christian mysticism is anything but what the Bible tells us to do. It is all about using our emotions and experiences as truth over what the Bible says. Which is why I began this series.
It’s really important to understand how emotionalism has a role in Contemplative Prayer and Christian mysticism, in general. So, if you haven’t read my post, and you are unfamiliar with emotionalism, I highly recommend checking out the emotionalism post first.
Some points I want to answer in today’s post.
-How do emotional problems relate to Contemplative Prayer?
-What is Contemplative Spirituality?
–What is Contemplative Prayer?
–What are the roots of Contemplative Prayer?
-How do these two relate to Christian mysticism?
–What is Christian mysticism by definition?
-What are the problems in emptying your mind?
–What are gnosticism and listening prayers?
-How should we pray? What should our prayer life involve?
HEADS UP! This topic can go really deep. The resources I use I HIGHLY recommend, especially Marcia Montenegro’s posts. I will not go as deep regarding founding fathers of Contemplative Prayer, the state of consciousness people try to achieve in CP, and some other techniques. My post is to try to introduce you on a lighter level, if you are completely new to the topic. But all resources I use, or even briefly looked at, will be available for you to check out.
I tried to use a ton of headers to help you out. I hope this is useful. 🙂
What Is Contemplative Spirituality?
First, let’s cover Contemplative Spirituality because this is the goal of Contemplative Prayer.
Contemplative Spirituality is to seek God through meditation (not Biblical meditation, but Eastern meditation, I’ll explain). The goal of Contemplative Spirituality is to experience God. This is typically encouraged in the emergent church movement. This deals with post-modernism, which focuses on experience over logic. Subjective over objective truth. Again, please see my post on emotionalism for a deeper explaination.
“Mysticism is the belief that knowledge of God, spiritual truth, and ultimate reality can be gained through subjective experience. This emphasis on experiential knowledge erodes the authority of Scripture.”What is contemplative spirituality? (2006, July 19). Gotquestions.Org. https://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-spirituality.html
What Is Contemplative Prayer
Contemplative Prayer is to detach the self, through silencing the mind, and basically wiping our identity, in order to experience God, be filled by the Spirit, and to obtain new knowledge.
Contemplative Prayer involves (but this is not limited to):
- Breath prayers – using a word or phrase in a breath and repeat to center or relax the self- See this article by Marcia Montenegro, under the heading “Beyond Natural: Special Spiritual Techniques”– more resources below
- Centering self – see Got Questions Centering Prayer – the goal is to focus on being relaxed
- Holding particular postures
- Breathing techniques
- Emptying self, silencing the mind and detaching self – to be blank, have no thoughts
The overall goal of Contemplative Prayer is to experience God and to receive knowledge from God. Contemplative prayer experiences God through emptying the mind or detaching yourself from regular thoughts, and listening in silence in order to reach a state of nothingness. No Bible reading. No actual prayers. Pure experience and emotional discernment.
Does this sound like yoga to anyone? It should because it is rooted in Eastern religion, NOT the Bible.
Roots of Contemplative Prayer
Marcia Montenegro has a great article on Contemplative Prayer over at Christian Answers for the New Age (great blog, check it out). She digs into the roots of what she calls CP, and what I will refer to as “CP” from now on.
In her article on Contemplative Prayer, Marcia explains how CP stems from Buddhism and Hinduism. It focuses on words like detachment, emptiness, and awakening. There is no focus on words, but rather silence. When single words are used, like mantras, they are not used to pray to God, but moreso to empty the mind and relax the self. Similar to when people make sounds while doing yoga, the goal is to empty the mind, to reach a hypnotic state in order to receive knowledge. Mantras are used to self-purify.
*Clarification – Marcia’s Explanation About Emptying The Mind: I spoke to Marcia and she explains she does not like using the pharse, “Emptying of the mind.” She shared this with me, “I do not use the term “emptying the mind” to describe Eastern meditation because it is not really accurate. I usually say it suspends thinking or stops thoughts which is really the goal as Buddhism puts it (though not always in those words). The actual goal of doing that is to dissociate from one’s thoughts so that one sees those thoughts are not yours and not who you are. Then it goes on from there to other realizations.” So, emptying the mind, is definitely more of how I’ve come to understand CP, but it’s really about detaching the self from thoughts, to reach a state of nothingness. I’ve since added some edits to help clarify this.
And speaking of self-purifying and reaching a state of nothingness.
As Marcia shares, Zen Buddhists teach that truth is reached through a deep meditation – reaching a state of nothingness in the mind to transcend rational thinking.
Friends, did you catch that?
“Transcend rational thinking.” – This is really important to CP.
The founding teachers of CP believe that we need to tap in our “true-self” which is found in an altered conscious state. The current state, our rational thinking state, is not our true self, and therefore we need to rid ourselves of it.
Please note, the Bible does not support this, at all. We are made in the image of God and we were made to USE, not detach and silence our minds.
Danger Of Silencing & Detaching The Mind
Marcia explains this mindset in the second page of her article and also in a separate article where she covers Thomas Keating’s teaching more in-depth. Keating is part of the founding teachers regarding CP. Marcia shares in her article, covering a session of Keating, the danger of what it means to silence your mind.
“Allowing one’s mind to go into this state of not thinking (which is not the same state as daydreaming or sleeping) is a form of mild hypnosis. In such a state, one is very suggestible; critical thinking skills and judgment are suspended in this state.”Thomas Keating Lecture. (n.d.). Christiananswersforthenewage.Org. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_KeatingLecture.html
When we pass over what is rational thinking, we become very vulnerable in our mind. This is why when Doreen interviewed Pastor Chris Quintana about Contemplative Prayer, he said people are often encouraged to say a prayer of protection before they begin. People are not only in danger of being taken advantage of and manipulated by others, but also by engaging with other spirits, who could do much worse. Marcia also agrees, as she shares Keating does discuss how during this state of “pure-consciousness ” people can experience levitation and other psychic things.
In discussing Richard Foster, Marcia shares a similar concern as Pastor Chris.
“Foster even warns about silent CP, saying that it is for more mature believers, that “we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm” where we may encounter “spiritual beings” who are not on God’s side. He suggests a prayer of protection in which one surrounds himself with “the light of Christ,” saying “all dark and evil spirits must now leave,” and other words to keep evil ones at bay.”Contemplating contemplative Prayer: Is it really Prayer? (page 1 of 3). (n.d.). Christiananswersforthenewage.Org. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_ContemplativePrayer1.html
God never tells us to enter the spiritual realm in prayer. We never see scripture tell us to pray for protection before we begin to “pray.” The reason is simply… we do not have to. God does not require us to do all of this “work” to get closer to Him. But CP teaches you have to do all of this work.
The reason why this blank hypnotic state is so dangerous is because the goal is to reach alpha-brain waves, which is similar to a state of drunkenness, as Doreen described it.
Emptying the mind (silencing and detaching self-thinking) leads to:
-not being able to guard yourself, which scripture tells us TO guard our heart. (Proverbs 4:23)
-a drunk-like state
-no critical skills for thinking
-experiencing the psychic realm and not being able to discern logically, only through emotions
Seeking Special Knowledge From God
Now, I haven’t really touched on this yet, but you might recall part of the goal of Contemplative Prayer is to receive knowledge from God. If this sounds like secret knowledge, it is because this knowledge is not found in scripture, but outside of scripture from an experience.
Similarly, Gnosticism is about secret knowledge that is found on a higher level, usually through meditation. I recommend this article on Gnosticism by Got Questions. They break down how it isn’t Christian and the heresy of Gnosticism that the early Church faced.
I would say there is another type of prayer in which Christians can try to receive knowledge from God, and we might not think it’s related to Gnosticism, but it is a type of “secret knowledge.” I admit, I fully did this in the past.
Commonly today, many people listen to the voice in their mind and they dub it as “God.” These types of prayers are referred to as “listening prayers” in which we speak, and then God speaks in our mind or in the world around us. I used to do this. Beth Moore is well known for doing this, but of course, she is not the only one. It’s really easy to fall into this way of thinking, but it isn’t Biblical.
Got Questions explains why these types of listening prayers are problematic.
“But the “nudges,” “feelings,” intuitions, and random thoughts a person has while meditating cannot be put on the same level as Scripture. To assume that the voice a person hears in his mind is the voice of God is to leave the door wide open for self-delusion and even demonic deception.”What is listening prayer? (2015, November 14). Gotquestions.Org. https://www.gotquestions.org/listening-prayer.html
The argument that I used to use and many people still use today is, “Well, I’m not saying that this (experience) of what God has said or shown me is the same as scripture.”
The problem is that God’s authority, His word, is NEVER lowered. If God speaks, it’s the same as scripture. No arguments.
These Types of Prayers Hinder Us From Drawing Close To Christ
We don’t have to necessarily follow all of the steps of Contemplative Prayer in order to follow deceiving practices, like listening prayers. But the reality is more and more proclaimed Christians believe these practices are okay, Christian in nature, and they draw us to Jesus Christ. However, these prayers do the complete opposite.
Contemplative Prayers & The Like:
– have us trust our emotions and experiences, which are subjective, over objective truth
– these prayers do not line up with scripture, and therefore God will not draw close to us
– these prayers are from Eastern religions, not the Church
– these prayers are focused on making US feel good about ourselves
– these prayers seek out affirmations about our salvation through emotions and experiences over what scripture says we should look for – example, I believe since I “receive messages from God” and “feel” connected to Him, then I must be saved.
– these prayers can experience influencing spirits and we are not to partake of divination (Deuteronomy 18:14)
God tells us in His word that one of the ways we love Him is with all of our mind. But this practice completely throws that in God’s face. Instead, it says to silence what God gave us. It says to trust ourselves and random spirits, as long as we have a protection prayer.
How can we trust anything of ourselves when the goal is to reach a hypnotic state that transcends rational thinking? This is a practice that loves self more than Christ. The individual may not intend that, but this practice encourages pride, lack of self-control, has no genuine respect for God and how Christ teaches us how to pray.
A genuine prayer life:
- involves Bible reading, a meditation of chewing on what the scripture says, actively thinking about God’s word
- praising God for being God, give Him the glory
- praying for others, for the world, for self, self-examination
- thanking the Lord for all of the kind blessings He gives everyday
- involves words, words, and more words
- involves critical thinking
- involves active thought about what God is doing in our life, what His word says, where we fall short, what the Gospel message is about and how much we need Jesus every second
- involves repenting of sin, acknowledging sin, asking for help with our sins and short-comings, and THANKING Him for the cross
- asks for help against temptations, and to receive convictions from the Holy Spirit
- praying for people who have sinned against us, their salvation, and prayer of exposing potential seeds of our own darkness we might be sowing because of these issues.
- some prayers may be longer than others, some may be shorter. Prayer is not meant to be as ritualistic as some of the prayers you’ve read about today.
- we can repeat the same requests, but not in a robotic manner, not for the purpose to soothe ourselves. If you think of a situation, a person, or something you’re struggling through, lift it up to Jesus and pray about it, and do this throughout the day, if you can. Prayer is important. It’s okay to give God the same requests if you or someone else is going through something.
The focus of prayer is Jesus Christ. It’s not about us gaining anything. We already have gained everything through the One who died on the cross and resurrected, imputing His righteousness to us, and adopting us as His own children, for all who put their faith in Him.
Our walk with Jesus is active, not empty. There will always be something we can pray for. Always.
See: Matthew 6:09-13 (The Lord’s prayer) Matthew 6:05-08 (When you pray) Ephesians 6:18 & Philippians 4:06 (Pray always, with all kinds of prayers and petitions) Mark 12:30 (We love the Lord with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength)
This is a great quote to sum up Contemplative Prayer by Marcia Montenegro.
“Creating a whole theology of prayer apart from the Bible is dangerous, precisely because we are entering an area fraught with subjectivism, truth based on experience, and therefore, an area where we can be deceived. CP teachers tell us that prayer is listening to and having “divine union” with God, but the Bible presents prayer as words and thoughts. CP tells us to focus inward, but the Bible admonishes us to focus outward on the Lord. An evaluation of CP reveals it to be a melange of New Age and Eastern-tinged techniques and concepts that exist outside the Bible.” – Marcia MontenegroContemplating contemplative Prayer: Is it really Prayer? (page 3 of 3). (n.d.). Christiananswersforthenewage.Org. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_ContemplativePrayer3.html
(ESV) 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
God’s word, not our own works, experiences, or emotions, but the Lord and His word is enough.
Believe it or not, I still have some more material covering the still, small voice, but I am going to leave that for a separate post. I really hope today’s post has been informative and helpful to you.
And also, as I follow Marcia Montenegro, she recently posted about how if people are into contemplative practices the Enneagram is close by. If you hadn’t checked out my post that shares an interview Marcia did about the Enneagram, you might want to check it out: Enneagram Hidden Truth (Marcia Montenegro)
Some other links I didn’t use, but are helpful:
Breath Prayers by IHOP is New Age, a fellow WP blogger
What Is Quietism by Got Questions
Mystical Nonsense in the Church of the Nazarene by Reformed Nazarene, a fellow WP blogger – He covers Rick Warren and how Rick Warren promotes “breath prayers.”
The Spiritual Damage from Spiritual Encounters by Melissa Dougherty
“Abide in Me” = Breath Prayers? by Marcia Montenegro
“Just Breathe: The Age of Magical Breathing” by Marcia Montenegro
“Is Breathing Prayer? And a look at pray without ceasing” by Marcia Montenegro
“Breath work and its trick” by Marcia Montenegro
Contemplating contemplative Prayer: Is it really Prayer? (page 1 of 3). (n.d.). Christiananswersforthenewage.Org. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_ContemplativePrayer1.html
Contemplating contemplative Prayer: Is it really Prayer? (page 2 of 3). (n.d.). Christiananswersforthenewage.Org. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_ContemplativePrayer2.html
Contemplating contemplative Prayer: Is it really Prayer? (page 3 of 3). (n.d.). Christiananswersforthenewage.Org. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_ContemplativePrayer3.html
Thomas Keating Lecture. (n.d.). Christiananswersforthenewage.Org. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_KeatingLecture.html
Virtue, D. (2020, April 22). Why “Contemplative Prayer” Is A Dangerous New Age Mystical Practice. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tszjdXVpCLI
What is centering prayer? (2006, July 19). Gotquestions.Org. https://www.gotquestions.org/centering-prayer.html
What is Christian gnosticism? (n.d.). Gotquestions.Org. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-gnosticism.html
What is contemplative prayer? (n.d.). Gotquestions.Org. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from https://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-prayer.html
What is contemplative spirituality? (2006, July 19). Gotquestions.Org. https://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-spirituality.html
What is the emerging / emergent church movement? (2014, June 17). Gotquestions.Org. https://www.gotquestions.org/emerging-church-emergent.html
What is listening prayer? (2015, November 14). Gotquestions.Org. https://www.gotquestions.org/listening-prayer.html
Scripture To Memorize/Meditate On – (ESV) Romans 5:08, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
*To learn more about what Jesus did on the cross and why His atonement sacrifice is so needed please see: Why Did A Loving God Kill His Son? (Does God Hate?)
*If you do not know the Gospel, do not turn away. If you think you know the Gospel, check out these questions and see how prepared you are for the day someone might ask you why you believe: The Gospel Challenge (30 Question Quiz) – Are You Ready To Defend Your Faith?
Community Prayer – October, 2021
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