What Is Biblical Meditation?

What is Biblical Meditation?

*Note:  I have used several fictional characters in a fictional story but with real life quotes to talk about the idea of biblical meditation.  We have been seeing over the last 30 years Eastern Mysticism creep into the Church and many Christians have not understood what was happening because it was so subtle and made to sound so spiritual.  The promoters of this heresy do a great bait and switch job to peddle pagan practices.  My prayer is that you will listen to the actual words of some of the major proponents of what goes by several different names.  Names like Spiritual Formation, Contemplative Spirituality, Contemplative Prayer, Meditation, Ancient Practices, and so on.  Then consider what the Bible actually has to say about prayer and meditation.  When I am using actual quotes I have given footnotes or I have put the quote in italics and placed footnotes at the bottom so that you will know where to find the information as well.

The story begins…

Huh, what did you say Jenny?

Esther, you have been coming back to the room in a sort of daze every day this week and it looks like you are a bit troubled today, are you okay?

Oh, yeah, I’m fine.  I’ve just been having some conversations with Josh and Karen that are a little outside of our normal every-day banter.  By the way, while I am thinking about it are you going with us to the conference next Friday?

Esther, you know that I like to fly by the seat of my pants but I will put it on my “calendar” just for you.  What exactly is the conference about again?

Well, it’s about something called contemplative spirituality.  Josh and Karen have been trying to explain it to me this week but the concept is still pretty hazy.  They said that if I came to the conference it would help to clear everything up.

Well, if it means that much to you I will join you and hopefully together we can get this contemplative spirituality thing figured out.  By the way, what is contemplative spirituality, I’ve never read about it in the Bible?

Well, Josh and Karen are claiming that Christians have forgotten about certain ancient practices involving certain types of meditation and that through these practices we can contact God in a more intimate way.  They said that a guy named Brian McLaren said that these ancient practices have “enlivened the three Abrahamic faiths” (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and should not be “allowed to go extinct.”[1]  Josh and Karen keep talking about the great stuff they are learning from something called the “Emergent Village.”

I don’t know Esther that sounds a little off to me.

I know, Jenny, that’s been part of my struggle.  It seems like Josh and Karen really love Jesus and I know that they go to church every Sunday.  This is why you have seen me coming home looking a bit stunned every night this week.

The following Friday at the conference…

Hey, Josh, hey, Karen, sorry we’re late.  I lost my keys and finally Jenny found them under the couch!  And then, when we got here, this place is so big I didn’t know what entrance to come in and …anyways…

Don’t worry about it Esther you’ve come in at a great time, the next session is on Christian contemplative prayer and Spiritual Formation.

Well okay, that’s why we came, let’s get in there!

Hey Karen, who is the speaker again?  This is Dallas Willard and he is reading from a book called Christian Meditation:  The Gethsemani Talks by a Roman Catholic priest named John Main.  He is trying to explain how the practice of meditation that Christians have lost over time has been recovered.  Listen…

“My teacher was an Indian swami… I was deeply impressed by his peacefulness and calm wisdom… For the swami, the aim of meditation was the coming to awareness of the Spirit of the Universe who dwells in our hearts and he recited these verses from the Upanishads: “He contains all things,…and, in silence, is loving to all. This is the Spirit that is in my heart. This is Brahman.” The swami read this passage with such devotion and such meaning I asked him if he would accept me as a pupil to teach me how to meditate in his way…

 “He said: “To meditate you must become silent… In our tradition we know only one way in which you can arrive at that stillness,…a word that we call a mantra. To meditate, what you must do is to choose this word and then repeat it, faithfully, lovingly, and continually… And during the time of your meditation there must be in your mind no thoughts,… The sole sound will be the sound of your mantra, your word.

“The mantra…is like a harmonic…within ourselves as we begin to build up a resonance…[which] leads us forward to our own wholeness… We begin to experience the deep unity we all possess in our own being. And then the harmonic begins to build up a resonance between you and all creatures and all creation and a unity between you and your Creator.” I would often ask the swami: “How long will this take? How long will it take me to achieve enlightenment?” But the swami would either ignore my crassness or else would reply with the words that really sum up his teaching and wisdom: “Say your mantra.”[2]

Willard continues…So as you can see Main has been able to recapture the essence of this ancient practice so well.  He was asked by a fellow Benedictine monk, “How important was it to meditate in the first instance with your teacher, your guru, the holy Hindu Swami?”  To which Main replied…

“It was certainly a very great help to me. He was a man of very deep and very evident holiness and power, and just to be with him was to know you were in the presence of the power of a really radiant human being… I learned to meditate with a man who was not a Christian but he certainly believed in God—Knew God—and, as I read to you from The Upanishads the other night, he had a deeply vital sense of God dwelling within him. Now it may be significant that it was not until 15 years later after I learned to meditate with him that I began dimly to understand what my master had taught me and to understand the incredible richness of its full expression in the Christian.[3]

Willard continues…This richness is something that I have experienced and something that you can experience as well.  This ancient practice can be found among all the world’s major religions.  We should understand that “there’s going to be no difference between the way God is going to interact with you when you die and the way God’s going to interact with a Muslim when a Muslim dies.”[4]  The deepness and richness that will envelope your soul through contemplative prayer, centering prayer, silent prayer, Lectio Divina, or whatever you want to call it is beyond any human experience that you have ever had.  Listen to what Thomas Keating has to say about this experience in his book Finding Grace at the Center:  The Beginning of Centering Prayer

“In the course of the years, sitting in silent prayer, beyond where words can interfere, men and women of many diverse traditions have come together. In that deeper place a oneness is experienced that gives assurance and heart to our feeble ecumenical efforts and interreligious dialogues. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has said that if one percent of the people would meditate we will have peace. Jesus spoke of the leaven that will leaven the whole. (10,11, emphasis mine)[5]

Willard…so you can see as Main and Keating are saying, contemplative prayer is an experience that brings unity to mankind.  Rob Bell said something similar when he said “this divine breath [i.e. Spirit] is in every single human being.”[6]  As Christians we can use contemplative prayer to once again go deeper with the God that we love and serve.  During the break please consider your relationship with Christ and ask yourself if you would like to go deeper.

During the break…

Uhm…I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Esther!  I mean, do you hear what this guy is saying?

I hear it Jenny, this is why I wanted you to come along.  I don’t really know if what they are saying is true biblically, it sounds pretty good but I still have these little sirens going off in the back of my mind.

Don’t worry Esther, when we get out of here I will explain what biblical meditation actually is by showing you the verses on meditation.  Do you want to leave right now?

No, I told Josh and Karen that I would come to this so that I could understand better what they are trying to explain.  Let’s at least stay for one or two more sessions.

Hey Jenny and Esther, so what do you guys think?  Pretty deep stuff, huh?  Karen and I love hearing Dallas present this stuff.  If you are still having any trouble following don’t worry because Mindy Caliguire with Soul Care is coming up after the break and she has been teaching Willow Creek’s Spiritual Formations class.  She will walk us through more of the details.

Okay Josh, we’ll listen to what she has to say.

After the break we join Mindy’s talk…

“We are going to talk about the lifelong process of spiritual formation.  It’s a huge concept and one that really matters for us to think wisely and well about.  So I hope in this time we can talk about it in a way that will be simple without being simplistic.  The first thing you need to know is that spiritual formation is just part of being human.  The fact of the human soul is that we are always becoming a certain kind of person, it’s not a class you sign up for, it’s not a PhD program that you have to pursue although you can.  Spiritual formation of a human soul is just a fact of reality.  We are always becoming a certain kind of person so a way to think about the process of spiritual formation the lifelong process is this, you could think of the human soul being represented here by this [horizontal] line and that over time we are always becoming a certain kind of person and that means that this whole process, one’s whole life, is always a process of spiritual formation.  Now where that comes to being important for Christians is this, when we entered into a relationship with the God of the universe through the person of Christ the fact is that we have gone from death to life, from darkness to light and those things are true of us at salvation but there’s a few things that become true of us from the perspective of how our soul is now being formed. 

“There’s two things that we can now know about the spiritual formation about the life of a Christ follower.  First is this, that the destination is no longer random left up to the winds of whatever is happening in our life at any given time, now because of our relationship with God, the Scriptures tell us this, that we can know especially Galatians 4:19 tells us that we are being formed ultimately into the image of Christ being made in the likeness of Christ ultimately being marked by love, increased capacity for love for God, increased capacity of love for others.  So that’s the first thing.  The destination is that we are being formed in the image of Christ ultimately marked by love.  But the second thing is very important as well and that’s this:  We know that once we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us and in a mystical way that we will leave to the theologians to define but we know it to be true.  That now from the inside the Holy Spirit is expending effort. 

“This arrow is to depict effort [Mindy draws an arrow on the whiteboard], there is effort on the part of the God of the universe in your life and in mine toward the end of helping us in this process.  Philippians 1:6 is a great reference for this where Paul is writing to a church where he says that he wants them to be confident in this that He who began this good work in their lives would be faithful to complete it.  Now that’s the effort that God brings toward this end.  What about us?  Isn’t there effort that we need to bring if this process is going to be moving forward in our lives?  Intuitively we know, yes, there is a part for us but what is that?  Again, Paul writes in the same book to the same group of people, the next page over in my Bible urging us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, work it out.  Well he’s not saying that we need to work for our salvation, that’s been settled but he is saying to work it out, to press it through into all the different dimensions of our personhood, the grace that’s been planted deep inside.

“It’s a lifetime of work for that to get expressed in all the different parts of our lives in how we relate, how we handle our finances, all those things so what again is the work we do?  To me that is the role of these classic spiritual practices.  I draw this big box to depict effort.  A spiritual practice is something that I do, that you can do that carves out time and space so that you can pay attention to and be responsive to this ongoing work of God in your life.  How might that happen?  Well those spiritual practices happen in large groups settings, they happen in small groups in interpersonal relationships where the human soul cracks just a little bit and God’s spirit moves in and shapes and reshapes who we are and the final area and this is very important as well is these individual core practices and those are the things we’re going to be learning about more” right now.

“I want to introduce you to a form of prayer that has been very helpful to me over the years since it was first introduced to me and it might be new to you.  So, what were’ talking about in this form of prayer is called silent prayer which may seem like a huge oxymoron because prayer is supposed to be about words generally speaking but what we’re talking about in this form of prayer is this, it’s a wordless way of resting in the presence of God and resting with God, but with a spirit of openness, contrition, and longing.

“A great example or picture of this that we might see in the Scriptures comes to us from the Psalms in Psalm 131 verse 2 where in the NIV the writer says “I have stilled and quieted my soul” I love that picture to still and quiet one’s soul, “like a weaned child with its mother is my soul within me.”  And it’s a beautiful picture of contentment, intimacy, a desire just to be with Him in a very wordless and quiet way.  The reason we would pursue this form of prayer and I have to say that this is what my experience has been with this, is that it opens us up to a level of transformation that I find very few practices have had to do in my own life and this would be truly something that has been experienced for many ages in terms of church history that this prayer has been developed when we come to God in this very yielded way and in some ways I think of it as us giving a silent ascent, ascent – a silent permission giving, it’s a silent permission giving saying to God do whatever you need to do in my soul at a level below words.  I don’t even need to know what you’re doing but I am inviting you to be with me in a very present way in the deepest parts of who I am.  So, it’s a very, very powerful form of prayer but I have to tell you honestly that it’s very difficult so I have to tell you how we actually do this, we will talk about the process that’s involved and then some ideas about how often you might want to try this and how often you might set aside some time.

“The first step is that you need to carve out time for this.  You really need to be intentional for this because it’s not the kind of prayer that’s easy to do at a coffee shop or something where there’s a lot of ambient noise.  You really want to be in a place where there is undistracted silence so set aside some time and a place for that.

“Then secondly, the step you enter into next is to say “what is a word or phrase that best describes my desire for God right now?” and that would be the process of thinking of a prayer word.  And what you do with that word I will tell you in a minute but you might be in a season where you say I need wholeness or I need healing or grace or my current experience of God is all about joy or life.  Whatever it is, just one word that seems to describe what’s current between you and God, or expresses your own need or desire.

“Then the third process, the third step is that you want to just kind of sit in silence and officially acknowledge your desire to be attentive with God.  It’s just simple internal thing saying God I just want to be present with you right here, right now and then you sit quietly in utter silence, you allow all the turbulent thoughts in your mind, it’s kind of like the interior world is turbulent water that’s all moving around and you want to let that get quiet so that the breath of God can blow across that water.  But if you’re like me and most of us, that won’t stay still for very long we have a thousand distracting thoughts and they’re all going to come screaming in and when they do, that’s when you use that prayer word to say “oh, no this isn’t about my shopping list or the argument that I’m having with a coworker, this is about grace, this is about love, this is about wholeness.” Use that prayer word to bring your attention back to God and then at the end of how ever long you’ve set aside, just thank God.  Say “God, I don’t even know what you’ve done but I wanted to allow you to do whatever you wanted and I trust you’re at work.

“So thank God for his activity in your life.  And how often would you go through this?  For me when I started out it was kind of daily, it was like five times a week for twenty minutes but that might not work for you.  See if you can do five minutes of silent prayer but see if you can’t expand that because as you do your soul’s going to become trained to be open before God and it will open up all kinds of things for you at a soul level in your transformation journey.

“Since ancient times, anyone one who was interested in pursuing a deepening relationship with God had to find a way to embrace solitude.  Whether it was the Monastic communities of long ago or Jesus’ example or even today, we need to find a way to meet with God on our own.”  Let’s talk about what to bring for your time of solitude.  “Of course you want to bring your Bible, sometimes it can be helpful to bring an alternative translation, something that brings the truth of God in a fresh voice like The Message by Eugene Peterson as something that might be more meaningful to you and impact you on a deeper level.  I would also suggest bringing one or two books that feel representative of what God’s currently speaking to you about in your own life.  This is a great book called The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen.  It’s all about silence and solitude and how that helps us in our spiritual journey…”[7]

Esther, take a second and look around at the pastors, youth pastors, and leaders in this room that are eating this stuff up.  This is why the Church is in so much trouble.  These people don’t realize that this is just repackaged Hinduism.  Now, let’s get out of here so we can talk about real biblical meditation.

Okay Jenny, let me tell Josh and Karen that we are taking off.

Later that day…

Okay Esther, let’s sit down and just look up the word meditation in the Bible and see what comes up.  On the Bible software that I am using it is showing that the word meditate in the ESV is used seventeen times and the word meditation is used six times.  Let’s read some of these verses, how about we start with Joshua 1:8?  It says:

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it…”

Notice that God is commanding him to meditate on His Word day and night.  He goes on to explain that the reason for meditating is so that he will be careful to follow everything that is written in it.  This means that he is supposed to think deeply about what is written in the text and then that should affect his life.  The general idea of meditation is to think deeply or to reflect on something.  It has the idea that whatever is thought about deeply will affect future actions or thoughts.  The guys we were listening to earlier however are promoting the idea that you stop thinking and this somehow draws one closer to God.  Do you remember when Dallas Willard was reading John Main talking about his Hindu guru and he said:

“To meditate you must become silent… In our tradition we know only one way in which you can arrive at that stillness,…a word that we call a mantra. To meditate, what you must do is to choose this word and then repeat it, faithfully, lovingly, and continually… And during the time of your meditation there must be in your mind no thoughts,…

And a little later, Mindy said:

“…I love that picture to still and quiet one’s soul, “like a weaned child with its mother is my soul within me.”  And it’s a beautiful picture of contentment, intimacy, a desire just to be with Him in a very wordless and quiet way…”

None of this non-thinking, wordless way is in Scripture.  By the way, Mindy destroys some of the verses that she quotes and takes them completely out of context.  We are never told to dwell with God in a wordless and quiet way.  This comes straight out of Hinduism but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s look at a few more verses about meditating the biblical way.  When someone just reads one verse or a few words at a time, remember that you must always look at the context.  Look at what Psalm 1 says:

“Blessed is the man…but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night…”

The idea here is that there is some deep thinking and reflection on God’s law not the wordless, non-thinking gibberish that these guys are trying to sell.  Look at Psalm 63:6:

“when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;”

The Psalmist is thinking deeply about God and what God has done for him in his life.  In verse 5 he says that his soul will be satisfied and his mouth will praise God with joyful lips.  Why?  Because he is grateful for all that God has done.  We would see all of the details of his thoughts if we read the whole passage.  Look at these…

Psalm 77:12…I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Psalm 119:15…I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

These “Emergent” guys use different terms like silent prayer, quieting prayer, contemplative prayer, centering prayer, Lecitio Divina, etc. when nothing like this is in Scripture rather, what they are teaching is called Transcendental Meditation.  The Hindu idea is that through this Meditation a person can awaken an energy force at the base of the spine called the Kundalini Force or the Serpent Force and as one meditates this energy will flow up through the “chakras” or “energy centers” until the Serpent Force reaches “Crown Chakra” and that person becomes one with the universe.  There are just no two ways around this, this is occultic no matter what label you put on it.  Just in case you don’t know, occultic means “hidden” and pertains to things like Wicca, Tarot Cards, Ouija Boards, Spiritism, witchcraft, Yoga, Transcendental Meditation etc.  When Christ was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount to pray He said in Matthew 6:9 ff.

“Pray like this:  “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed by your name…” 

So the words directly from Christ to His disciples explicitly involve using words and thinking.  Never once did He describe or do anything close to what is being promoted. If you never read it, you should read John MacArthur’s sermon called “Jesus’ View of the Father.”  It is a great example of how to meditate on God in a biblical way.  In another article entitled “How to Study Your Bible” he has this to say about Meditating:

“Don’t be in a hurry when you study God’s Word. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These words…shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” In other words, God’s Word ought to occupy your mind all the time. And if you’re steadily reading through the Old Testament, and if you’re reading the books of the New Testament thirty times, that’s exactly what will happen!

Meditation is the process that molds the individual parts into a cohesive comprehension of biblical truth. It’s another word for deep thinking and reflection. Meditation–in the biblical sense of the word–is a contemplative, intelligent process, where Eastern meditation attempts to disengage the thinking processes.

Psalm 1:1-2 says, ” How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. “Like a cow chewing its cud, something it does over and over, we should repeatedly meditate and reflect on Scripture.[8]

But Jenny, how can these other guys get away with teaching this other view of meditation when the Bible is so clear?

The bait-and-switch happens like this, these emergent pastors or gurus use biblical language to talk about how we should love God, they talk about us growing close to Him, they talk about us praying, they talk about the love that God has for us as and then, WHAM! They jump from Scripture to Roman Catholic Mystics that have been trained in Hinduism, which is occultic by the way, and try to sell us on the idea that these “ancient practices” are biblical ways to reach God on a deeper level.  The problem is that you can’t find these practices in Scripture and when you study these “Emergent Evangelical Christians” that are promoting this stuff, you find that they don’t really believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.  “God” for them is not usually the God defined in the Scriptures.  They take the pieces that they like and throw away the rest.  Then they use pieces from other religions to fill in their ideas of who God is.  They also don’t usually stop with Hindu meditation.  They usually also accept things like Labyrinths, drum circles, and yoga.  These things all deal with emptying the mind and exciting the Kundalini Force so that each person can realize that they are a god or part of the universal mind.

Let me show you how this is spreading into what even now is typically considered good evangelical Christian churches.  Even Tim Keller is now allowing this kind of thinking to be promoted at his church.  Just last year they held a class at his church called “The Way of the Monk.”  On their website promotion of the class some of the things that it said were:

“Come discover age-old methods of contemplative prayer and worship that can help you encounter Christ in a more intimate, experiential way…learn what a typical monastic day is like and how you can make your own, private retreat at a monastery…”[9]

In the description of the class it says:

“In this session, we will focus on Centering Prayer, an age-old practice of authentic Christian mediation.  We will cover history, technique, obstacles and how to overcome them…As a prelude we will consider the purpose, power, and biblical precedent for silence, solitude, and contemplative practice.”[10]

They even go on to encourage the use of a “prayer rope” to help you quiet your mind and focus so you can enter your silence easier.  This sounds a lot like a set of rosary beads to me which was also taken from Hinduism.  While perhaps something like this could be good to help one remember it is just interesting the similarities with Hinduism.

The teacher for the class was Susan Castillo and on the same page it says:

“Susan Castillo is currently on Redeemer staff in the Fellowship Group department…She wholly espouses Reformed Presbyterian theology while continuing to embrace her “inner monk”…she has been fleeing to monasteries to “honeymoon with Jesus” for over ten years.”

Okay Jenny, I don’t see any of these ideas in Scripture so help me understand why the Emergent Church has gone so far away from biblical Christianity.

From what I have been able to gather, the Emergent movement started out with great intentions.  They were wrestling with the question “How do we get the Gospel of Christ to a postmodern world?”  Unfortunately, some of the foundational movers in that movement were people like Richard Foster, Brian McLaren, and Dallas Willard.  Many of them had leanings toward a more social Gospel, which is a Gospel of works and not of faith alone in Jesus Christ, but fairly early on many of them completely fell prey to postmodern thought.  They left the ideas of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), and Sola Fide (Faith Alone).  Many of them already had mystical leanings but they sought to embrace postmodernism and in doing so they walked away from the Scriptures that contain the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and as we heard in the conference, they embraced Roman Catholic Mystics which by their own open admission embraced Hinduism.

In a great article by Ken Silva dealing with this mysticism creeping into the church and on the subject of postmodernism he mentions “Dr. Gene Veith, Culture Editor of World Magazine and former Associate Professor of English at Concordia University-Wisconsin,” and in relation to how postmodernism approaches truth Dr. Veith says this all results in “postmodernism assum[ing] that there is no objective truth, that moral values are relative, and that reality is socially constructed” by various “communities.” Veith then explains:

“Whereas modernism sought to rid the world of religion, postmodernism spawns new ones. Unconstrained by objectivity, tradition, reason, or morality, these new faiths differ radically from Christianity. They draw on strains of the most ancient and primitive paganism. Even the deconstructionists speak in mystical terms…

The deconstructionists dissolve every positive statement, every rational argument, every truth claim—destroying form, they say, so as to open up what lies beyond the possibilities of representation… The inadequacies of language will be left behind,… Postmodernism, in its rejection of objective truth, have clear affinities with Hinduism and Buddhism, which teach that the external world is only an illusion spun by the human mind.”[11]

Let’s keep going with this idea of postmodernism, Esther.  Ken Silva goes on in his article to explain “Because of this, in his excellent sermon A Beginner’s Guide to Postmodernism Phil Johnson, executive director of John MacArthur’s fine Grace to You ministry and who blogs at the popular Pyromaniacs blog would say:

“I am convinced that postmodernism is inherently incompatible with biblical Christianity; and in fact, the most essential elements of post modernism are hostile to the fundamental truth claims of Scripture. And for that reason, I would argue that a postmodern mindset involves some positively sinful ways of thinking.”[12]

In the sermon he mentions right about the 11:30 mark, “the Emergent Church is simply the nickname for a movement that is trying to blend Christianity with postmodernism.”  John MacArthur adds to these thoughts and brings the various ideas of this neo-orthodoxy together in his book Reckless Faith:  When the Church Loses Its Will To Discern.  He says:

“Neo-orthodoxy is the term used to identify an existentialist variety of Christianity. Because it denies the essential objective basis of truth—the absolute truth and authority of Scripture—neo-orthodoxy must be understood as pseudo-Christianity… Neo-orthodoxy’s attitude toward Scripture is a microcosm of the entire existentialist philosophy… [Contemplative Spirituality aka] Mysticism is perfectly suited for religious existentialism; indeed, it is the inevitable consequence.

The mystic disdains rational understanding and seeks truth instead through the feelings, the imagination, personal visions, inner voices, private illumination, of other purely subjective means. Objective truth becomes practically superfluous… Mysticism is therefore antithetical to discernment. It is an extreme form of reckless faith. Mysticism is the great melting pot into which neo-orthodoxy, the charismatic movement, anti-intellectual evangelicals, and even some segments of Roman Catholicism have been synthesized.”[13]

Get this, Esther, whether yoga and contemplative prayer/meditation are practiced together or separately they both step into the spiritual realm in a way that Scripture forbids.  Even Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and a self proclaimed Christian and expert in the field of Spiritual Formation, promotes occultic practices but offers a word of caution:

 At the outset I need to give a word of warning,… Contemplative Prayer is not for the novice. I do not say this about any other form of prayer… Contemplative prayer is for those who have exercised their spiritual muscles a bit and know something about the landscape of the spirit. In fact, those who work in the area of spiritual direction always look for signs of a maturing faith before encouraging individuals into Contemplative Prayer…

I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.[14]

What!  Are you kidding me!  Jenny, Richard Foster was starting to become one of my favorites.  I did see that he seemed to be talking about this prayer contact that really wasn’t in Scripture but again, I didn’t really understand what I was dealing with.

I know Esther, he is saying that in this “prayer state” that is not ever mentioned in the Bible you have to be careful because you might come in contact with evil spirits!  Show me in the Bible something that even hints at us in an altered state of mind coming into contact with evil spirits.

One final thing Esther, God forbids these practices in a number of ways in the Scriptures but one of my favorites is in Deuteronomy 12:29-31

“When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?  I also will do likewise.’  You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”

Hinduism worships millions of false, demonic gods and right in our churches we have their worship practices being taught as if they were straight from the Scriptures.  I know that this is a lot to soak in but we can look at this in more detail later this week.  I have to get up early for work tomorrow, let’s get some sleep.

Thanks Jenny, I look forward to it!  Good night.


Articles, Books  and Sermons used in writing this article:

  1. “Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism: K.A. Christian Meditation As “Common Ground”” by pastor-teacher Ken Silva
  2. “Brian McLaren’s Hope for the Future – The Minds of Your Grandchildren;” December 6, 2008; Lighthousetrailsresearch.com blog.
  3. “What’s Going On With Dr. John Piper?” by pastor-teacher Ken Silva
  4. “How To Study Your Bible” sermon by John MacArthur
  5. “Recommending An Afternoon Meditation” by pastor-teacher Ken Silva
  6. “A Beginners Guide To Postmodernism” sermon by Phil Johnson (The Grace Life Pulpit)
  7. “Jesus’ View of the Father” sermon by John MacArthur


[1] McLaren, Brian; Finding Our Way Again:  The Return of the Ancient Practices   p.29

[2] Main, John Christian Meditation:  The Gethsemani Talks. p 11-13.

[3] Main, John Christian Meditation:  The Gethsemani Talks. p. 46-47.

[4] Pagitt, Doug

[5] Keating, Thomas;  Finding Grace at the Center:  The Beginning of Centering Prayer.  p. 10-11.

[6] Bell, Rob in the Nooma DVD “Breathe”  [booklet, 015]

[7] Caliguire, Mindy with Soul Care teaches Spiritual Formations class for Willow Creek on their online training institute on YouTube.  These are excerpts from her teaching on Spiritual Formation, Silent Prayer, and Practicing Solitude (http://www.youtube.com/user/WCAOnlineTraining?blend=1&ob=5#p/c/C0CEC630CFA4D9E8 ) Accessed June 2009.

[8] MacArthur, John.  Sermon:  How To Study Your Bible.  (http://www.gty.org/Resources/Positions/P16_How-to-Study-Your-Bible?q=meditation)

[9] Sola Sisters.  Apprising Ministries,  Sep 9, 2010, ““The Way of the Monk” Class Schedule-Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Tim Keller.”(http://apprising.org/2010/09/09/the-way-of-the-monk-class-schedule-redeemer-presbyterian-church-of-tim-keller/)

[10] Ibid

[11] Silva, Ken, What’s going on with Dr. John Piper?  (http://apprising.org/2011/01/17/whats-going-on-with-dr-john-piper/)

[12] Ibid.

[13] MacArthur, John. (Wheaton:  Crossway Books, 1994) Reckless Faith:  When the Church Loses Its Will To Discern.  p. 25-29.

[14] Foster, Richard, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 155-157.

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