Contemplative prayer has become increasingly popular in the church. What is it? Surely prayer is good, right? Prayer is good if it is prayer as taught to us in the Bible. However, contemplative prayer cannot be found in the Scriptures, but rather was developed by the Desert Fathers during ancient church history. According to the Center for the Contemplative Mind in Society, the definition of contemplative prayer is: “Contemplative Prayer is a prayer of silence, an experience of God’s presence as the ground in which our being is rooted, the Source from whom our life emerges at every moment…. Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart – our whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing – closer than consciousness itself.” (source)
Contemplative prayer, also known as listening prayer, is used in an effort to “hear from God.” One quiets the mind in order to hear what God has to say. While this was primarily among Roman Catholic monks and mystics, it has been brought into Protestantism through proponents such as Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline (Foster was influenced by Thomas Merton, a Roman Catholic Trappist monk who was drawn to mystical practices in Hinduism and Buddhism). This practice incorporates Eastern meditation techniques, such as the repeating of a word or phrase in order to enter a trance-like state or altered state of consciousness. Former New Agers tell us that this is what they would do to contact their spirit guide when they were in the New Age! The Bible forbids contacting mediums or sorcerers (Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Biblical prayer is our communicating with God, not His communicating with us. God communicates to us through His Word, the Bible.
Others have done a much better job at explaining what contemplative prayer is and why it is not biblical. I urge you to take a look at these articles to see why this practice is so dangerous and why it is one that we must not participate in if we are to follow God’s Word.
Contemplative Prayer at Berean Research
Contemplative Prayer by Gary Gilley at Southern View Chapel
Contemplative Prayer at Christian Answers for the New Age
Contemplative Prayer by Sola Sisters