Mailbag, Prayer

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: What is Contemplative Prayer?

Originally published August 1, 2016



What is contemplative prayer, and is it biblical?

Contemplative prayer, often called centering prayer, (and connected to sozo prayer and soaking prayer) is very much like a “Christianized” transcendental meditation (similar to New Age or Buddhist meditation). You are supposed to sit quietly, empty your mind, and repeat a biblical word or phrase over and over until you begin “hearing from God.”

Is this a biblical form of prayer? No, and it is also very dangerous. Many who have come out of this practice and churches or organizations which promote it (the International House of Prayer, or IHOP, and Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, are major proponents) report that contemplative prayer is much like being hypnotized and that it was an open door for demonic opression and even possession.

Our beliefs and worship practices are to be drawn from Scripture, and nowhere in Scripture are we told to pray like this. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He did not tell them to empty their minds and repeat a mantra. He said,

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
Matthew 6:7-13

Jesus taught us to talk to God using intelligible words, worshiping Him, repenting and seeking His forgiveness, and asking Him to provide for our needs. It is not His desire that we mimic a pagan form of meditation.

Additional Resources:

What is Contemplative Prayer? at Got Questions

What is Centering Prayer? at Got Questions

Contemplative Prayer at Berean Research

The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer at Sola Sisters

IHOP is Dangerous: Stephanie’s Testimony

If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

4 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: What is Contemplative Prayer?”

  1. When I first read this, I did not agree. But after re-reading and thinking, I realized it was a matter of definition. The “Contemplative” prayer I was taught was not what you describe – that New-Age empty-the-mind repetitious-muttering attempt to ascend your soul.

    It is, instead, a decisive, conscious effort to push out worldly thoughts and place the mind on Jesus. It is part of the discipline of Silence and Solitude, patterned after Jesus (Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42). I am not sure what is the proper term or title for this prayer. It is not some mystical babble but a concrete exercise at “taking captive every thought” (2 Corinthians 10:5). It also, for me, has become a time of silent waiting and acceptance of God’s timing over my own, a practice of patience, a moment of consciously letting go of my own will and prayerful acknowledging His goodness and control, a time to “contemplate” the Wisdom and Love of God, and express Gratitude.

    If you have any recommendations for what I should call this type of prayer, so as not confuse it with the New-Age-Knock-Off, I would be very grateful.


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