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The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer

One of the continuing snares Christians often encounter in their churches (of almost every denomination) is contemplative prayer. Is it biblical? Why are so many discernment ministries sounding the alarm? After all, doesn’t the Bible say we are to meditate on God’s Word? The answer to that last question is YES! We are to fill our minds with Scripture and think on those verses night and day–or as often as possible.

The problem with contemplative prayer is its mystical/Eastern (non-Christian) roots and its mind-emptying techniques (entering the “silence,” breath prayers, chanting mantras, etc.).

Today on her Sola Sister’s BlogChristine Pack shared some excellent resources along with “red flag” terms you can look for as well as insights from her own experience in the New Age:

The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer

By Christine Pack  (Article reprinted in full)

An excellent article by Pastor Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel explains why Contemplative Prayer practices (which are now in every Christian denomination that I know of) are unbiblical. Contemplative Prayer often enters into churches under the following guises:

- Spiritual Formation
– Spiritual Disciplines
– Ancient Future
– Contemplative Spirituality
– Taize
– Centering Prayer
– Lectio Divina
– Jesus Prayer
– Labyrinth
– Walk To Emmaus

Writes Gilley:

“Spiritual formation seeks to lure evangelicals into ancient Catholic and Orthodox contemplative practices in order to draw closer to God, experience His presence, and hear His voice apart from Scripture. In order to embrace this mystical form of spirituality, contemplatives are willing to compromise at virtually every turn. Central doctrines such as sola fide and sola Scriptura are shrugged off as secondary. Methods never found in the Bible as the true means of spiritual growth and of knowing God, are emphasized. And complete heretics such as Thomas Merton are seen as reliable spiritual guides to spirituality. The contemplatives have sold out to Catholic mysticism and abandoned the clear teaching of Scripture. Sadly, in the process many undiscerning evangelicals will follow suit.”

I grew up in a very liberal church (i.e., a church devoid of the true gospel), in which Contemplative Prayer practices were recommended routinely for those who came seeking help with “a stale prayer life.” After I left the church as a young woman and went into the New Age, these mystical practices were also an enormous part of my newfound spirituality.

When God saved me at 35, I repented of these practices and recognized them for what they were: a Satanic counterfeit designed to tricks non-believers through whipped up mystical experiences into thinking they were experiencing God. But sadly, it wasn’t long before these practices began flowing into what had once been solid, evangelical churches (including my own precious church, where I was saved).

So in a way, I feel I have been surrounded by these wicked mystical practices all of my life. I know them from the inside out, and I know how deceptive they are. They can deceive unregenerated people into thinking for years – in many cases, a lifetime – that they have a real, active, ongoing relationship with the God of the universe.

Many of these people will think they are Christian when in fact they are not. They will have aligned themselves with other professing Christians, they will attend weekly services in a church, they will be doing all of the things that they think they are supposed to be doing in order to be reconciled to God (tithing, attending church, serving the community, sending teams to foreign countries to dig wells, build infrastructure, etc.), and a great many of them will be lost, lost, lost. These are the people God is talking about in Matthew 7:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Do you understand what I’m saying here? These are not self-professed atheists or Hindu’s or Muslims or witches. They aren’t down at the local mosque or temple or witch’s coven…..they are in churches. These are people who are deceived. Perhaps they are people you know and are close to: spouses, children, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, parents, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. If you know anyone who has become ensnared in the deceptive mystical practices of Contemplative Prayer, please share Pastor Gilley’s article with them, or any of the other many, many articles/programs about Contemplative Prayer that can be found on this site, as well as a number of other excellent sites, including:


Twin City Fellowship

Stand Up For The Truth

Biblical Christianity 

Christian Answers For The New Age (CANA) 


Worldview Weekend 

Fighting For The Faith

 Additional Resources 

The 101 of Contemplative Prayer 

Testimony of a Former Mystic

A Time of Departing(an excellent primer on how mysticism is entering today’s churches)

Contemplating Contemplative Prayer: Is It Really Prayer?

Lectio Divina and “Hearing God’s Voice”

John Piper Encouraging Lectio Divina

John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist Church Endorsing Books by Contemplative Spirituality Mystics Dallas Willard and Richard Foster

Beth Moore and John Piper Lead “Lectio Divina Lite” Prayer at Passion 2012 Conference

Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.  – by Kevin DeYoung

Just Do Something – by Kevin DeYoung (audio)

On John Piper and Lectio Divina

Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence

What Is Mysticism?

What Is Mysticism? (5-Part Series by Dr. Gary Gilley) – Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5

Mystical Youth Ministry

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30 Responses to “The Dangers of Contemplative Prayer”

  1. Mr Davis #

    Sober in the King James is used to describe a state of mind, which, we are to continue in. Yet it these very things we set aside when you practice going into yourself which is what eastern mystisism is all about.

    To be sober is to be vigilant.
    To be sober is to be present.
    To be sober is to be aware.

    Fill your mind with Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. Fill your mind with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is The salvation of sinners by the Blood of Jesus Christ from the coming wrath of a Just and Holy God.

    Even know the souls under the alter in heaven cry out: And they cried with a loud voice, saying , How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth. Revelation 6:10

    The Lord is coming so watch

    Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.

    According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence. So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. Isaiah 59:15-20

    Our redeemer is coming!

    May 4, 2012 at 2:18 AM Reply
  2. jeff #

    With all due respect and Christian love, I think this is incorrect thinking. If meditating on the Word brings you closer to God, I fail to see what is wrong with that. If sola
    Scriptura is your concern, I suggest you read the Bible more carefully. Jesus challeneges us many times to live our faith and that if we don't, he won't recongnize us, even though he gave his all for us.

    May 4, 2012 at 7:14 AM Reply
  3. Nate #

    What's wrong with Taize? Hmm, sing a line or two of the psalms while thinking about it. Yeah that sound too New Agey…

    May 7, 2012 at 2:43 PM Reply
  4. Nate #

    Just saw you're attacking Lectio Divina too…. I read the articles that claim to describe it…. very twisted perspective. There should have been a real Catholic perspective on Lectio Divina… Not some anti-Catholic's warped interpretation of it.

    Just to point out one flaw… Lectio Divina dates to the 12th century… in comparison to Lectio Divina, Lutheranism is a "New Age" religion…..

    May 7, 2012 at 2:53 PM Reply
    • Paula #

      Depends what Lutherans you're talking about. The ELCA (the largest "Lutheran" body) is Lutheran In Name Only. The rest are fairly conservative.

      October 29, 2014 at 12:04 PM Reply
  5. Symphony #

    To answer your question ("Do you understand what I am saying here?")…NO! I came to this page because I heard the term contemplative prayer this morning and googled it to see what the heck it is and reading your story, I still don't have a clue.

    March 14, 2014 at 6:28 AM Reply
  6. Derek #

    Where did the scriptures come from in the first place? Were not these men divinely and supernaturally inspired? Are they the exception? Does the written Word of God replace the presence and voice of the Spirit in us? That, my friend, is heresy.

    April 9, 2014 at 12:49 PM Reply
  7. Andrew #

    It makes perfect sense for you to feel ill at ease with contemplative prayer, especially considering what you've been through. However, I would encourage you to be accepting of your brother's and sisters who say they hear from God. This kind of listening is Scriptural as evidenced by the book of Acts, specifically in chapter 13: 1-12 and in 21:11. I don't believe that contemplative prayer is for you because you truly have experienced heresy and terrible wounds from spiritualism. However for others it may be simply meditating on God: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."(Philippians 4:8 NIV)

    June 22, 2014 at 12:55 PM Reply
    • christine #

      Contemplative prayer is based on pantheism where as Biblical meditation/prayer is based on monotheism. There's a world of difference. Pantheism = false gods & deception. Monotheism = the God of the Bible & truth. 1John 4 instructs us to test the spirits. And in Mat. 24 Jesus warns us to not be deceived. There will be many counterfeits.

      January 8, 2015 at 10:30 AM Reply
  8. Maria quay #

    This website has contemplative prayer all mixed up. Christian contemplative prayer is resting quietly in God's presence. The Lord in the Scriptures invates us "be still and know that I am God" to come to him in his presence with all humility and complete openes to his Spirit. We don't need any techniques of whatever from other religions to quier our souls as God provides his peace. Christian contemplative prayer is ALL God's work in the soul as with his help try to center in his presence. He knows all our need so we don't need to verbalize them to him. This form of prayer only brings the soul closer to the Lord. The great saints of the church all practice it. If you don't have God as the center of your life and your mind is busy with worldly concerns, forget contemplative prayer.

    July 22, 2014 at 10:22 PM Reply
    • Stephen #

      Maria, you are so far off track that it is scary. You've been fooled. Please get some help from a true born-again Christian. Soon.

      July 23, 2014 at 11:34 AM Reply
    • rosinavoz #

      The verse you quoted, 'Be still and know that I am God', has nothing whatever to do with quieting your mind and going in to His presence in a contemplative state. Look at it in its context. Psalm 46 is a psalm that can be of great comfort to Christians in these Last Days as we see the signs of the soon return of Christ with all the distresses that are taking place worldwide at an accelerated rate. READ THE WHOLE PSALM! It is about disastrous times coming upon the world…calamity on every side…the heathen raging, great earthquakes and natural disasters, wars, persecution of Christians occurring. But…in the midst of it all, God says to us, 'be still and know that I am God'. This is not a call to contemplative prayer. It is a call to faith…to keep believing that, no matter what happens or how bad things get, God is in control of it all. His purposes are being accomplished and He will be faithful to those who are called by His name. People take this verse out of context and make it mean something that was never intended. We don't read scripture to impose our meaning on it. We read it in its entire context to get the true meaning…let the text interpret itself.

      Nowhere in the bible are we taught to pray the contemplative way. Give me chapter and verse. Not there! True prayer is hard work! It is! Just because God knows our needs does not mean He doesn't want us to verbalize them to Him. The Lord gave us an example of how to pray in the Lord's Prayer. He did not say, 'sit quietly, empty your mind of everything except thoughts of me, now center yourself in my presence, say nothing just bask in Me'. Jesus DID give a formula for praying…praising God, confession of sin, thanksgiving, petition…all of that is in the Lord's Prayer which is our model of how to pray.

      Contemplative prayer comes from the Catholic Church, the mystical 'so-called 'Church Fathers'. They got it from the Buddhists and just Christianized it. It can be dangerous… can lead you into communication with a false Jesus. You feel such a loving presence… like you are communing with Jesus, but Satan can come as an angel of light and disguise himself to fool even the best of Christians and that is why we need discernment. The Word of God keeps us safe is we follow what it teaches and not get off on these manmade tangents. That is all contemplative prayer is, truly.

      Please reconsider you thinking on these things. You are being deceived. The bible
      warns us that the Last Days will be a time of great deception…so great that even believers can get off tract and be deceived. Test everything you hear by the Word of God. Too many people today are reading books by this author and that author (Foster, Willard, Williamson, etc). Just read the Word. It has all need and will never steer you wrong.

      July 23, 2014 at 11:38 AM Reply
  9. lyn #


    Did you even read the article? Here is just a small snippet from it, "The problem with contemplative prayer is its mystical/Eastern (non-Christian) roots and its mind-emptying techniques (entering the “silence,” breath prayers, chanting mantras, etc." Do take note of its origin – mystical/Eastern {non Christian} roots!! Where does the bible define and promote contemplative prayer? Psalm 46:10 does not promote cp, perhaps this commentary from Matthew Henry will bring clarity to the passage, "(1.) Let his enemies be still, and threaten no more, but know it, to their terror, that he is God, one infinitely above them, and that will certainly be too hard for them; let them rage no more, for it is all in vain: he that sits in heaven, laughs at them; and, in spite of all their impotent malice against his name and honour, he will be exalted among the heathen and not merely among his own people, he will be exalted in the earth and not merely in the church. Men will set up themselves, will have their own way and do their own will; but let them know that God will be exalted, he will have his way will do his own will, will glorify his own name, and wherein they deal proudly he will be above them, and make them know that he is so. (2.) Let his own people be still; let them be calm and sedate, and tremble no more, but know, to their comfort, that the Lord is God, he is God alone, and will be exalted above the heathen; let him alone to maintain his honour, to fulfil his own counsels and to support his own interest in the world. "

    May God grant you wisdom and discernment, causing you to flee from mystical practices that are an abomination to Jehovah.

    July 23, 2014 at 9:37 AM Reply
  10. davidbrainerd2 #

    I've been reading one of Merton's books, called The Life of the Vows, to see what modern Catholic monasticism is like. (He could have used a better editor and the introduction of some chapter divisions…) Anyway, he talks a lot of about contemplative prayer, but I can't figure out what it is. I went to wikipedia, wasn't clear. This post isn't too clear either. But from this post I get the impression that its the idea that you don't pray to God, you sit around meditating and waiting for God to pray to you. Does that about sum it up? If not, then I still have no clue what it is.

    July 25, 2014 at 1:06 AM Reply
    • davidbrainerd2 #

      Check out this definition: "Contemplative spirituality can be defined as a life of faith in interior submission to God and pervading all one's motivations and behavior; a life of prayer and action prompted by the inspirations of the Holy Spirit; a disposition not limited to devotional practices, rituals, liturgy, or other particular acts of piety or service to others, but rather the catalyst that integrates, unifies and directs all one's activities." (from http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/category/cat

      It just sounds like gobbly-gook to me. Its the same kind of thing Merton says. Doesn't anyone have a real definition….in English?

      Then on their answer to "What is a centering prayer?" they say:

      "Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God's presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. This method of prayer is both a relationship with God and a discipline to foster that relationship."

      Again gobbly-gook. One type of ill-defined prayer which prepares you for another type of ill-defined prayer? Really, dude, really?

      And on Lectio Divina:

      "Like Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina cultivates contemplative prayer. Unlike Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina is a participatory, active practice that uses thoughts, images and insights to enter into a conversation with God. Lectio Divina also is distinguished from reading the Bible for edification or encouragement, Bible study, and praying the Scriptures in common, which are all useful but different practices."

      I don't understand that at all. Like Paul says, "I would rather speak five words in a language people can actually understand than 5000 in an unknown tongue." I mean seriously, can I get an English translation please?

      July 25, 2014 at 1:16 AM Reply
    • Stephen #

      David, please remember that with these "emergent and contemplative" folks, YOU are the great I AM. So, yes, you are right, and now that you know it . . . RUN as Joseph did when Potiphar's wife tried to put the moves on him, and don't look back. Ever.

      July 25, 2014 at 10:24 AM Reply
  11. Diane #

    I have just started reading about centering prayer or contemplative prayer…..it scares me to death. I don't like the fact that we are told to "empty ourselves out." Where does the Bible say we are to do that? And who is going to come in and fellowship with me…..the enemy under the disguise as God? I give labyrinth prayer walks to boot too.

    September 14, 2014 at 7:36 AM Reply
    • ted #

      " I don't like the fact that we are told to "empty ourselves out." Where does the Bible say we are to do that?"

      Jesus said, "Deny yourself" He also said that we are to pick up our crosses and follow him who also "emptied himself of all his divinity". He emptied himself completely on the cross. What does the gospel of Mark end with? Ans. the empty tomb. Look inside, there's nobody there.

      September 22, 2014 at 9:26 AM Reply
  12. Jewelie Dee #

    Contemplative prayer that introduces true elements of pagan mysticism is problematic, but spending time with God and listening for His voice and meditating on Jesus and the word of God in deep meditative sessions cannot be wrong. We are so busy we scarcely give room for opening ourselves up to God in this way. God knows our heart and whether we are truly seeking Him and His truth or some pseudo religious experience. I have received significant spiritual breakthroughs in my life through this form of worship.

    October 12, 2014 at 5:13 PM Reply
    • passerby #

      Listening for God's voice is through the Scriptures and that is the only true voice of God you should be listening to. Your adversary goes around as an angel of light with spiritual sounding words and eventually you will be looking to that mystical experience and rely on it for your truth. God is not giving new revelation. You have already admitted that you are growing more spiritually so you are now exchanging the truth of scripture for experience. Don't be fooled, if you are Christ's and the Holy Spirit is in you then you are already as close to Him as you will get in this life.

      December 22, 2014 at 11:01 AM Reply
  13. infjmusings #

    Seriously? It sounds like you haven't studied this adequately or spent time with reputable sources.

    December 12, 2014 at 6:13 PM Reply
  14. Bunu #

    You guys are just babbling about something you don't fully understand. Go to the nearest catholic church during a priest's office hours and ask him all about contemplative prayer and he'll glady explain it to you, especially you guys using tactics and pointing invisible hands at the catholic church. I know the Bible is God's words in its totallity, in its pure form written by Him through His saints and godly, holy people. But that does not mean that we are limited to the Bible. The Bible says forgive 77*7 time, now that's 539 times. Tell me does that mean once it's more than 539, we are allowed to not forgive? God in His perfection gave us brains to think, although He knows it's nothing compared to his own, but at least it's something. So, being in the presence of God does not mean I have to say orient or eastern chants before going into contemplative prayer. I sit, take a deep breath, forget about the troubles of the day and life (that's the emptying of the mind) and focus on your God and Saviour in the unity of the Holy spirit that came on you since your baptism. And to those talking about the devil coming as an angel of light, there's no where the devil took form of something holy and pure just for him to deceive. You can prove me wrong if you can, I'm open to constructive and corrective criticisms. The Bible in the book of John 1:5 said, ' The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.' The devil cannot come and promise you holy things in the open. He gives people according to the desires of the flesh; material thing, things that are not of the Light. Please y'all should try and 'comprehend' it.

    December 29, 2014 at 3:20 PM Reply
    • lyn #

      as for you stating " And to those talking about the devil coming as an angel of light, there's no where the devil took form of something holy and pure just for him to deceive. You can prove me wrong if you can, I'm open to constructive and corrective criticisms." – here you go, "2Co 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
      2Co 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

      December 29, 2014 at 10:05 PM Reply
  15. lyn #


    You claim, "But that does not mean that we are limited to the Bible." Are you familiar with Deuteronomy 4:2, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.", or Proverbs 30:6, "Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar?" Or this text, which is the best example to disprove your opinion that we are not limited to the bible, that we should go outside God's word, "And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live." Deuteronomy 8:3

    God's word is what His true sheep feed upon, daily, for growth, strength, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, guidance, and direction. Step outside the boundaries of Holy Writ and you will be drug off by all kinds of unscriptural lies, fads, rituals, etc. We draw from the vine {John 15:5} continually, or else we will not receive the proper 'nourishment' for our souls.

    As for the number of times we are to forgive, Christ was not speaking of a specific number, rather, His point was forgiveness is lifelong and never-ending in the true follower.

    December 29, 2014 at 9:26 PM Reply
    • rosinavoz #

      Amen, Lyn on both of your responses to Bunu. So clear!

      December 30, 2014 at 10:58 AM Reply
      • lyn #

        It truly is dear sister, but only IF you exalt the word of God to its proper status. When folks start adding to and taking from His word, then attempt to make the Bible some secondary source for truth, that's where Satan gets a foothold. Praise God for imparting wisdom to His true sheep!

        December 30, 2014 at 11:06 PM Reply
  16. Thaddeus #

    Scripture is what it is and is believed to be true because of the Catholic Church. The Bible is part of Tradition. Sola Scriptura is not Biblical, if you can take the irony.

    January 4, 2015 at 12:14 AM Reply
  17. lyn #

    Scripture is what it is because of GOD, and NOT some dead religion…
    "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" 2 Timothy 3:16a
    ' Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost'. 2 Peter 1:20-21
    Sola Scriptura is indeed biblical, "And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live." Deut. 8:3
    'But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.' Matthew 4:4

    There are warnings for those who dare add to or take from His word, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." Deut. 4:2
    'Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar'. Proverbs 30:6
    ' I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another'. 1 Cor. 4:6

    The Bible is clear, nothing is needed outside Scripture for the true born from above follower of Christ. When dead religions insist on adding to or taking from His word, they sin. The traditions of the RCC are not scriptural at all, including praying to Mary – Christ commands us to pray to our Father; calling the pope 'holy father', Christ commands we call no one on earth 'father' {Matthew 23:9}. The false teaching of infant baptism by the RCC is another 'added' teaching that Scripture does not support, for those who received the word were baptized {Acts 2:41}. To receive is to take fully with pleasure, to accept, welcome, approve. How does an infant do such a thing?
    I can see why dead religions want to deny the cry of sola scriptura. Discredit the Bible and you can lead multitudes down the broad road, which is exactly what the RCC does. How tragic! Praise God for the gift of discernment; it's no surprise Christ responded to the disciples question of what would be the sign of His coming and of the end of the age with this, 'take heed no man deceive you'…

    January 4, 2015 at 1:31 AM Reply
  18. Rune #

    I no longer support the view I made here, and it would be great if you could remove my comment from your blog.

    February 1, 2015 at 3:09 AM Reply
    • standupwi #

      Found it and deleted it. :-)

      February 1, 2015 at 7:30 AM Reply

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