Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative Prayer, aka Centering Prayer

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Contemplative prayer — also known as ‘centering prayer’ or ‘listening prayer’ — is a mystical meditation practice in which a person focuses on a word and silently repeats that word over and over again.

By focusing on the word you empty your mind of any other thoughts with the idea of clearing your mind to allow God to speak and act.

This exercise has no scriptural support and in fact contradicts everything the Bible teaches about prayer.

Marcia Montenegro, of Christian Answers for the New Age, writes:

Contemplative Prayer-also called Centering Prayer or Listening Prayer-has been taught by Roman Catholic monks Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and Basil Pennington, as well as Quaker Richard Foster and others. There is no one authority on this method, nor is there necessarily a consistent teaching on it, though most of the founding teachers quote mystics along with Hindu and Buddhist spiritual teachers.

According to

Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.” It should be added, “During the twenty years (1961-1981) when Keating was abbot, St. Joseph’s held dialogues with Buddhist and Hindu representatives, and a Zen master gave a week-long retreat to the monks. A former Trappist monk who had become a Transcendental Meditation teacher also gave a session to the monks.

The influence of Buddhism and Hinduism on Contemplative Prayer (hereafter referred to as CP) is apparent. Words such as “detachment,” “transformation,” “emptiness,” “enlightenment,” and “awakening” swim in and out of the waters of these books. The use of such terms certainly mandates a closer inspection of what is being taught, even though Contemplative Prayer is presented as Christian practice.

Themes that one finds echoed in the CP movement include the notions that true prayer is silent, is beyond words, is beyond thought, does away with the “false self,” triggers transformation of consciousness, and is an awakening. Suggested techniques often include breathing exercises, visualization, repetition of a word or phrase, and detachment from thinking.
– Source: Marcia Montenegro, Contemplating Contemplative PrayeroffsitePDF file, Journal, Vol. 11 nr. 1, published by Midwest Christian Outreach

Contemplative Prayer and the Emerging Church

Author Ray Yungen (A Time of Departing, For Many Shall Come In My Name) explains contemplative prayer.

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This post was last updated: Aug. 14, 2011