People promoting CP often present a false dilemma between “neatly packaged” evangelical Christianity oriented toward logic and reason, versus the experiential, mystical aspects of CP. This idea is becoming more common now with the influence of postmodernism. This has been shown to be a false dilemma. By supporting reason and thinking as part of communication with God, one is in harmony with the biblical text; one is not discriminating against silent prayer, feelings or experiences.
Nowhere in the Bible is prayer a technique or a way to go beyond thinking. Creating a whole theology of prayer apart from the Bible is dangerous, precisely because we are entering an area fraught with subjectivism, truth based on experience, and therefore, an area where we can be deceived. CP teachers tell us that prayer is listening to and having “divine union” with God,65 but the Bible presents prayer as words and thoughts. CP tells us to focus inward, but the Bible admonishes us to focus outward on the Lord. An evaluation of CP reveals it to be a melange of New Age and Eastern-tinged techniques and concepts that exist outside the Bible.
CP is a misnomer, since it is neither contemplation nor prayer as found in the Bible. We should be wary of any instruction that advises us to:
Breathe a certain way before or during prayer
- Maintain a certain posture or bodily position
- Repeat a word or phrase, even if it’s from the Bible, or use a word or phrase to stay “focused”
- Go beyond thinking or thought
- To turn inward in order to find or be with God
- Be in silence in order to truly pray
- Believe that CP is true prayer
Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with God. Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and does not rely upon truth or fact. Yet the Word of God has been given to us for the very purpose of basing our faith, and our lives, on Truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What we know about God is based on fact; trusting in experiential knowledge over the biblical record takes a person outside of the standard that is the Bible.
Contemplative prayer is no different than the meditative exercises used in Eastern religions and New Age cults. Its most vocal supporters embrace an open spirituality among adherents from all religions, promoting the idea that salvation is gained by many paths, even though Christ Himself stated that salvation comes only through Him (John 14:6). Contemplative prayer, as practiced in the modern prayer movement, is in opposition to biblical Christianity and should definitely be avoided.