Archive for the ‘Contemplative Prayer’ Category

Over the past few weeks I have reflected upon and discussed what I believe to be a major issue affecting believers today. I feel it is very pertinent not only to the situations I have written about regarding IHOP but I believe it to be a wide-sweeping idea that is affecting believers at large.

In the western world there is a prevailing Greek mindset which is so deeply ingrained that it is nearly undetectable without close study. There are Greek philosophies and ideas that have so permeated every aspect of American life that we have absorbed them into just being “American”. This nation has become a melting pot of cultures, ideas, philosophies, worldviews, foods, religions, etc. to the point that it’s difficult to define what is in fact truly “American”. Most being traced to another culture, nation, people group, etc. that brought it to the US when they immigrated here.

One aspect of Greco/Roman philosophy and tradition is the compartmentalization of life. It is the idea of categorizing things as a way of keeping them separate to control them independently of their other parts. In many eastern countries, there is no separation between culture, ethnicity and religion. In Israel, for example, the “constitution” or law of the land is the Torah. What Torah forbids is regarded as illegal in the nation of Israel. In the US however, religion and government are separate so that they can run independently of each other and be governed without influencing each other. (for more on the Greek mindset, check out the audio MP3 files on “De-Greecing the Church” on the Research, Links and Sources page.

As part of this compartmentalization, different aspects of life can be grouped under a new heading to be more widely accepted within a culture. For example, a statue of Buddha or other deity kept in someone’s home is now considered art instead of a god because it has been re-compartmentalized under a heading of “Art: statues, paintings, artifacts, etc.” So if you were to point out to someone that they have a Buddhist god in their living room they would say “No, it’s a piece of art we brought back from our trip last summer to India.” It has become cultural and artistic rather than being seen for what it actually is according to scripture: a false god. Whether the owners of the statue bow down to or sacrifice to isn’t what makes it a god. It’s the very fact that it was fashioned into a figure for worship and is acknowledged and worshiped as a deity by those of the Buddhist religion that makes it a god.

This also relates to the practice of Yoga. Yoga, an eastern Buddhist meditation practice with poses of worship to the sun goddess, has been re-compartmentalized and re-labeled in western culture as a “workout” and you can now buy DVDs on how to practice the various forms of yoga right next to the Richard Simmons’ Sweatin to the Oldies aerobic videos. Yoga is encouraged by the medical profession and the health/wellness industry as a great workout for body and mind, many with complete ignorance of the fact that they are promoting a religious practice. See also this link for more on the religious nature of yoga.

There is also an “inner healing” practice called Theophostics which is making its infiltration into Christian churches and ministries which basically teaches that all current negative emotions are simply triggers of past pain from an initial “first memory” experience in childhood rather than the present event which caused the pain, negative emotion, etc. The part that makes it dangerous is the introduction of guided imagery which has the participant go back in their memory to the initial trigger experience, look for Jesus in the room and have Jesus re-frame that experience through the journey made in the mind. Having witnessed and experienced this from a Christian ministry myself in the past I can attest to it’s virulent influence. In his article “Why Theophostics Is Not Biblical” Bob DeWaay writes:

This process is not “prayer” as defined Biblically. Prayer is not asking God for personal revelations about the meaning of first memory events. Prayer is not about getting revelations at all, it is about bringing our needs to God and knowing that He hears us. Furthermore, the process involves tempting God which the Bible prohibits. I say that because it is asking God to involve Himself in a process He has not ordained.

For example, God did not ordain that Jesus jump from the pinnacle of the temple. Had Jesus done so, expecting God to send the angels to catch Him as Satan suggested the Scripture promised, He would have been tempting God. In like fashion, teaching people that their emotional well being depends on identifying first memory events and gaining personal revelations about the meaning of such event makes them vulnerable. They take the leap into the subjective realm and think that God is going to catch them by providing special revelation. There is no good outcome for this process. Either God gives them what they are looking for and thereby reinforces the false teaching that this whole process is Biblical, or He does not and allows them to be deceived by spirits that are all too ready to hand out secret information. It is pretentious and dangerous to ask God to give revelations, the need for which was determined by a man-made psychological theory. The result is that if the process is deemed positive by the person who submits to it, they think that God has put His imprimatur on what amounts to divination.(source)

 

Many people practice yoga because it helps them with certain physical ailments, health problems or muscle injuries. People use Theophostics as a healing modality to address negative emotions and experiences and see results. Here is the clincher though: just because it works doesn’t mean it’s biblical. If false signs, wonders and miracles didn’t work, who would believe them? If psychics didn’t reveal secret knowledge, why would people consult them? There is a dangerous belief that has permeated this culture:

–The secular world says “If it works, it must be a good thing.” So they adopt it into their lifestyle, spiritual practice and thinking.

–The religious world goes a step further and says “If it works, it must be a good thing…and therefore, if it’s a good thing it must be of G-d” This is the free pass given to a whole host of false teachings, practices, etc. that have been checked off as okay simply because they show some evidence of having worked.

As believers and followers of the one, only and true G-d we are not called to pursue that which “works”. We are called to pursue that which bears fruit. The kingdom of darkness can dance and sing and enchant you with things that very well may “work” and produce results in the natural realm but they are deviant substitutes intended to lull you away from the truth of scripture…which is the only thing that produces fruit in the spiritual realm.

I’ve heard Christians argue that yoga can be practiced by believers without actually engaging in the worship of the sun goddess because they are just exercise positions or that because in Theophostic ministry they saw “Jesus” appear in their childhood memory when they were being beaten or raped and he re-framed that experience in their mind that it must be a biblical teaching and legitimate method of healing. In like kind, IHOP has taken the same path by following and promoting the teaching of Catholic mystics who re-categorized transcendental meditation by re-naming it and teaching it as contemplative prayer. TM has been around for centuries and is well known in the new age world by that name but the only way to introduce it into Christian practice is to re-name it and insert the name of G-d and then believers will buy in. Bottom line: this is not how G-d says we are to worship Him. Those who participate in what is widely accepted as another form of worship or prayer by convincing themselves it has been “redeemed” because Christianity improved it then sadly, they have been completely fooled. Borrowing a teaching, belief or practice from any secular religion (paganism, humanism, pantheism, Hinduism, etc, ) and tacking it on to the faith we are called to walk in as believers is to fall into another form of grand deception that has hypnotized well-meaning believers into worshiping another G-d.

It is imperative that we guard our hearts and be cautious about what we attribute to being “of G-d” simply because it makes grand claims of the good it can bring to your life. Consider this: since we know that “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) then if we seek solutions to our present day struggles from these alternate modalities which introduce a solution that does not lead and point us back to the Father, are we not then allowing that modality to be our savior and messiah? Yeshua (Jesus) always pointed back to the Father so then it would be entirely accurate to say that a teaching, practice, etc that points to another source or solution which leads you away from the Father and glorifies another deity, method of worship, etc. is pure and simple idolatry.

Satan is not without power…even though it is a far lesser power. He has the ability to deceive, seduce and enchant humanity with his myriad of solutions to better your life by looking to yourself and your knowledge, experience and worldview as the source to draw wisdom from. We must be on our guard and carefully filter what we allow ourselves to absorb from our western culture. This is how we are we to be in the world and not of it. We must choose lifestyles of holiness–by what we embrace as well as by what we avoid. We must choose the things of the kingdom of G-d and live as children of light (Eph 5:8) and reject that which pulls us away from Him or seeks to steal our loyalty and allegiance. By this we guard our heart and keep it with diligence. (Prov 4:23)

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This is a follow-up post to “Are Manifestations Really From God?” (10/09). The below question was added as a comment and I believe it is worth addressing as I have had this question posed to me more than once.

Joy wrote:
“Thank you so much for posting on this. I have been feeling red flags towards things I once just accepted as from God. But more recently, God has been teaching me what it means to measure everything by His Word. Manifestations (in the physical sense) have been one of the things that I have always blindly accepted as normal, and yet I can’t seem to find examples of these kinds of physical manifestations anywhere in the God’s Word! When I’ve questioned why I don’t see Jesus or his disciples practicing this kind of behavior, I am told that I am limiting God and putting Him in a box. One of the things that I keep hearing about lately is how physical manifestations are biblical, since the disciples behaved in a drunken manner when God’s Spirit came upon them in the book of Acts. I would love to hear what your take on this scripture is!”

My response:
I’m glad you brought that up. That is an argument I have heard others make also. What I see and hear often in groups like IHOP is the idea of building whole theologies around one verse or one isolated event and “canning it” as a justification for whatever they are wanting to defend in their words or actions. There are many reasons that the argument about why “behaving in a drunken manner is a manifestation of God’s Spirit” is a completely invalid one. I will address a few them.

First, remember that there are two specific groups of people who give a response in Acts 2 and for accuracy in reporting, both are mentioned. Group A, scripture tells us, is comprised of believing Jews from every nation (Acts 2:5). So these were observant, religious Jews who fully kept Torah. Group A takes note that each of them is hearing the apostles speaking in his own language (the languages of those present from each region). They marveled and asked how it was possible (vs. 7 & 8). Here’s the part that is often missed: Group B is made up of “others” who are there observing. [vs. 13: But others made fun of them and said, “They’ve just had too much wine!”]. Who makes up this group of “others” is un-told but they are clearly addressed as being a group other than and separate from the earlier mentioned group of Jews. So this is a group of mockers and naysayers standing on the sidelines. We could make many speculations but since there is no further mention of who were part of this group, assumptions would be adding to scripture what is not told to us. But we can clearly draw the fact from the passage that they were the group that was joking and mocking–not the group who was marveling and in awe that they were hearing their own native tongues being spoken by local men from the area of the Galil. (Galilee as it has been translated today)

Then Kefa (Peter in Hebrew) stands up with the eleven and quickly addresses the mocking by explaining that no one is drunk and he quiets their joking. He quickly brings a serious tone to the situation and explains what is happening. Now let me back up and address the drunkenness issue. Consider what these others (who clearly don’t know the languages being spoken) are observing: men speaking earnestly in a language they have never heard which would have made no sense to them who are full of joy and celebration. The fact that they weren’t understanding what they were hearing but saw these men testifying joyfully to what God had done is enough to have made them judge that the men had been drinking.

Now having said that, read again the paragraph below from Mike Bickle’s book “Growing in the Prophetic” and you tell me if these behaviors can be put in the same category of what the apostles were doing when the Ruach (spirit) of God came upon them:

“Shaking, jerking, loss of bodily strength, heavy breathing, eyes fluttering, lips trembling, oil on the body, changes in skin color, weeping, laughing, ‘drunkenness,’ staggering, travailing, dancing, falling, visions, hearing audibly into the spirit realm, inspired utterances (that is, prophecy), tongues, interpretation; angelic visitations and manifestations; jumping, violent rolling, screaming, wind, heat, electricity, coldness, nausea as discernment of evil, smelling or tasting good or evil presences, tingling, pain in the body as discernment of illnesses, feeling heavy weight or lightness, trances (altered physical state while seeing and hearing into the spirit world), inability to speak normally and disruption of the natural realm (for example, electrical circuits blown).” (Growing in the Prophetic, op. cit., pg. 209)

Do you see the difference?

When the spirit of God came upon people they shared the good news of the gospel, were healed of illnesses and physical handicaps and were made completely whole. Over and over there are accounts which clearly illustrate what is of the spirit of God and what is from the evil one (Satan). Violent shaking, falling into fire, foaming at the mouth, barking, gnashing, etc. were the effects of demonic manifestation when the Lord (or his followers) cast demons out.

As a disclaimer I want to mention that I am not saying that every time someone dances before the Lord or feels the love of God envelop them that they are experiencing a manifestation of the demonic. Keep in mind that when the Lord healed someone it was not to draw attention to himself–it was to bring praise and glory to the Father. He discouraged people from telling others and often asked them to keep it quiet and tell no one when they received a healing. Is this the same attitude and approach that accompany barking, shrieking and rolling on the floor? What does this activity communicate? Is it drawing attention to self or does it glorify and give praise and honor to the Father? What does this behavior produce in the life of the one who participates in it? Is a sign of healing and freedom to shake and convulse or see gold dust on your hands? Think about it and ask the spirit to lead you into what is true–not what you’ve been to conditioned to accept as truth simply because a ministry endorses it.

I’ve heard criticisms such as “to say that these things are not of the spirit of G-d is blaspheming the spirit so you’d better be careful in making that claim.” Knowing what I know to be true of the G-d I serve…the G-d who looks at the heart and knows the thoughts & intentions of all men…I know that He knows my heart and what I intend by what I say. I would caution that the real danger is to attribute to G-d such things as loss of bodily control, meditative trances, contemplative transcendental meditation, etc. A true blasphemy of the spirit of G-d is to insult the L-rd by attributing actions and manifestations to Him that are not of Him at all. Would that not be a far more grieving action than to avoid what does not bear the fruit or characteristics of being from Him? If the Lord knows your heart and knows that your desire is to serve Him in truth and purity of heart and so you withdraw from and stay away from that which you do not believe glorifies Him, is that not what guarding your heart is also about? We are called as believers to walk blameless and holy (set apart) lives before G-d which do not look like the pagan and self-gratifying practices of the world around us. So then, being entangled in things that are clearly part of the occult, spirit-ism, pantheism, new age, humanism, etc. that have infiltrated our culture (including religious cultures) is the very thing we are to guard against.

Let us choose to live lives that are set apart from the practices of the world so that we may glorify the Father with our words, actions and the thoughts of our heart.

Blessings to you!

It was brought to my attention today that in my April 5, 2009 post titled: Heresies: Re-cycled. Re-packaged. Re-named, that the direct link I included to IHOP’s website where they explained and defined contemplative prayer had been removed.

HERE is where the link was. As you can see in the top of the internet tool bar the title of the article was on Contemplative Prayer. I guess it got some negative attention so it was taken down so as to not be able to be linked back to the new age practice I explained in detail in this post if you’d like to read it for more information.

I figured that eventually word would get out and IHOP leadership would see it was not in their best interest to broadcast the article on Contemplative Prayer directly from their website. So the text from the article was saved in a Word document and I am including it in this post for those of you who tried to visit their website after the link was removed.

(*note: this is a direct copy and paste of IHOP’s article. It has not been edited or altered in any way from its original format)

IHOP’s article described and taught contemplative prayer in this way:

Contemplative Prayer
Communing with the Holy Spirit who lives within you

I. Know He Lives Inside of You
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:24–27

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes…
— Ezekiel 36:26–27

But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.
— John 4:14

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
— Romans 8:9–1

Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.
— John 7:37–39, KJV

II. Pray the Scripture

The goal is to search for the Spirit of Jesus in the Word and have depth, not necessarily length, in understanding the passage. Jesus is the Word (John 1) and we want to know Him, the Truth. In Him is life; it is His Spirit who gives life. The words of Scripture are Spirit and they are life (John 6:63). The entrance of the Word gives light and life (Psalm 119:130). As the Word of God enters your heart, the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal body (Romans 8:11).

Make sure you are searching for the Spirit of Jesus, not just searching for knowledge. Just pray the Scriptures. In simple terms, prayer is turning your heart toward God. In John 5:39, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You do not have His Word abiding in you … you search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

Method #1

• Choose a short phrase in Scripture.

• Begin slowly praying the Scripture in silence.

• Focus your prayer toward the Spirit who lives inside you (John 7:38).

• Remain on the phrase as long as you feel the Lord’s presence on it. Then move with Him, slowly praying through the passage phrase by phrase.

Method #2

• Choose a short story in Scripture.

• Read through the story several times silently.

• Close your eyes and acknowledge the Spirit who lives in you.

• Use your imagination to imagine yourself as one of the story characters or as an onlooker.

• Play out the story in your mind applying all five of your senses.

Method #3

• We call this “Beholding the Spirit Within.”

• The goal is to search for and feel God’s presence inside you, not necessarily to gain more understanding in God’s Word as with the first two methods.

• Begin by gently praying a short passage of Scripture in silence while focusing on the indwelling Spirit. The Scripture is used to quiet the clamoring of your soul and draw you to God. It is the connection point, the springboard into the spiritual realm.

• Once you feel God’s presence, focus on it in a concentrated way.

• You will be able to notice His presence now; He has always been there, but now your attention is on Him within you. The outward senses are quiet and your surface thoughts are gone. You are beginning to be consumed by the Spirit.

• In this time, feel the freedom to stay quiet. Silently ask the Spirit to show you a vision, or slowly and silently say to Him, “I love You. I love You. I love You.”

Overcoming Distractions

Your mind will have to be trained in practial ways to not wander and think on other things. To overcome a wandering mind, simply begin thinking on the Scripture you have been meditating on, and focus your prayer to the Spirit within you. The Lord sees your heart as it searches for Him, and He is smiling upon you. You may become sleepy during prayer. To overcome, sit up straight instead of slouching and do not lie down. You can also begin speaking the Scripture you are meditating on under your breath until you feel the drowsiness subside, then return to the silent prayer.
Diligence in Prayer

In time these methods of praying will become easy. You will find the Spirit who lives in you if you search for Him with all your heart, but it will require time and your whole heart.
Keys to Progress

• Humility—the high and lofty One dwells with the lowly in heart (Isaiah 57)

• Disciplined life of prayer, fasting, giving and loving your enemies (Matthew 6)

• Total abandonment in love to Jesus and loving nothing of this life (Matthew 7:14)

[End of IHOP article]

If you take the detailed instructions above and compare them against a Hindu or Buddhist “how to” on transcendental meditation, you’ll find the same format minus the word God.  This is an ancient occult practice which has been re-packaged to appear “Christian” but IHOP certainly didn’t create it.  They are borrowing it from eastern religions and Catholic mystics and marketing it as a new way to connect with God.  The one who participates in TM will certainly connect into the spirit world…but the “spirit” they will be connecting with is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

One of IHOP’s professed teachings on prayer is the introduction of “contemplative prayer”.

Below are quotes from Mike Bickle on contemplative prayer:

· “Every one in the Body Of Christ is called to live lives of contemplative prayer…”

· “Everybody is called to live in the contemplative lifestyle. Everyone! Everyone! Everyone! That’s one of the great strongholds we have to overcome (resistance to contemplative prayer).

· “…contemplative prayer, you gotta get over that hurdle! Barnes & Noble is prophesying it! Hurtle one we gotta understand it’s for everybody! Everybody is called to the fullness (contemplative prayer). We’re all going to go into this thing!” –audio message Contemplative Prayer pt1 by Mike Bickle

Many have asked me: So what is this contemplative prayer thing? What does that mean? Well, I have provided a brief definition below as well as links for you to do your own research into this dangerous new age teaching that has leaked its way into the body. This practice has become part of the “new” doctrine being presented by IHOP and other ministries. Contemplative prayer (also known by the term ‘centering prayer’) is simply a re-packaged heresy taught by the Roman Catholic church as far back as the 17th century. It was distilled into a prayer model and rose in popularity in the 1970’s. (Click here for web source)

One source explains it this way:

“Contemplative prayer, also known as “centering prayer,” is a meditative practice where the practitioner focuses on a word and repeats that word over and over for the duration of the exercise. According to Catholic priest Thomas Keating, this is how it is done: “Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within. When you become aware of thoughts, return ever so gently to the sacred word. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

Although this might sound like an innocent exercise, this type of “prayer” has no scriptural support whatsoever. In fact, it is just the opposite of how prayer is defined in the Bible. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6, NLT). “At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. The truth is, you can go directly to the Father and ask him, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy” (John 16:23-24, NLT). These verses, and others, clearly portray prayer as being comprehensible communication with God, not an esoteric, mystical meditation.” (Click here for source)

Anyone with an understanding of how the Bible teaches us to pray and a basic knowledge of the new age movement can clearly detect where this teaching is heretical at its core. So how has this been re-packaged and re-used in churches and congregations today? Simple. By inserting God’s name and the use of scripture to bring the believer into a “higher form of consciousness in prayer”. Um, hello. Red flags going off here for anyone else?

Some have argued that this is innocent and doesn’t really mean the same thing that new age teaches. Well I argue that with this analogy: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quack’s like a duck, it’s a duck!

So, re-cycling, re-packaging and re-naming a doctrine something more “listener friendly” doesn’t take it from its skewed meaning and make it suddenly okay. There is no scriptural foundation for this heretical teaching. If this were the highest form of prayer that humanity could enter into, wouldn’t it have been what Jesus taught when he walked the earth??

Time and time again, I’ve heard Mike and other leaders/teachers at IHOP take scripture out of context to support the new teaching they were introducing. One such twisting in relationship to contemplative prayer is Matthew 6:6 which says “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Well clearly, Jesus is talking about not praying to be seen but to remember that communication with the Father is about a one-on-one dialog. This verse however has been twisted at IHOP to refer to contemplative prayer by stating that this “inner room” you are to go into to pray is actually yourself. They say that this verse supports the teaching of contemplative prayer because you are to retreat into your own spirit to pray.

If the above wasn’t convincing enough, click HERE to read IHOP’s detailed explanation of the different methods of contemplative prayer that they teach. This is directly from IHOP’s website.

This is just one of many new-age/mystical practices that has found its way into the body by simply re-naming the components so as to deceive those hearing it. Uncover its roots and you’ll see it in it’s original packaging. It’s like doing a cosmetic touch-up on a house that has been condemned and boarded up. When the paint starts cracking and the wallpaper comes down, you begin to see what it was before. Let us not stray away from the simplicity of devotion to our Lord (2 Cor 11:3)

For further research, here are a few other sources. I do not necessarily endorse these particular sites or ministries so please read for yourself with discernment and an open ear to the voice of God. Some sites below are PRO-contemplative prayer and will teach it with a different spin. Others are anti-contemplative prayer. But I thought you might be interested in seeing it from both perspectives.

Sites:

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/cp.htm

http://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-prayer.html

http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_ContemplativePrayer1.html

http://www.prayingchurch.org/contemplative.html