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Deception in the Church: Contemplative Prayer

Stephanie Olson and Cindy Hultine interview Beverly Brown on the subject of Contemplative Prayer. Is Contemplative Prayer, Centering Prayer, and Soaking Prayer a way to get closer to the Lord or is it a deceptive practice that will ultimately lead you away from Him?


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4 Responses so far.

  1. Denise says:

    I am listening to your podcast of March 2014. Deception in the Church – Contemplative Prayer

    I see that there have been only 14 views and no comments. I am not surprised. I do not know what you are talking about but you are not talking about Centering Prayer. The sacred word is not a Mantra, it is not repeated over and over. I have heard people erroneously speak of the Sacred Word as a Mantra in other gatherings. Fr. Thomas Keating does not expect us to stop thinking. He states that thoughts are a normal part of our Humanity. He is suggesting that if we can let those thoughts go by as boats on a river we can "rest in God." The world is filled with activity, with technology, with instant communication. If we simply "stop" and spend time with God in silence during the day, we re-fuel to return to daily life with grace. The Sacred Word is used to help one be focused and not "engage" thoughts during the time of prayer, such as "what will I make for dinner" or "I forgot to pick up the laundry." The thoughts will come but we let them go by and gradually enter the silence where God lives.  There are no expectations in Centering Prayer. We simply show up to "rest in God." The prayer comes out of a Judeo-Christian tradition. The tradition of Contemplative Prayer comes from the Desert Fathers and Mothers who were basically Hermits, but also Spiritual Guides. It continued with the Monks and Nuns then with the "Mystics" (as stated in Caholicism) such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and the author of the "Cloud of Unknowing." I am not sure what your tradition is. But the beliefs you have listed on your website are the same as Catholicism. The Trinity is the source of Centering Prayer. The "breath" is the Holy Spirit. Fr. Thomas Keating and the people of Contemplative Outreach International teach that the "fruits" of Centering Prayer are not found during the time of silent prayer, but in our daily life. Contemplatives are not solitary individuals, but live in the modern world and all our actions, from sweeping the floor to caring for an elderly parent are done in the name of Christ. Fr. Thomas Keating speaks from Scripture. He helps people to embrace the meaning of the Gospel in their daily life. Contemplative Prayer is not dangerous, it is fruitful, just as your prayer is fruitful to you. We do not deny other forms of prayer. We use other forms of prayer through out the day in addition to our 2 -20 minute "sits."

    Centering Prayer is not a "feel good" experience. It is an experience of resting in God, and opening up to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Because we are human the time in Centering Prayer can bring up some past negative experiences. To work with a Spiritual Director is very helpful. To "empty" oneself is to then be able to "fill" oneself with God's gifts and use them in our daily lives. 

    We are created in Goodness. We are not created in "sin." Sin came into the world and Christ redeemed us. Lectio Divina is a way of praying Scripture that is used daily by Monks and Nuns and now by folks in the world. The words that you are having trouble pronouncing are, yes, Latin. The Latin has great meaning in our tradition and it is hard to hear it being made fun of. 

    So what I gleamed from your Podcast is that your Religious Tradition is stagnant and exclusive. In the Contemplative community we embrace Christ and other religions and cultures.  This is what Jesus did. He spoke to the Samaritan woman to the great surprise of his Apostles. He ate with a tax collector and let him know that he was loved in a society that hated tax collectors. There are folks of other traditions, who practice Centering Prayer. Some have come from the Jewish tradition, and the Buddhist tradition. I heard a story of a woman who practiced Centering Prayer as she was dying. She was an Atheist. As the world evolves it is healthy to embrace all peoples, to share the love of Christ, of Buddha, and other traditions. Centering Prayer embraces all. It comes from a Christian tradition and embraces all. Thank You.

    • Hi, Denise,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to our podcast on Contemplative Prayer and contacting us with your thoughts. Actually, this was one of our most listened to podcasts to date. We have had well over 400 downloads and views on our website alone (not including iTunes downloads).
      The podcast discusses my mother’s journey as she researched Centering or Contemplative prayer as it is presented by Father Thomas Keating, Father Thomas Merton, and Father Henri Nouwen along with others. One of the alarming things that she discovered, was that these three men came to a place where they no longer believed in the exclusivity of Christ as the only way to the Father.
      Your own quote at the end of your response indicates that you also believe there are many pathways to the Father: “As the world evolves it is healthy to embrace all peoples, to share the love of Christ, of Buddha, and other traditions. Centering Prayer embraces all. It comes from a Christian tradition and embraces all. Thank You.”
      Yes, Christ did all of those things you discuss and more. Christ loved everyone. Christ was inclusive. BUT … He did so with the end goal of bringing those people into the kingdom (and still does).
      For instance, in John 10:8-10, Jesus makes this bold statement: “…”All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.…”
      And again, in Acts 4:11-12, Peter and John make this uncompromising proclamation before the Council of the Jews: …”He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
      Jesus loves very much! He also says very clearly, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
      Thank you for your comment.
  2. Denise says:

    Deception in the Church – What Church? The Church of the early Christians? Or all the Churches that followed?

    I applaud your Mother for her research. However, much of it was erroneous. I heard that you embrace silence. That is what we practice. Silence. The world is in great need of it. Peace.

    • Bev says:

      Hi Denise, This is Bev and I am the one who was drawn into a 2 year research project on Centering/Contemplative Prayer a few years ago when the church I was attending began to practice it. At first, I saw nothing wrong with it, and in fact embraced it. However, there was another woman in our fellowship who had serious misgivings and shared them with me. My initial response was, "Oh my gosh, Catherine is making a mountain out of a mole hill." Yet, because of my respect for this woman, I decided to look into it myself and see what I found.

      I believe that I mentioned in the podcast, that I was very careful NOT to go to any source that was negative concerning this form of prayer. Rather, I went to the teachers themselves. I read their books, listened to their sermons and went to the websites that were Keating, Merton and Nouwen friendly. As stated above, there was one common thread that I could not escape. These teachers believe/believed that Jesus is only one path to the Father. That we can safely embrace all other faith traditions, not just the Christian faith.This is also a common theme in other deceptive teachings in the Church today.

      If I had found nothing else of concern in my research, this one deception would have been enough to cause me to run as fast as I could in the opposite direction. In fact, when I left our church, I wrote a letter with my concerns to the pastor and the elders. I stated that if this was a pathway that ultimately causes it's followers to abandon the major Biblical theme that Jesus alone saves, it was a path that I had no intention of following.

      You asked the question, which Church are we referring to – the early Church or the Churches that came later? There can be no separation of the one, true Church that Jesus established, the Church of Jesus Christ. While there may be many imposters, as Jesus referred to often, there is only one Bride, one Church.

      I would like to address just one more comment that you made. "We are created in Goodness. We are not created in 'sin.' Sin came into the world and Christ redeemed us." While Adam was created in the image and likeness of God, we are born from the seed of Adam. We are therefore, born into "original sin." That is why we all need a redeemer. We are not capable of redeeming ourselves. You can not escape this fact when reading scripture. It is revealed all the way from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus became the Passover Lamb by which we are redeemed. However, we need to receive His incredible gift. The blood can not be applied to just anyone – only to those who receive it.

      I know that I am not going to convince you on this comment page that my research was not faulty. I hope that I have planted some seeds that might cause you to search the scriptures on your own to see what Jesus Himself said about who He is and why He came to redeem us.

      Again, thank you for taking the time not just to listen to the podcast, but thank you especially for taking the time to comment. I pray for nothing but God's richest blessings on you as you seek Him in Spirit and in Truth.


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