The issue of contemplative prayer has come up in our church, and has been a concern of mine. Could you help?
Contemplative prayer may be known by other names, such as: "Prayer of Listening", "Prayer of the Heart" or "centering prayer". Resources are to be found after the following comments.
This statement causes me great concern:
Contemplative Prayer is the normal development of the grace of baptism and the regular practice of Lectio Divina. We may think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. But this is only one expression. Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart - our whole being - to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. We open our awareness to God whom we know by faith is within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than choosing - closer than consciousness itself. Contemplative Prayer is a process of interior purification leading, if we consent, to divine union.
I perceive this to be saying that in order to become intimate with God we have to empty our minds and thoughts and look for an experience with God that cannot be tested. It certainly sounds eastern, and probably a bit new age, with a fair dose of Catholic mysticism thrown in.
The truth is that many Christians probably are weak in the area of meditation and prayer, but I don't think this is the solution. I see no mainline Evangelical churches or teachers associated with this movement, and that should tell us something.
I am likewise troubled by this:
In the Prayer of the Heart we are speaking of a practice which is innate to human beings, when they are not otherwise distracted and torn by their cultural and emotional conditioning. The "natural" movement of a human being, when not otherwise misdirected, is to seek at the center, at the internal source of one's own being for the Center of gravity and direction of one's own life and decisions. Marjorie Thompson in her book on the spiritual disciplines in the Christian tradition , Soul Feast, describes the Prayer of the Heart as "Christian Prayer that aims to move us from the head to the heart." Gerald May in his book on contemplative prayer says " the basic practice of heart prayer involves selecting a word or phrase and planting it deep within yourself during times of formal prayer. Then during the rest of the day you can notice it going on in the midst of activity." The author of "The Cloud of Unknowing" described contemplative prayer as " A naked intention toward God. If you wish to gather all your desire toward God, choose a short word, .. then fix it in your mind so that it will remain there come what may."
I do not believe that we are innately inclined toward God as the above write suggests -- see 1 Corinthians 2.
There is a great deal of literature/information on the Web, but it is all slanted in favor of this movement. I think you are right in your concerns.
Here are some resources:
Links from above site:
Certainly has some Roman Catholic connections:
Related Topics: Prayer