Ancient Beginnings of Contemplative Prayer


New Age Christianity Part Three

 Start at the beginning. Read Part One 

Contemplative prayer traces its roots to a group of monks called the Desert Fathers. The Desert Fathers taught that it did not matter what method one used to seek God. They claimed all methods were good—regardless of origin—and they unashamedly sought and incorporated unscriptural, eastern, methods of meditation into their spiritual practices.[1 see endnotes]

   The prophet Isaiah did not agree with the Desert Fathers and warned against seeking eastern spirituality when he wrote:  

“O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.
Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east….(Isaiah 2:5-6).”

Mantra meditation is 100% New Age Eastern mysticism and has no place in the life and habits of Christians.


Modern Roots

   During the 1960’s and 1970’s, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and several non-denominational groups offered a program called Cursillo. The first Cursillo weekend in the Episcopal Church was conducted in the early 1960's with help from Roman Catholic sponsors in the Diocese of Iowa. The doctrine taught in Cursillo was traditional Catholicism.

   This was part of the ecumenical movement of which, as we will show, the eastern practice of contemplative prayer [mantra meditation] is integral.

   The United Methodist denomination was an eager participant in the Vatican plan. And in 1978, The Upper Room, which is the Spiritual Formation unit of the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church, adapted the Catholic program for a primarily Protestant audience and began to offer it under the name, “The Upper Room Cursillo.” The name was later changed to the more ecumenical, “Upper Room Walk to Emmaus [2].

      Scripture commands us to not only meditate upon something, the Written Word of God [3], but to also refrain from adopting the spiritual practices of unbelievers [4]. Jesus clearly spoke against mantra meditation when he said, “But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do…”

   Contemplative prayer is derived from Hinduism. Christian contemplatives do not deny this. It is diabolically opposed to the scriptural form of meditation as described in Psalms chapter one verse two.

   There is little argument that spiritual formation programs and contemplative prayer, in one form or another, go hand in hand. Spiritual disciplines, taught in spiritual formation programs, are not limited to mantra meditation but also include yoga and labyrinth walking. Just because a local congregation may not, as yet, be familiar with these terms or practices is no reason to assume that the congregation or denomination has not been affected by spiritual formation.

   The list of denominations which have instituted these programs in their theological seminaries and churches is extensive. Below are just a few schools with spiritual formation programs. The list includes every major denomination:


  • Andover Newton Theological School
  • Assemblies of God (AG Theological Seminary)
  • Baptist (Baylor University & Dallas Theological Seminary)
  • Church of God (Mount Paran)
  • Methodist (Dubuque Theological Seminary)
  • Moody Bible Institute
  • Nazarene Theological Seminaries
  • Presbyterian Theological Seminaries
  • Wheaton College


   This is just a partial list, fractional compared to the total number of Bible colleges and churches that push contemplative spirituality on their students and congregations.

   This has been going on for decades. In 2008 this author was contacted by the Dean’s office at the United Methodist University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, requesting information concerning labyrinth walking.

   They had our ministry confused with a prominent Presbyterian spiritual formation outreach with a similar name. They wrote requesting permission to use a certain newsletter article in training their seminary students to facilitate labyrinth walking as part of their spiritual formation program [labyrinth walking is an occult practice, and all occult practices are forbidden to God’s people]. Below is a copy of that correspondence:

The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary located in Dubuque, Iowa would like copyright permission to reproduce "Labyrinth" from the summer 2000, Vol. 8, No. 2 edition of Hungry Hearts.

The purpose is for use in our Spiritual Formation Group class. We are seeking permission to use as part of our curriculum for several years. Is there a one-time copyright fee that would cover us for several years? We have approx. 30-40 students in the class per year.

Thank you for your assistance.”

   Herein lies the danger of contemplative spirituality (or any spiritual practice forbidden by the Bible): All who embrace contemplative spirituality, at some point, experience an ecumenical paradigm shift where an idea forms that God is in everyone and everything.   

   This is called panentheism.

   The doctrine of panentheism is in direct conflict with the word of God, which teaches that God indwells only those who belong to him through faith in his risen son, Jesus the only Christ. Only those who have been born again through the Spirit of God can be called the children of God [5].

   All humans are not children of God.

   Once panentheism takes hold, basic Christian beliefs, such as searching the scriptures to prove all things, begin to take a back seat to experiential Christianity. Examples will be given to illustrate this. To the committed contemplative, beliefs such as the authority of the Bible and the importance of preaching the gospel in soul winning become signs that a Christian is merely religious rather than spiritual.

   Contemplative spirituality is an experiential spirituality. Best-selling contemplative author and pastor, John Piper, writes that if we don’t feel our faith we may not be saved. He advocates emotion and the experiential in refuting the clear scriptural teaching of faith and assurance contained in Romans 10:9-13 and 1 John 5:11-13.[6]

   Piper is wrong.

 The Written Word of God assures us that if we call on the name of the Lord to be saved, then we will be saved and that His Word assures us of eternal life if we have the Son (if we are born again).

   That is faith.

   Faith is often felt but not always.  

    Former Sunday school worker/now contemplative author, Sue Monk Kidd, is an example of what happens when faith in the written Word of God is rejected in favor of experiential Christianity. Within the familiar confines of her Baptist Church, she came to the unfortunate conclusion that her ultimate spiritual authority was not the Bible at all, but rather the “divine voice of her own soul.”[7]  

   How can Christians listen to this woman when the Word of God tells us just the opposite [8]? Kidd now boasts that she has moved past the traditional to the sacred “feminine.”

With unscriptural concepts such as those promoted by Piper and Kidd going largely unchallenged within the Body of Christ [9]. it is becoming increasingly easier for unsaved persons to obtain church membership and lead active “Christian” lives, when no saving conversion has ever taken place.

   Bill Hamon, called the Father of The Prophetic movement, promotes contemplative spirituality and viciously attacks biblical beliefs and practices in just about every area.

   Hamon had this to say about the amazing fact that 20,000 new believers per day were being won to Jesus in China, he wrote, “…that sounds great, but…. [10]."  

   How can anyone who is truly born again add a “but” to the fact that 20,000 people a day in any single country are being saved from the Lake of Fire?

   Bill Hamon does it because he claims that signs and wonders are the primary proof that God is validating his ministry and that these are the definitive fruits of God’s blessing on any ministry. In his view, the fact that souls may be won to Christ is merely collateral blessing, of secondary importance to the manifestation of signs and wonders.

   Experiences, signs, wonders, and our own inner voices do not supersede the authority of the written word of God and the amazing miracle of the salvation of a soul.

   Rick Joyner is another prophetic leader who promotes contemplative prayer and emphasizes the experiential in place of the authority of the Bible.

   Joyner claimed he had lots of scripture to back up the things he wrote in his anti-Bible, anti-soul-winning, book, The Harvest, but that he was not going to use much of it as he wanted his readers to “commune with the spirit” about whether what he had written was true.

   One wonders what spirit Joyner communes with, that objects to scripture being used as a standard for truth or that denigrates the practice of soul-winning.

   Jesus was not ashamed of the written Word of God. He boldly proclaimed, “It is written!” when Satan attempted to commune with him concerning “truth.”

   The Bible clearly states that “They that win souls are wise.”

   Who will we believe, those who denigrate soul winning, or the Bible?

   In a later book, Joyner shared a vision he received where he saw a holy mountain. On this mountain, Christians who focused primarily on soul winning were portrayed as being at the bottom of the developmental heap. According to Joyner, his vision of the “holy mountain” showed him that ardent soul winners are the least spiritually developed and most pathetic of all Christians [11].

   Here lies the crux of the whole matter, all who embrace experiential spirituality, sooner or later, begin losing respect for the written word of God. And their burden for soul-winning is often superseded by a zeal for promoting contemplative spirituality instead.

   Aggressive evangelism by preaching the gospel becomes discouraged, even ridiculed. Bible believing Christians with the ministry gift of evangelism and ardently preach the gospel in soul-winning are often libeled as being “judgmental” and called Pharisees. Relationship or prophetic evangelism is encouraged to replace it. That may sound good on the surface, and of course there is a place for relationship evangelism, but wholly rejecting the one in favor of exclusively embracing the other denies the biblical fact that it is the gospel of Jesus Christ—both written and spoken—that is the power of God unto salvation [12].

   No church fellowship is immune to the influence of contemplative spirituality.

   Spiritual Formation programs are taking root within every denomination and belief system of Christianity. Southern Baptist Life Way Bookstores has been confronted by concerned Christians about their promotion of contemplative books and authors who promote contemplative spirituality [13].

   Although contemplative spirituality is obviously rooted in pagan religious systems, such as Hinduism, the modern-day contemplative movement, promoted within Protestant Christianity through spiritual formation programs, descends directly from Roman Catholic mystics who adopted it directly from non-Christian eastern mystics [14].  

   It is commonly acknowledged among contemplative leaders that contemplative prayer cannot be fully embraced without referencing, at some point, the Roman Catholic mystics. Madame Guyon, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Ignatius, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and the Desert Fathers are just a few of these. However, this fact may not be revealed—at first—while introducing spiritual disciplines to non-Catholic believers.[15]

   Mike Bickle, a leader in the prophetic movement who heavily promotes contemplative prayer, boldly proclaims that if you want to go “deeper into God,” you must embrace both contemplative prayer and the Roman Catholic mystics [16].

   Bickle unashamedly admits that contemplative prayer cannot be found in scripture nor can it be found anywhere in protestant tradition. It can only be found within eastern religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) which passed it on to Christianity via the Roman Catholic mystics.

   Most leading contemplatives have no problem agreeing with Mike Bickle on this.

  Some (but by no means all) descriptive terms used by those who promote contemplative spirituality are:

  • Going deeper into God
  • Experiencing the presence of God
  • Meditation
  • The Silence
  • Soaking Prayer
  • Soaking
  • Quiet
  • Being “Quiet” before God
  • Solitude
  • Reflecting / Reflection
  • Lectio Divina
  • Spiritual disciplines
  • The Secret Place


   As stated, one of the fruits of contemplative spirituality is an ecumenical mindset which fails to discern between who is a child of God and who is not, this extends to important doctrinal differences between Protestant and Roman Catholic beliefs and practices.

   The differences begin with how a person is saved.

   Roman Catholicism teaches that a person is fully incorporated into the Body of Christ when they participate in their first mass, at the time of their first communion [17]. personal faith, being born again, and calling on the name of the Lord for salvation plays no part in the Roman Catholic belief system. According to the documents of the Vatican II, no one is born again, and there is no assurance of salvation for any believer.

   Belief in the sacraments of the Church and in the Priest’s authority to administer them is paramount.

   Can such a doctrine be found anywhere in scripture?

   Nevertheless, all Christians who experience paradigm shifts by means of contemplative “spiritual disciplines” become enamored with both eastern culture and Roman Catholic mystics.

   Despite the ecumenical nature of their rhetoric with regards to Protestants and Catholics, the contemplative Christian’s love affair with eastern spirituality, almost without exception, eventually finds expression in words and writings that are polarizing within the protestant camp, peppered as they are with frequent references to the un-spirituality of the “western” church.

   Unity, peace, love, and “Don’t Judge!” are words of the day. “Judgmental” is one of the most frequently used words in the modern spiritual vocabulary (towards Bible believing Christians) with “Pharisee” running a close second. But those whose conversation is so liberally sprinkled with the words unity, peace, love, and don’t judge, seem to have no problem with criticizing and judging—often viciously—those with more “traditional” beliefs.

   They are hypocrites who do not practice what they preach.

   What kind of fruit is that? Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits…”

   The process takes time, but eventually all committed contemplatives experience a failure to understand why there are religious differences… at all… between anyone… in any religion.

   A widely publicized 2007 document entitled, “A Common Word Between Us and You,” is supported by Rick Warren and many other prominent Christian leaders. The document calls for a common understanding between the Christian faith and the Muslim faith based on the Quran commandment “O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word as between us and you: that we worship none but God.”

   Prominent Christian leaders, in a show of solidarity with Muslim leaders, signed their names to that document, despite the fact that the Christian scriptures and the Muslim Koran are not the same and are indeed incompatible with one another. The Christian God and the Muslim Allah are not even the same God. Ask any Muslim and they will tell you that Allah and Yahweh are not the same God. Ask any Muslim and they will tell you that Allah, the moon god of Mecca, has no son.

   Rick Warren subtly promotes, among other questionable things, contemplative spirituality. His book, The Purpose Driven Life, is full of eastern thought.[18] So it should come as no surprise that he would be listed as a signatory of such a nefarious document as, “A Common Word Between Us and You.”

   When contemplatives say, “Seek God. It does not matter how you do it—just do it—he will accept you regardless,” they really mean to start seeking a trance-like state of mindlessness only achieved through mantra meditation.   

   It does not matter how we seek God? That is not what the Bible says. We are instructed in scripture to seek God according to His methods which are outlined clearly in His Word. Jesus Christ, the Jesus of the Bible, is the only way, the only truth and the only life [19].

   Far too many have fallen in love with another Jesus. A Jesus they will find out—unfortunately when it is too late—who cannot save [20].

   When unscriptural spiritual disciplines are adopted, and the biblical doctrine that God only indwells those who are saved by faith in the shed blood of Jesus begins to be replaced with the false notion that God is in everything and everyone, the very word doctrine (which simply means teaching or instruction) eventually becomes a dirty word with the superior truth of scripture becoming subordinate to deceitful human feelings [21].

   The experiential aspect of contemplative prayer means that during the course of practicing this spiritual discipline the person experiences something.

   That is the whole purpose of it, to experience something.

   It is sometimes called “Experiencing God” or “Experiencing the Presence of God.”

   Only it is not the God of Heaven, the creator of Heaven and earth, who is experienced.

   The God of the Bible does not operate that way. His presence cannot be conjured using any ritual or meditative practice.

   Contemplative prayer is dangerous.

   In his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster warns his readers that they may receive guidance during contemplative prayer that is not divine guidance. He warns that the person entering into such meditation may not be safe from “dark and evil” spirits.

   Yet he encourages the pursuit of it anyway.

   Brian Flynn, a former New Age medium who now exposes new age practices within the church, suggests that Christians pursue this unscriptural, dangerous, form of meditation, because they become infatuated with the seductive feeling that accompanies it. While introducing the subject to potential victims, Mike Bickle strongly emphasizes the experience contemplative prayer produces.

   A few well-known authors who are now promoting contemplative spirituality are [22]:

  • Beth Moore
  • Bill Hamon
  • Brennen Manning
  • Chuck Swindoll
  • C. Scott Peck
  • David Jeremiah
  • Father Thomas Keating
  • Henri Nouwen
  • Max Lucado
  • Nancy Leigh DeMoss [if not overtly teaching the spirituality herself, is allowing the concepts to be taught by others on her website. This is a favored method used by those who know a doctrine is controversial but want to keep their own noses clean]
  • Richard Foster
  • Rick Joyner
  • Rick Warren
  • Sue Monk Kidd
  • Thomas Merton


   This is a comparatively short list that highlights the pervasiveness of this movement and the diversity of religious affiliations and backgrounds of those who promote contemplative spirituality. Virtually all Bible colleges and seminaries now have Spiritual Formation departments.

   It is a frightening fact that the list of former evangelical/now contemplative authors is growing daily.

   The dangers of contemplative, experiential, spirituality are strong enough that Bible believing Christians should give anyone promoting these beliefs a very wide berth, no matter how biblical their doctrine has been in the past.

   When allowed to run its course, the end result of embracing contemplative spirituality is a complete paradigm shift, not only away from the simplicity found in Christ, but altogether away from the fact that Jesus Christ, the Jesus of the Bible, is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.  

   To a man, all evangelical contemplatives profess belief in Christ, despite the fact that he condemns their heathenistic practices in no uncertain terms when he forbids vain repetitions in prayer.  

   All prominent contemplatives, all, as in every…   single…   one… are panentheists who claim to have finally come to the understanding that God is in all things.

   Where in scriptures is such a thing even hinted at, that God is in all things as opposed to the Biblical teaching that he resides, not in all things, but only within those who belong to him through faith in Jesus, his risen son  [23]?

   This is an admission, whether they own up to it or not, that in their revised contemplative opinion, Jesus is no longer the only way to eternal life.

   There is no way God can be in everything and only in those who belong to his risen Son at the same time. The two ideas are mutually exclusive and in opposition to each other. The evidence is overwhelming that the end result of contemplative spirituality is Panentheism.

   What kind of fruit is this? Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits…”


[1] A good research site for concerning eastern meditation practices in The Church is Lighthouse Trails Research Project:

[2] Participants in the Walk to Emmaus retreats and Chrysalis Walks (Chrysalis Walk is the youth version of Walk to Emmaus) are introduced to the concept of the Fourth Day. Fourth Day living includes follow-up with ongoing small group get-togethers and resources that Upper Room Spiritual Directors hope will continue to provide “spiritual guidance and nurture” to Chrysalis and Walk to Emmaus initiates. Recommended follow-up resources include authors who are Roman Catholic mystics such as St. Teresa of Avila and the Desert Fathers (known as the Fathers of Contemplative Prayer). Books by Evelyn Underhill are also recommended as nurturing and guiding resources. Underhill was an Anglican mystic who believed that mysticism (meditation/contemplative prayer also known as “The Silence”) was the vehicle in which all religions could come into contact with the "Absolute" (God) however one perceived him to be—clearly not a concept found in scripture nor compatible with the exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father and to eternal life.

[3] Psalm 1:2

[4] Jeremiah 10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen….

[5] John 1:12

[6] John 1:11-15 And this is the record that God has given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son they that have the Son have life and they that have not the Son of God have not life These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God And this is the confidence that we have in him that if we ask any thing according to his will he hears us And if we know that he hears us whatsoever we ask we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him

[7] Dance of the Dissident Daughter, 1996

[8] Jeremiah 10:23: O LORD I know that the way of humanity is not in themselves it is not in mortals that walk to direct their steps

[9] Piper and Kidd’s books are heavily promoted in mainstream Christian bookstores and are often recommended reading in previously Bible believing churches.

[10] Apostles Prophets and the Coming Moves of God, 1997

[11] The Final Quest, 1996

[12] Romans 1:16


[14] Everywhere we look “evangelicals” are turning to Roman Catholic styles of contemplative spirituality (which in many cases were borrowed from pagan sources), such as ritualistic rote prayers, chanting, meditation, centering prayer, the use of prayer beads, Stations of the Cross, lectio divina, labyrinths, and “the daily office.”

[15] “You’re going to have to open your heart to Teresa of Avila…,” Mike Bickle, Contemplative Prayer, 2001

[16] The Protestant church must become students of contemplative prayer, and to do that, you have to go across that great, horrible divide, and you have to drink from Catholic history. Mike Bickle, Contemplative Prayer, 2001

[17] Documents of the Vatican 2, New Revised Edition, pg. 112, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984

[18] The Hindu concept of Karma is present among other things in, “The Purpose Driven Life.” Warren weaves pagan/New Age ideas throughout his book, and he does so in such a subtle manner, that unless one is familiar with the belief systems, they would likely (and did!) go un-noticed by the average reader.

[19] John 14:6

[20] 2 Corinthians 11:3-4

[21] There is a way that seems right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death,  Proverbs 14:12

[22] For an extensive listing of contemplative authors and seminaries visit Lighthouse Trails Research Project online

[23] “Here lies the core of panentheism: God is in everything, and everything is in God. The only difference between pantheism and panentheism is how God is in everything. This position of the panentheist is challenging to understand: Your outer personality is not God, but God is still in you as your true identity…” Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, Lighthouse Trails Publishing Company, Silverton, OR, 2006

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