Comparisons between Contemplative Prayer and Biblical Prayer
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Comparisons between Contemplative Prayer and Biblical Prayer

In last month's blog posting, we highlighted the recommendation of a book by a well known reformed theologian entitled ‘Soul Recreation’ by Tom Schwanda. Schwanda attempts to dupe his readers into accepting that Ambrose’s meditations on Christ were imitative of the meditative practices of the Desert fathers and other Roman Catholics. However, nothing could be further from the truth so we have produced the following article in an attempt to lay out some of the differences between contemplative prayer and true biblical prayer:

Contemplative Prayer Requires: 
  • Cessation of own thoughts and emotions to bring about a state of emptiness in the mind 

Biblical Prayer Requires:
  • Engagement of the mind (understanding) and spirit “......I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding......” 
  •  (1st Corinthians 14:15;  Micah 7:7)

Contemplative Prayer Requires: 
  • Extended period of solitude and silence in order to hear from God

Biblical Prayer Requires: 
  • Verbalisation of our adorations, requests and giving of thanks. (Philippians 4:6) 


Contemplative Prayer Requires:

Biblical Prayer Requires:
  • Avoidance of vain repetition.  (Matthew 6:7)   Prayers to be based upon pattern as set out by Christ, which primarily involves the worship and glorification of God.  (Matthew 6:9-11)  The saved sinner is to approach the Throne of Grace with humility and godly fear, confessing sin and seeking forgiveness; help to overcome temptation; seeking an undeserved provision of daily needs; seeking for mercy and grace in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)     


Contemplative Prayer Requires:
  • Achievement of a mystical experience with God and connection with one’s own inner divinity (pantheism-god is in all and all is God)

Biblical Prayer Requires:
  • A consciousness of one’s own unworthiness and sinful depravity along with a deep appreciation of an acceptance with God through the Lord Jesus Christ alone.


Contemplative Prayer Requires:
  • Hearing communications from God and as a consequence of silence and the implementation of techniques as specified above.  

 Biblical Prayer Requires:
  •  Communications from God in accordance with His revealed will as contained in the complete canon of Scripture (the Old and New Testaments). (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Our communications to God to be informed by the Scriptures and in accordance with His will. This can only be successfully undertaken with the help of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:26)

Contemplative prayer practices can be traced back to the Desert Fathers in 300AD. These Roman Catholic monks lived in desert areas within Egypt, where they adopted an unscriptural monastic lifestyle. They experimented with various silent meditative prayer techniques and it is widely accepted that these techniques were influenced by the almost identical mystic/occult practices of Hinduism and Buddhism. Ray Yungen in his book A Time of Departing’, quotes a writer who acknowledges the significance of Egypt being the source of the Desert Father’s mystical meditative practices: “development of meditative disciplines should have begun in Egypt because much of the intellectual, philosophical, and theological basis of the practice of meditation in Christianity also comes out of the Hellenic and Roman Egypt. This is significant because it was in Alexandria that Christian theology had the most contact with the various Gnostic speculations which, according to many scholars, have their roots in the East, possibly in India.” (1) 

There may be Christians who would argue that so long as the Lord Jesus Christ is the focus of their meditations, it is perfectly justifiable to adopt meditative practices regardless of their original source. However, it is never beneficial to undertake any practice that is forbidden by the Scriptures nor is it permissible to dream up some alternative to worship and prayer other than what God has revealed in His word. Mans natural inclination is always downwards and contrary to God’s ways and the Desert Fathers meditative practices were clearly a departure from what God has laid out in His Word and should therefore not be employed in any shape or form by Christians.

Make no mistake about it, contemplative prayer and the ‘highs’ achieved from its employment, are no different from those experienced in transcendental meditation, yoga and other eastern mystical practices.

Contemplative prayer is a dangerous deceit that is making very rapid inroads into many churches and Christian universities throughout the world. 

1. Teska, William. (1973) Meditation in Christianity (Himalayan Institute) p.62 as quoted in Yungen, Ray. (2012) A Time of Departing (2nd Edition) Lighthouse Trails Publishing (Eureka, Montana)        

For further information on contemplative prayer and other new age techniques, the editors of B.A.N.A.S.H would highly recommend The Lighthouse Research Trials Website