What is contemplative prayer?
In the holy Scriptures much is said about prayer and many examples are
The expression contemplative prayer is not found in the Bible.
The word contemplate has a general meaning of to think seriously and we
certainly should think seriously as we pray: Be serious and watchful in your
prayers (1 Peter 4:7).
But that is not what is meant. Contemplative prayer involves mystic exercises that
supposedly put one in esoteric communion with God.
Actually, it is not contemplative because the first step is to empty your
mind of all thoughts! Various techniques are used by different proponents to accomplish
this, such as breathing exercises, relaxing the body, and repeating a word like
Jesus over and over.
This is an insult to Jesus, since He said: And when you pray,
do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do (Matthew 6:7). Contemplative prayer
is similar to Hindu and Buddhist practices.
Nor is it prayer in the Biblical sense because it is a silent
state of mind without words or thoughts. The mystic thinks God can only
give him a message or make His presence felt if his mind is
empty! Paul said: I will pray with the spirit, and I will also
pray with the understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Thus contemplative prayer is neither contemplative nor is it prayer. A more accurate
designation would be mindless non-meditation.
According to Jesus, empty is not good. When an unclean spirit goes out
of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.
Then he says, I will return to my house from which I came.
And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.
Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than
himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that
man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this
wicked generation (Matthew 12:43-45).
Do you want to learn how to pray? Listen to Jesus!
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place,
when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach
us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. So He said to
them, When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in
heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our
sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do
not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Luke
Biblical prayer is with words: When you pray, say... (Luke 11:2); Hezekiah turned
his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying... (2 Kings
20:2); But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, May the good LORD provide atonement
for everyone (2 Chronicles 30:18); I prayed to the LORD, saying... (Jeremiah 32:16);
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying...
(Matthew 26:39, 42, 44).
Our words are inadequate. The solution, however, is not to get rid of
the words, but to trust in Gods promise that the Spirit will help
us! Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not
know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself
makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26).
God listens to our prayers (1 Kings 8:28; Jeremiah 29:12). What does He
hear if our minds are blank? Hear my prayer, O God; Give ear
to the words of my mouth (Psalm 54:2).
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive