What is contemplative prayer?

In the holy Scriptures much is said about prayer and many examples are given.

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 11:1-5).

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 God’s 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).
Roy Davison

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