"We see, in many a land, the proudest dynasties and tyrannies still crushing, with their mountain weight, every free motion of the Consciences and hearts of men. We see, on the other hand, the truest heroism for the right and the greatest devotion to the Truth in hearts that God has touched. We have a work to do, as great as our forefathers and, perhaps, far greater. The enemies of Truth are more numerous and subtle than ever and the needs of the Church are greater than at any preceding time. If we are not debtors to the present, then men were never debtors to their age and their time. Brethren, we are debtors to the hour in which we live. Oh, that we might stamp it with Truth and that God might help us to impress upon its wings some proof that it has not flown by neglected and unheeded." -- C.H. Spurgeon . . . "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31, 32

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

MYSTICISM IN THE CHURCH: Contemplative Prayer And Her Evil Sisters

By A.M. Kisly

Biblical Prayer Vs. Mysticism

Centering Prayer, Contemplative Prayer, Prayer Labyrinth, Soaking Prayer, Sozo Prayer and Lectio Divina? What are they and why are they dangerous?

I’ll tell you what they are; they are inventions of man, not of God! It is man buying into the same old lie from the beginning that He can achieve spirituality without God.

Surely there are some who will say, not so! Many false teachers and their followers will claim that these are in fact Christian practices and should be embraced by every believer. They will list their reasons, write books on the subject and lead great multitudes in the practice of it. The less learned will embrace their teachings because the name of Jesus is repeated over and over again; or their teachers will convince them because they are doing it in the Name of God. Friend, if what we are doing isn’t God’s way, then we should not be doing it at all! All that is done in the Name of the Lord must be according to His terms, not ours. If it isn’t in scripture….then it isn’t of God!

Today we are all so enthralled by the words of famous men and authors. We spend a great deal of time buying up their books and devouring them with our minds. We ponder their lofty ideas and quote them often because we are so impressed by their intellectual knowledge and zeal. Yet above all the famous men on earth, the most famous still remains the Lord Jesus Christ. He is very God and very man! He is the Word of God become flesh and the Savior of the World. Surely it is His words that shall remain true to our hearts. Surely it is His words that we will proclaim, ponder upon, and share with others.

I must admit I am dismayed at the lethargy in the Church. If a new novel hits the bookshelves they are purchased immediately, read within a day or so and discussed among friends, internet social venues or even the pulpit. A new Christian band puts out their latest album…we buy them up and listen to them over and over again. Within a couple of days we have every word memorized and can’t seem to get the songs out of our head. But the Word of the Living God remains untouched, save for Sunday morning church services. What a foolish thing it is to trifle with God’s word.

Listen, the biggest problem in the Church today is that we have neglected God’s word. If we would become stents of the Word of God we would not be led away by every wind of doctrine that comes our way, and the Church would not be in chaos or dwindling in numbers, the church would be strong, the Church would be light and salt and an effective witness of the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The topic is prayer. How we pray matters a great deal. What we pray also matters a great deal. We must come to God on His terms or He will not receive us at all. This is true of redemption and salvation…there is but one way, this is true of the Christian life…there is but one way…this is true of worship, and offering and prayer and the communion table. All must be done according to His will or not at all.

There is a great example of this in the Old Testament. Remember the story of Cain and Abel? (Please read Genesis 4) Abel’s offering was accepted by God because He obeyed the word of God and brought his offering by faith. We cannot say the same for Cain. Cain’s offering was rejected, because he was full of pride. He disobediently devised His own way of worship, and offered it to God. Though his offering was acceptable IN HIS OWN EYES, it was rejected by the Lord. The end result was rotten fruit. His offering was rejected, his heart was corrupted, his fruit rotten and as a result he destroyed not only his brother, but himself. Cain murdered Abel and God cursed him…

What is going on in the Church? Is the Church even reading, studying, or teaching the Word of God? Has the body of Christ become so defiled that we can no longer clearly define biblical Christianity or understand the teachings and doctrines of the Bible? Modern Christians no longer have to obey God’s word? Modern man’s “new” spirituality is better than God’s original design?

Church pews are filled with those with itching ears listening to whatever they want to hear, self indulgent, bible illiterate, compromising, rebellious believers! Will we continue on Cain’s path or will we be like Abel, offering to God by faith our obedience and trust, according to His will all that He so deserves and is worthy of?

Why is there so much confusion? Why are so called Christians following every wind of doctrine? Do they care about God at all? Do they care about God’s will, His holiness, His purposes and His ordinances and commands? Is Our Creator so blind that that He cannot see what is happening in the Church? Don’t deceive yourself, He sees, He knows, and He is angry! Yes, our Loving God is Angry with sin and the sinner every day!

I don’t want to get off topic, so let’s talk about prayer. How prayer has become such a tool of Satan, I will never understand, but there it is, and we must correct this.

The Word of God clearly explains the purpose of prayer and how we are to pray. It is not a mystery. It does not need to be modernized, nor merged with other false religious practices and heretical teachings. What shame has fallen on the Church for allowing false teachers a platform in which to teach those things which are opposed to God? What unspeakable defilement has crept into the most intimate place of fellowship of prayer with our God? Jesus said,

“It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Matthew 21:13

Oh the money changers, with their trinkets, their scams and their own devises, defiling the house of God.

There is a growing list of various practices of prayer that are plaguing the church. The names you may be familiar with, but they include: Centering Prayer, Contemplative Prayer, Prayer Labyrinth, Soaking Prayer, Sozo Prayer and Lectio Divina.

All of these various forms of prayer have specific meaning and spiritual purpose, all of which have nothing to do with the biblical definition of prayer. We will discuss what are they and why are they dangerous, but first it is important to talk about what prayer is.

What is prayer?

It is coming before the presence of God as you lay before Him your complete self in confession and dependence. As one writer puts it, “It is the place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made. Prayer is the place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence upon God. Prayer is the needful practice of the Christian. Prayer is the exercise of faith and hope. Prayer is the privilege of touching the heart of the Father through the Son of God, Jesus our Lord.” -- CARM

Scripture tells us that we are to pray and worship with the spirit and with understanding. Praying and worshipping God "in spirit" means with reverence, attentiveness, and having the right purpose of honoring God, while understanding what we are doing.

In 1 Corinthians 14:15 we read, “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”

Hebrews 12:28-29 says, "Let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire."

In showing reverence and respect to God, we will not be indifferent, inattentive, and taking lightly that which should be considered serious.

In 1 Peter 1:15-16 we read, "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, because it is written, Be holy for I am holy."

A few things about prayer

In prayer we show our total dependence on God who created all things and by Whom all things continue to exist. So, in prayer we give praise, honor, glory and reverence to His name for His greatness and goodness. We recognize Him as the source of all blessings. It is also the outpouring of our hearts desire.

In Romans 10:1 the apostle Paul says, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." Our prayer must come from our heart.

Who does God hear?

Aside from our initial salvation experience, prayer to God is only reserved for those who are obedient children of God. We are told in John 9:31, "Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.” There are people whose prayer God will not hear. Isaiah 59:2 says, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Sin separates us from God. We must come in humility, confessing our sin and receiving God’s forgiveness that our fellowship may be restored and that our prayers are not hindered.

God warns us in Proverbs 28:9; “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” God looks with disgust at the prayer of one who is habitually and obstinately rejecting His ordinances and refusing His instruction. We often think about those outside of Christ who harden their hearts toward His will, yet even in the Church “they hear his words, but they will not do them.” (Ezekiel 33:31, 32) What a pitiful situation it is for us when our prayers become disgusting to God. “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12  Don’t fool yourself, God is always watching. The watchful eyes of the Lord are on us and He longs to hear our prayers. What a wonderful promise.

What about our attitude?

Our attitude in prayer is very important. God is not impressed with our pride and arrogance. The scriptures tell us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Jesus spoke a parable in Luke 18:9-18 about two men who went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood with great pride in himself thanking God that he was not like the tax collector, and then boasted about his works. When the tax collector prayed, he was standing afar off. He did not lift his eyes to heaven, did not boast about himself and all he had done, but asked for mercy. Quite a contrast! Jesus goes on to explain that those who exalt themselves will be abased and those who humble themselves will be exalted. James 4:6 says, “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

Since our prayers are directed to God and not to man…they should not be uttered with flowery speech in order to impress those around him. In so doing God will not be listening…your prayers are empty, hypocritical. Read Matthew 6:5, 7.
There are many other scriptures that deal with prayer, but I will stop with this next warning as it is what we are discussing in this article.

Vain repetitions, mantras, empty minds and hearts……

In scripture, we are warned not to use vain repetitions. Idle babbling of the same words again and again has no purpose. It isn’t thoughtful, nor heartfelt; but rather cold, empty, superstitious and without any true love for God. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Matthew 6:7
GOD DOES NOT RECEIVE MINDLESS PRAYER! It’s interesting that Jesus compares this practice to the prayers that the heathen pray.

Listen, All prayer, whether verbalized, sung or silent, should come from the heart and be addressed to God, not for self, not for an audience.

Jesus model of prayer for His followers was not intended as a ritualistic prayer, but rather a guide for praying “after this manner”. (See also Matthew 7:7-11; 9:38; 17:20-21; 18:19-20; 21:21-22; 26:41; Lk 18:1,7; Jo 14:13-14; 15:7,16; 16:23-24)

Jesus model of prayer teaches us to begin our prayers by acknowledging our Creator and His purposes for His creation. Please notice that we are to FOCUS on GOD and His purposes…not emptying our minds so that we can feeeeeel His presence and hear His voice. Do we not hear God’s voice in His word? Is not His guidance found in His word?

David prayed in Psalm 119:105, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
When Jesus prayed to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42

The Christian life is all about laying down our lives, picking up our cross and following Jesus. His word provides spiritual nourishment, doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. As for God, His way is perfect.

One of my favorite passages of scripture has to be Psalm 19. David sings this prayer…and actually it is like the model prayer. Praise to God for His works, His Word, His plan from the beginning…The heaven’s declare the glory of God, but all come short of the glory of God (Romans 1:20). From Creation to now, God is unchanging! Those who fail to see the Creator through His creation….they will be without excuse. For God is the Creator and we are His created beings and though sin separated us from God, through the blood of Jesus Christ we were redeemed and through our salvation we are a new creation. Let’s not repeat the original sin…disobeying God’s word, and devising our own way.



Now let’s take a look at this grab bag list of man made rituals and occultic practices: Centering Prayer, Contemplative Prayer, Prayer Labyrinth, Soaking Prayer, Sozo Prayer and Lectio Divina.


What are they and why are they dangerous?
 

Are all these various forms of prayer biblical? Do they in fact line up with scripture. I have borrowed these descriptions from gotquestions.org to give us a very clear understanding of what they mean and to explain why they are not biblical. I realize that this is not exhaustive, so I would encourage you read up on your own. There are plenty of articles that have been well researched on this subject. I would encourage you to research this further.

Since part of the problem in the Church is the attitude that well, “we don’t do that here so I won’t worry about it”, the scriptures tell us to be vigilant about false teachings and practices. It’s time the Church start speaking out about these types of heresies, and to be able to clearly explain why they are not biblical and why they should not be accepted practices in the Church.



Centering Prayer – What is it?

“Centering prayer,” is a meditative practice where the practitioner focuses on a word and repeats that word over and over for the duration of the exercise. The purpose is to clear one’s mind of outside concerns so that God’s voice may be more easily heard. After the centering prayer, the practitioner is to sit still, listen for direct guidance from God, and feel His presence.

Although this might sound like an innocent exercise, this type of prayer has no scriptural support whatsoever. In fact, it is just the opposite of how prayer is defined in the Bible. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6). “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:23-24). These verses and others clearly portray prayer as being comprehendible communication with God, not an esoteric, mystical meditation.

What is Contemplative Prayer?
 

Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with God. Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and does not rely upon truth or fact. Yet the Word of God has been given to us for the very purpose of basing our faith, and our lives, on Truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What we know about God is based on fact; trusting in experiential knowledge over the biblical record takes a person outside of the standard that is the Bible.

Contemplative prayer is no different than the meditative exercises used in Eastern religions and New Age cults. Its most vocal supporters embrace an open spirituality among adherents from all religions, promoting the idea that salvation is gained by many paths, even though Christ Himself stated that salvation comes only through Him (John 14:6). Contemplative prayer, as practiced in the modern prayer movement, is in opposition to biblical Christianity and should definitely be avoided.

The following video is on Contemplative/Centering Prayer and Emergent Church - Author Ray Yungen (A Time of Departing, For Many Shall Come In My Name) explains contemplative prayer, the heretical teachings of Thomas Merton and many others.



What is a Prayer Labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a path which leads, via a circuitous route, to the center of an intricate design and back out again. A labyrinth’s route is unicursal; that is, it has only a single path. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is designed for ease of navigation, and it is impossible to get lost within one.

A prayer labyrinth is a labyrinth used to facilitate prayer, meditation, spiritual transformation, and/or global unity. The most famous prayer labyrinths today include an ancient one in the cathedral of Chartres, France, another in the cathedral of Duomo di Siena, Tuscany; and two maintained by Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church in San Francisco. While prayer labyrinths have been used in Catholic cathedrals for centuries, the past decade has seen resurgence in their popularity, especially within the Emergent Church and among New Age groups and neo-pagans.

Labyrinths have been used by a wide variety of cultures for at least 3,500 years. Evidence of ancient labyrinths exists in Crete, Egypt, Italy, Scandinavia, and North America. Ancient labyrinths had what is usually called the “classical” design of seven rings, or circuits. They were decidedly pagan in function: many labyrinths were dedicated to a goddess and used in ritualistic dances. The Hopi Indians saw the labyrinth as a symbol of Mother Earth, and the hundreds of stone labyrinths along the Scandinavian shoreline were used as magic traps for trolls and evil winds to ensure safe fishing.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church adapted the labyrinth for its own purposes within its cathedrals. The classical form gave way to a more intricate design of 11 circuits in 4 quadrants, usually called the “medieval” design. Within Catholicism, the labyrinth could symbolize several things: the hard and winding road to God, a mystical ascension to salvation and enlightenment, or even a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for those who could not make the actual journey.

The modern “rediscovery” of the labyrinth and its use in church settings is celebrated by groups such as The Labyrinth Society and Veriditas, The World-Wide Labyrinth Project. According to these groups, the labyrinth is a “divine imprint,” a “mystical tradition,” a “sacred path,” and a “sacred gateway.” The stated purpose of Veriditas is “to transform the Human Spirit,” using “the Labyrinth Experience as a personal practice for healing and growth, a tool for community building, an agent for global peace and a metaphor for the blossoming of the Spirit in our lives” (from the official Veriditas website).

According to Veriditas, walking a prayer labyrinth involves 3 stages: purgation (releasing), illumination (receiving), and union (returning). Purgation occurs as one moves toward the center of the labyrinth. During this stage, one sheds the cares and distractions of life and opens his heart and mind. Illumination occurs at the center of the labyrinth; this is the time to “receive what is there for you” through prayer and meditation. Union occurs as one exits the labyrinth and involves “joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world.”

Proponents of prayer labyrinths speak of using the labyrinth to become enlightened, realigned with the universe, and increasingly empowered to know one’s Self and to accomplish the work of the soul. Some, such as Dr. Lauren Artress, president of Veriditas, also speak of the “many levels of consciousness” which touch the worshiper in a labyrinth, including the consciousness that he is “one of those pilgrims walking in the early times. It feels like it’s from another time; it doesn’t feel like it’s in this life” (from an interview with Dr. Lauren Artress on the official Veriditas website).

Perhaps as a throwback to the old goddess worship, many prayer labyrinths contain feminine symbols in the center. Dr. Artress recognizes the symbolism and speaks freely of connecting with the “sacred feminine” in a labyrinth and of the need to view God as both a “he” and a “she.”

Are prayer labyrinths biblical?

No, they are not! Not only are labyrinths never mentioned in the Bible, but they also conflict with several biblical principles of worship and prayer.

1) God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24; Philippians 3:3; Psalm 29:2). Proponents of prayer labyrinths speak of “body worship” and the goal to employ all five senses in worship. But body worship is not a biblical concept. We live by faith, not by sight, and worship is not a sensuous, physical activity; worship is a matter of the heart, expressed in praise and service to God. For the New Testament believer, worship has nothing to do with external trappings such as lighting candles, kneeling at an altar, or walking in circles.

2) Prayer is not to become ritualistic (Matthew 6:5-8). Dr. Artress says that “ritual feeds the soul” and recommends repeated, regular trips through the labyrinth. If ritual were truly food for the soul, then the Pharisees of Jesus’ day should have been the best-fed souls alive—after all, their religious system abounded in ritual and tradition. Yet Jesus rebuked them on more than one occasion for the deadness and hypocrisy of their religion (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:6-13).

3) Every believer has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Many who walk prayer labyrinths are seeking special insight, new revelation, or a discovery of “the God who’s within” (Dr. Artress, op cit.). Such an emphasis on mysticism and esoteric knowledge comes dangerously close to Gnosticism and New Age thinking. The Christian has no need of mystical experience or extra-biblical revelation: You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (1 John 2:20).

4) God is near to all those who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18; Acts 17:27). No ritual, including walking a labyrinth, can bring anyone any closer to God. Jesus is the way (John 14:6). Repentance and faith are what is required (Acts 20:21).

5) The Bible is sufficient to make the Christian holy, wise, and completely proficient for his work in this world (2 Timothy 3:15-17). To say that, in order to find real power, we must add mysticism or tradition to the Bible is to denigrate God’s Word and the Spirit’s work through it.

Historically, labyrinths were rooted in paganism and incorporated by Catholicism. Now they are promoted by the Emergent Church and others who seek an open spirituality apart from the Bible. Paul’s warning to the church should suffice to keep us focused on Jesus and avoid empty ritual: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

What is Soaking Prayer?

Since the 1990s there has been an increased focus on mysticism within various segments of Christianity. Bordering on the esoteric, these mystical experiences broaden the division between a "factual faith" and a "felt faith," and threaten to replace sound biblical teaching with emotion-driven response. Soaking prayer is one such mystical activity. It is described as resting in God's presence. This is accomplished by playing some gentle worship songs, either sitting or lying down, and praying short, simple prayers for an extended period of time, but otherwise keeping your mind free of other thoughts. At the point when you sense God's presence through some type of manifestation like tingling skin, a sensation of heat or cold, or even a gentle wind seemingly blowing through your body, you are to just "soak" in that presence.

Although that might sound a little strange to some, it does not immediately come across as being necessarily bad. However, the rule by which we measure our experiences in life is the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and when soaking prayer is examined accordingly, we find that it comes up wanting for biblical support. Nowhere in the Bible can a model of prayer be found that soaking prayer follows.

Prayer in its simplest form in the Bible is calling on the name of the Lord (Genesis 4:26), and in each instance where it is found in Scripture, it is descriptive of communicating with God. Soaking prayer starts that way, but quickly devolves into a trance-like meditative state. This is when soaking prayer ceases to be biblical and becomes more like a New Age practice or something an adherent of Hinduism would participate in.

There is no denying that experiencing the presence of God can be powerful and life changing. It is not the goal of soaking prayer that is biblically off base; it is its methodology. Soaking prayer focuses on obtaining a spiritual high by seeking out the presence of God through mystical exercises. In this, it is very similar to "contemplative prayer” and contemplative spirituality, which are equally unbiblical. Biblical prayer is talking to God with His will in mind (1 John 5:14). A biblically praying believer already understands that God's presence is always with him (Psalm 139:7; Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 2 Timothy 1:14), and he doesn’t need to experience any type of physical sensation to prove it.

What is Sozo Prayer?

Sozo prayer, or Sozo ministry (from the Greek for “save” or “deliver”) is defined as “a unique inner healing and deliverance ministry in which the main aim is to get to the root of those things hindering your personal connection with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Sozo was created by a group of people from Bethel Church in Redding, California, and modeled after spiritual practices observed at revivals in Argentina. Sozo is strongly mystical in its approach and relies heavily on ideas about God and the Holy Spirit that are not based on biblical fact.

Sozo prayer requires the presence of a mediator / guide, who is trained to walk participants through a time of prayer and reflection that is supposed to facilitate intimacy with God. Intimacy with God is definitely something to be sought; however, the method of attaining intimacy via a journey through the subconscious is questionable at best. Intimacy with God is achieved by Bible study, prayer, regular church attendance, and obedience, not by a mystical “journey” through our past. The Bible warns us to be discerning and wise, and not to be fooled (Hosea 14:9; Hebrews 5:14). The Bible and the Holy Spirit—not our subconscious thoughts or a fallible human being—are our connection to the counsel and the voice of God (John 17:17). Many types of ungodly mystical practices include the presence of a “spirit guide,” but the Bible tells us that our connection to the Father is a direct connection, mediated by Christ (1 Timothy 2:5) and guided by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). No other spirit guide is necessary.

The methods and practices of Sozo are of human invention and require human instruction, without reference to Scripture. In fact, Sozo is much closer to new age mysticism than to Christianity. Participants are encouraged into a mild trance state, while being “led” into a series of mental / emotional rooms or stages where, by connecting to their own deeper feelings and thoughts, they believe themselves to have a new experience with God. Whatever participants feel has happened to them, the Bible tells us it is dangerous to open ourselves up to something that has not been sanctioned by God (Ephesians 4:11-14). Preaching and teaching, evangelism, and the practice of anointing a person with oil, or laying hands on them, for instance, are all shown in Scripture to be spiritually safe and useful. But Sozo prayer does not have that kind of “backing”. It’s kind of like taking a drug that isn’t approved by the FDA. It might not damage you, but why take the risk?

In another part of the Bethel Sozo website, one of the goals of Sozo is to enable participants to “heal your relationship with God to enable you to fulfill your destiny.” But the Bible tells us that a Christian’s destiny is death to self and obedience to Christ through faith in His power and saving grace (Luke 9:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). The things that make us one with God are produced by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and a Christian does not need to be led on a mystical prayer journey to attain them. Every believer is conformed to Christ’s image by His power and has already been blessed with “every spiritual gift in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:3).

In summary, we do not believe that Sozo ministry / prayer is a godly practice or something that is needed, or helpful, for a believer’s fellowship with God. Sozo is much more closely related to mysticism and spiritism than to true intimacy with God. True intimacy with Him happens by illumination of the Word of God by the Holy Spirit and fellowship with Christ as we show love for the Father through obedience to and imitation of Him (Ephesians 5:1).

What is Lectio Divina?

Lectio Divina is Latin for "divine reading," "spiritual reading," or "holy reading" and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and to provide special spiritual insights. The principles of lectio divina were expressed around the year A.D. 220 and practiced by Catholic monks, especially the monastic rules of Sts. Pachomius, Augustine, Basil, and Benedict.

The practice of lectio divina is currently very popular among Catholics and gnostics, and is gaining acceptance as an integral part of the devotional practices of the Emerging Church. Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2005 speech, “I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart.” Lectio is also said to be adaptable for people of other faiths in reading their scripture—whether that be the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, or the Koran. Non-Christians may simply make suitable modifications of the method to accommodate secular traditions. Further, the four principles of lectio divina can also be adapted to the four Jungian psychological principles of sensing, thinking, intuiting, and feeling.

The actual practice of lectio divina begins with a time of relaxation, making oneself comfortable and clearing the mind of mundane thoughts and cares. Some lectio practitioners find it helpful to concentrate by beginning with deep, cleansing breaths and reciting a chosen phrase or word over and over to help free the mind. Then they begin with the four steps:

Lectio - Reading the Bible passage gently and slowly several times. The passage itself is not as important as the savoring of each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the "still, small voice" of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to the practitioner.

Meditatio - Reflecting on the text of the passage and thinking about how it applies to one's own life. This is considered to be a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application.

Oratio – Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a conversation with God.

Contemplatio - Listening to God. This is a freeing of oneself from one's own thoughts, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God.

Naturally, the connection between Bible reading and prayer is one to be encouraged; they should always go together. However, the dangers inherent in this kind of practice, and its astonishing similarity to transcendental meditation and other dangerous rituals, should be carefully considered. It has the potential to become, and often does become, a pursuit of mystical experience where the goal is to empty and free the mind and empower oneself. The Christian, on the other hand, uses the Scriptures to pursue the knowledge of God, wisdom, and holiness through the objective meaning of the text with the aim of transforming the mind according to truth. God said His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), not for lack of mystical, personal encounters with Him.

Those who take this supernatural approach to the text can disconnect it from its context and natural meaning and use it in a subjective, individualistic, experiential, even name-it-and-claim-it way for which it was never intended. Here is where lectio and gnosticism dovetail into one. Christian gnosticism is the belief that one must have a "gnosis" (from Greek Gnosko, "to know") or mystical, inner knowledge obtained only after one has been properly initiated. Only a few can possess this mystical knowledge, limiting the number of those "in the know." Naturally, the idea of having inside information is very appealing and makes the “knower” feel important, special and unique in that he/she has a special experience with God that no one else has. The “knower” believes that the masses are not in possession of spiritual knowledge and only the truly “enlightened” can experience God. Thus, the reintroduction of contemplative, or centering, prayer—a meditative practice where the focus is on having a mystical experience with God—into the Church. Contemplative prayer is similar to the meditative exercises used in Eastern religions and New Age cults and has no basis whatsoever in the Bible, although the contemplative pray-ers do use the Bible as a starting point.

Further, the dangers inherent in opening our minds and listening for voices should be obvious. The contemplative pray-ers are so eager to hear something—anything—that they can lose the objectivity needed to discern between God’s voice, their own thoughts, and the infiltration of demons into their minds. Satan and his minions are always eager for inroads into the minds of the unsuspecting, and to open our minds in such ways is to invite disaster. We must never forget that Satan is ever on the prowl, seeking to devour our souls (1 Peter 5:8) and can appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), whispering his deceptive lies into our open and willing minds.

Finally, the attack on the sufficiency of Scripture is a clear distinctive of lectio divina. Where the Bible claims to be all we need to live the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:16), lectio’s adherents deny that. Those who practice “conversational” prayers, seeking a special revelation from God, are asking Him to bypass what He has already revealed to mankind, as though He would now renege on all His promises concerning His eternal Word. Psalm 19:7-14 contains the definitive statement about the sufficiency of Scripture. It is “perfect, reviving the soul”; it is “right, rejoicing the heart”; it is “pure, enlightening the eyes”; it is “true” and “righteous altogether”; and it is “more desirable than gold.” If God meant all that He said in this psalm, there is no need for additional revelation, and to ask Him for one is to deny what He has already revealed.

The Old and New Testaments are words from God to be studied, meditated upon, prayed over, and memorized for the knowledge and objective meaning they contain and the authority from God they carry, and not for the mystical experience or feeling of personal power and inner peace they may stimulate. Sound knowledge comes first; then the lasting kind of experience and peace comes as a byproduct of knowing and communing with God rightly. As long as a person takes this view of the Bible and prayer, he/she is engaging in the same kind of meditation and prayer that Bible-believing followers of Christ have always commended.

One last question to those embracing the practices of false religions: Where in scripture are believers instructed to empty their minds in order to connect with the supernatural world? Name one example in the entire Bible. There are many examples throughout scripture of men and women praying…Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, Hannah, Job, Paul and our Lord Jesus Christ and none have ever emptied their minds and chanted mantras to communicate with God.

Contemplative Spirituality in all of its various forms, promotes a mystical experience with God, an experience that God opposes. All unbiblical practices concerning God are counterfeit and evil. Why tempt God? If God hath not said….then do not eat of it! 


The bible tells us that as believers, we are to have the mind of Christ. In the book of Romans we are instructed, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2
 

We can know what is true, what is good, what is acceptable, and the perfect will of God IF we are searching the scriptures. If you are a Christian who is not reading the word of God, you are making yourself vulnerable to every sort of deception. Stop toying with God. He has given you His word to read and to study, and to guide you in every area of life. God is the One who holds our eternal destiny in His hands, He has prepared the way…now walk ye in it!

Bibliography:

Borrowed from gotquestions.org

See also:

The TRUTH under FIRE: EMERGENT is REGURGITANT – Part One

The TRUTH under FIRE: TTUF Profiles On: Robert Muller "FORTH ...

The TRUTH under FIRE: "WILL THE OLD BOOK STAND?

A CRIMSON CAPLET - The Global Glue of a Unified Spirituality

1 comment:

Judy L. White said...

Deception comes in many forms. Yoga is one of the fastest growing deceptions of our time. The book " The Heart of Yoga Revealed" exposes the enemy and reveals all the reasons why Christians should NEVER practice this sign language to the gods.
For more information go to www.theheartofyogarevealed.com or call 877-700-4448 or Amazon.com. God bless you for your research. ..and the truth shall make you free.

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