by Roger Oakland
Proponents of contemplative prayer say the purpose of contemplative prayer is to tune in with God and hear His voice. However, Richard Foster claims that practitioners must use caution. He admits that in contemplative prayer “we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm” and that sometimes it is not the realm of God even though it is “supernatural.” He admits there are spiritual beings and that a prayer of protection should be said beforehand something to the effect of “All dark and evil spirits must now leave.”1 Where in Scripture do we find such a prayer? Where in witchcraft?
I wonder if all these Christians who now practice contemplative prayer are following Foster’s advice. Whether they are or not, they have put themselves in spiritual harm’s way. Nowhere in Scripture are we required to pray a prayer of protection before we pray. The fact that Foster recognizes contemplative prayer is dangerous and opens the door to the fallen spirit world is very revealing. What is this–praying to the God of the Bible but instead reaching demons? Maybe contemplative prayer should be renamed contemplative terror.
While Foster has said repeatedly that contemplative prayer is for everyone, he contradicts himself when he says it is only for a select group and not for the “novice.”2 He says not everyone is ready and equipped to listen to God’s voice through the “all embracing silence.”3
This is amazing. Foster admits that contemplative prayer is dangerous and will possibly take the participant into demonic realms, but he gives a disclaimer saying not everyone is ready for it. My question is, who is ready, and how will they know they are ready? What about all the young people in the emerging church movement? Are they ready? Or are they going into demonic altered states of consciousness completely unaware? Given Foster’s admission of the danger, he does great damage when he says: “We should all, without shame, enroll in the school of contemplative prayer.”4
Foster’s implication that some contemplative prayer is safe is terribly mistaken. No contemplative prayer is biblical or safe–even the most mature of the Christian mystical leaders proved susceptible to its demonic pull. Thomas Merton at the end of his life said he wanted to be the best Buddhist he could be. Henri Nouwen at the end of his life said all paths lead to God. This was the spiritual fruit of their lives after years of practicing mystical prayer.
[In relation to mysticism and contemplative prayer], the real question is whether or not the realm of the silence is God’s realm or Satan’s–light or darkness. The Bible tells us that Satan is very deceptive, and what can often look good is not good at all:
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. (II Corinthians 11:14-15)
The word occultism means hidden or secret. There are two connotations to this. The first level involves employment of these practices themselves. Throughout human history, mystical techniques were used by only a small number of persons. The terms esoteric and arcane are often used to signify the fact that these practices have been traditionally concealed. Occult methods almost always employ the use of altered states of consciousness induced by prolonged focus and repetition–a practice that has largely been unknown to many … until now!
A second and perhaps more important concept agrees that behind the physical world lies a hidden reality, and we can interact and have a relationship with this hidden spiritual realm. Occult practitioners in every age and every country agree that all of creation is connected together and God is in all of creation–thus, all is God. These two definitions sum up occultism succinctly. The contemplative prayer movement conforms to these aspects of occultism to the letter.
It is for this very reason I have devoted an entire chapter of Faith Undone to contemplative spirituality. Mystical practices have entered the church through these ancient Christian mystics (ancient wisdom), and they have become the driving force of the emerging church. (from chapter 6, Faith Undone by Roger Oakland)
1. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper: San Francisco, 1992, First Edition), p. 157.
2. Ibid., p. 156.
4. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1978 edition), p. 13.