When You Pray … Say

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

by Larry DeBruyn

Contemplative Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.

Between contemplative spirituality and biblical Christianity there reside watershed distinctions between first, the definition, and then, the practice of prayer. Simply stated, prayer is talking to God. In speaking to God, believers are free to disclose their hearts’ deepest longings and vexations to him, including their feelings, fears, secrets, sins, praises, petitions, doubts, complaints, thanksgiving, troubles, and more, the prayers of Jesus and the saints in the Bible providing example.
In openness and integrity of soul, our conversation with the Father, however limited by human language and self-interest, is mediated by Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit to the personal God who hears, sympathizes, and understands when by faith, and sometimes amidst life’s sorest trials, his children talk to him (see Eph. 6:18; 1 Jn. 2:1; Rom. 8:15, 26-27). As the author of Hebrews encourages us, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Emphasis mine, Heb. 4:14-16).

Within evangelicalism, the contemplative prayer movement is affecting this mediated understanding of prayer. The narrator in the “Be Still” DVD states that, “Contemplation is different from other types of Christian prayer.” In explaining how this form of prayer differs from traditional prayer, Richard Foster says, “Contemplative prayer is listening prayer. It is attentiveness. . . . It’s being all ears to what the Father has to say to us.” He then quotes Nicholas Grou who requested, “O divine master, teach me this mute language which says so much.”[1] In this manner of praying, the communication that transpires is unmediated. Contemplatives feel themselves to be contacting God directly. There is no need for the advocacy of Jesus Christ or intercession by the Holy Spirit. The desired communication is soul to Soul, the human with the Divine.

But reflect for a moment upon this definition of prayer. Mute means “refraining from speech or utterance.” Language is defined as, “communication by voice” with “conventional meanings.” This “mute language” therefore seems as oxymoronic as esoteric. Nevertheless, Foster and other contemplatives promote that to attain higher communion with God, Christians should engage in a form of speech which is no speech. Read more …