Keri Wyatt Kent’s book, Listen: Finding God in the Story of Your Life, is a book that is going to ultimately affect more than just adults. The book is a primer in contemplative spirituality, and backing the book is Elisa Morgan, president and CEO of MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers). So not only will moms be influenced (because they will listen to the recommendation of MOPS), but they in turn will influence their children. Thus contemplative spirituality is already making inroads into the youngest generation of Christians – preschoolers.
To begin with, Wyatt Kent’s book is filled with quotes and references by a literal who’s who of the contemplative/mystical world. Some of these personalities include Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Anne Lamott, Rick Warren and Ruth Haley Barton, all of whom have contemplative proclivities. Wyatt Kent has also included references by some with New Age affinities like Sue Monk Kidd (worships the goddess within) and M. Scott Peck. Information about any of these listed above can be found on the Lighthouse Trails Research site.
What does Wyatt Kent have to say about contemplative prayer and the silence? Well, she starts the book out by quoting contemplative proponent Jan Johnson who says that “many people believe God no longer speaks to us today” (p. 4). Johnson, in her own book When the Soul Listens says:
Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.(p. 16)
In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing …. If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. (p. 120)
It is clear that Wyatt Kent shares such sympathies with Johnson. She explains her reasoning for wanting this kind of prayer: “[M]any of us have a one-sided relationship with God. We talk much more than we listen. Something’s missing. I want to learn how to listen to God (p. 5). She says she is “learning that certain practices have been helpful in enhancing and strengthening” her conversations with God (p. 6). Later, Wyatt Kent quotes Julia Cameron from her book, The Artist’s Way (p. 59). In Cameron’s book, she talks about the “spiritual path to higher creativity.” Wyatt Kent says she feels “a deep desire to provide encouragement, as Cameron does in her book, to fledgling creative types who may not have received it elsewhere” (pp. 59, 60). To gain some insight into the spirituality of Julia Cameron, read this interview on Shambhala Sun . If Cameron’s “creativity” becomes an integral part of the lives of mothers of preschoolers, what will be the results?
In Wyatt Kent’s chapter called “Listening in Silence,” she clearly displays her affinity with mystical prayer…. “Because if you let silence in, doing so will change your life,” she says. She goes on: “Many people meditate simply by being quiet and thinking of nothing or simply focusing on a word, such as peace”(p. 118).” She quotes Richard Foster as saying: “Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification” (p. 117). What Foster means is it puts the stopper on all thought (i.e., putting the mind in neutral). Wyatt Kent insists that Jesus Himself “modeled these practices, and his followers have been using them as tools for creating space to listen to God” (p. 119). Wyatt Kent tells readers (through a quote by John Ortberg) that “Meditation is not meant to be esoteric or spooky or reserved for gurus reciting mantras in the lotus position. It merely implies sustained attention. It is built around this simple principle: “What the mind repeats, it retains” (p. 147).
For those who understand this language of turning off thoughts, creating space, repeating words and phrases, you will also understand how tragic it is that an organization like MOPS is going in this direction.