Rick Warren Promotes Contemplative Spirituality

For a complete analysis on Rick Warren's contemplative propensities,
read A Time of Departing.

Rick Warren (pastor of Saddleback Church) has been promoting the spiritual formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement for many years. Saddleback Church is directly recommending numerous contemplative materials to their followers through "spiritual formation" and what they term "maturity."

It is important to understand what the contemplative means by "maturity." In Rick Warren's first book, The Purpose Driven Church, he said he saw spiritual formation as God's way of bringing "believers to full maturity." He named Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as being key players in that process and said that the spiritual formation movement had a "valid message for the church" and gave "the body of Christ a wake-up call" (pp. 126-127). Click here to read the article, "Saddleback IS a Contemplative Church."

Saddleback Church's Youth Pastor, Doug Fields,
Teams Up With Youth Specialties

Breath Prayers

In both Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life and on his pastors.com website, he encourages the use of breath prayers. In nearly every instance that people use this phrase, this is an Eastern style of mantra prayer.

"With practice, you can develop the habit of praying silent 'breath prayers'" —Rick Warren, from his web site, pastors.com

"[U]se 'breath prayers' throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath."
—Rick Warren, Purpose-Driven Life, p. 89.

"Breath prayers are a great way to keep in contact with our Heavenly Father throughout our day. Just repeat short heart-felt prayers, such as "You are my God," "I love you Lord," and "Thank You, Jesus."
from pastors.com article by Tobin Perry

"Develop the habit of praying silent "breath prayers" for those you encounter."
—Rick Warren, Sermons

Pastors.com Endorses Contemplative Authors


Kay Warren recommends Henri Nouwen's book, In the Name of Jesus and says this about Nouwen's book, "[I]t hits at the heart of the minister.... I highlighted almost every word!"

Pastors.com Endorses Contemplative Organizations

Contemplative Prayer

Youth Specialties

Understanding Breath Prayers
(John Main- a Benedictine monk)
"Sit down.... Breathe calmly and regularly. Silently, interiorly, begin to say a single word. We recommend the prayer-phrase ‘MA-RA-NA-THA”. Recite it as four syllables of equal length. Listen to it as you say it, gently but continuously. Do not think or image anything – spiritual or otherwise. If thoughts and images come, these are distractions at the time of meditation, so keep returning to simply saying the word. Meditate each morning and evening for between twenty and thirty minutes." from the teachings of John Main

According to Saddleback's Spiritual Growth Center under the "maturity" section -- they are on the same page. Regarding the books they list, they state:

This website is designed to recommend the best resources for your spiritual growth. We've poured over hundreds of books, articles, and websites, interviewed numerous staff members, and studied our own book shelves in order to narrow the list of suggestions to what we think are really the best of the best. Whether they're the profound words of a well worn classic or the latest thoughts from today's best loved teachers, we hope these resources will help you go deeper and grow stronger in your walk with Christ.

If this is a true statement, then Saddleback has got a serious problem because a high percentage of the books they consider "the best of the best" are books written by those with strong contemplative (i.e., mystical) propensities.

One of the authors in the Saddleback Spiritual Growth Center is Adele Ahlberg Calhoun author of Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (the one Saddleback is recommending). The book is promoting mantra meditation, giving detailed instructions on several types of contemplative practices. In addition, the author quotes from many New Age sympathizers and New Age contemplatives. In Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Ahlberg Calhoun encourages the use of centering prayer, breath prayers, contemplative prayer, labyrinths, palms-up, palms-down exercises, and recommends for further reading a who's who of mystics. One of those she lists is Tilden Edwards (p. 62). Edwards, the founder of the Shalem Prayer Institute, said that contemplative prayer is the bridge between Christianity and Eastern religion. 1 The Shalem center is a hub of New Age spirituality with an emphasis on the divinity in all. In her book, Ahlberg Calhoun also calls Basil Pennington one of her "spiritual tutor[s]." It was Pennington who stated:

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and "capture" it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible.

By turning to Ahlberg Calhoun, along with the other contemplative authors, Saddleback is promoting methods of prayer that will bring spiritually tragic results in the long run to those who embrace these non-biblical approaches to God. Rick Warren, wittingly or unwittingly, has placed his church in the sphere of Karl Rahner, the mystic who said "The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all."2

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