Tag Archives: Christian growth

What About Contemplative Prayer? (Part 4)

In our previous three posts, we talked about the elements of biblical contemplative prayer, as well as nonbiblical things to avoid. Let’s recap and add to what we’ve already discussed.

 

Things to embrace:

  1. Meditate on the Lord — His nature, as revealed in His Word.
  2. Meditate on His Word — Savor it, repeat it aloud, pray it back to Him, declare it as your statement of faith. Again, if you need a plan for how to begin, go here.
  3. Meditate on His mighty deeds — as told in the Bible, from personal experience, or from the testimonies of other believers who have seen the Lord’s intervention on their behalf. Rehearsing testimonies of His previous faithfulness in your memory (and with your mouth) strengthens you to overcome your current challenges.
  4. Recall / meditate on / pray the personal promises the Lord has spoken to you. In 1 Timothy 1:18, the apostle Paul exhorted his young protégé, “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the previous prophecies regarding you, that you by them [those personal prophecies] might war a good warfare.”
  5. Converse with the Lord. Ask Him questions and give Him space to answer. Carry on a dialogue with Him.
  6. Ask the Lord what He wants to say, and then quietly listen. Invite Him, as young Samuel did, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
  7. Write down whatever God speaks. This includes conversations you’ve had with Him and any other insights you receive from Him. Expect Him to expand on your revelation as you write down what you already have seen or heard. (See 1 Chronicles 28:11-19.)

Things to avoid:

  1. Eastern meditation practices, such as yoga, transcendental meditation, various Eastern relaxation and breathing techniques. These are purported to bring peace, through the emptying of the mind and by inducing an altered state of consciousness. Remember, peace is already available to you through the Holy Spirit, without these techniques. Peace is part of the fruit of the Spirit, not something achieved by our efforts. Ask the Lord to work peace in you. An empty mind is an open door to evil spirits. The Bible doesn’t speak of emptying our minds, or of employing special breathing disciplines. Instead, it talks about fastening our attention on the Lord and putting our trust in Him.
  2. Do not attempt to bring on a trance, vision, or altered state of mind. Trances are biblical — when God is the initiator (see Acts 10:9-16). But trying to induce a trance or vision for yourself will open you up to deception. You can ask God to give you these types of revelation, but from thereon, it is His prerogative, not yours. This goes for out-of-body, heavenly experiences, such as John experienced in Revelation and Paul received in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5. God initiated it; they did not.
  3. Do not try to reach a higher spiritual state by praying words or phrases repetitiously. Religious or mystical ritual will not bring you closer to the Lord. He is all about relationship, not ritualistic formulas for trying to reach Him. In Matthew 6:7, Jesus said, “But when you pray, do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Notice that He calls them vain (meaningless; empty; useless) repetitions.

Is it always wrong to repeat a prayer request or worship / praise phrase? No, not if you are sincerely engaging with the Lord. The ritual is what we want to avoid. Sometimes in our worship or intercession, we go a little deeper each time we tell the Lord we love Him, or each time we plead a point. It is when we try to use repetition to achieve a different spiritual zone, or to coerce God with much speaking, that we cross over the line.

A good measuring stick of all spiritual practices is, if it’s not in the Bible, don’t do it. Stick with what we have good evidence of in the Word.

I hope this series has helped clear up some of the fear and misconceptions surrounding contemplative prayer. I have probably missed covering some spiritual practices which should be addressed. If you have questions or suggestions, please comment!

Contemplative Prayer (Part 1) — Meditation
Contemplative Prayer (Part 2) — Listening to God
Contemplative Prayer (Part 3) — Journaling

 

names of God

 

The Names of God,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

inner peace

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

What About Contemplative Prayer? (Part 3)

Thus far, we’ve talked about two components of contemplative prayer: biblical meditation and quieting ourselves so that God can speak. I also mentioned conversational prayer — asking God questions and waiting for Him to answer.

Journaling is another important facet of contemplative prayer. What is journaling? The term means different things to different people. Those who are highly critical of contemplative prayer usually have no problem with recording prayer requests, Bible verses, and what they talked to the Lord about during their prayer time. But they stumble at the idea that God would actually speak to His people through an inner voice or vision — because they think He only speaks through the Bible. This viewpoint usually goes along with cessationism — the belief that once the Bible was written, all supernatural gifts such as healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, etc. ceased.

For believers who have not bought into the idea that God no longer speaks to us personally, recording whatever He says or shows us is a normal, healthy part of journaling. We expect and look forward to hearing from Him, and we love what He says enough to write it down.

Journaling what we believe God is speaking is not putting pen to paper and mindlessly letting the pen wander and write whatever it will, as several critics of contemplative prayer assert. That would definitely be an occult practice, much like using a Ouija board. Honestly, I have never encountered Christians who do this. You will hear journaling advocates speak of “letting your writing flow” as the Spirit interacts with you. Some testify of moments when the Holy Spirit gave them revelation so rapidly via writing that their thoughts could not keep up. But our minds should not be blanked out while we journal. We are not in a trance-like state. It’s just that at times the interaction between our spirit and the Holy Spirit is so accelerated that the mind has not quite caught up yet.

Journaling what God speaks was practiced by both Old and New Testament believers.

In 1 Chronicles 28:11-19, we are told that God Himself gave David the blueprint for the temple Solomon would one day build. David received the plan by sitting with the Lord and recording what God showed him. Verse 12 explains that he got “the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit.” In verse 19, David remarks, “All this … the LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.”

In Habakkuk 2:1-3, we see an interaction between the prophet and the Lord:

I will stand upon my watch, and set myself upon the tower, and will watch to see what He will say to me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. (Ahem. Contemplative prayer in action!)

And the LORD answered me and said, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie. Though it may tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come: it will not tarry.”

The apostle John was instructed by the Lord, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Revelation 1:19).

Journaling, including what we hear God say, is a time-honored practice among multitudes of Christians. As we have just seen, it is backed up by Scripture. Furthermore, sitting with the Lord with pen and paper in hand tells Him, “I am serious about hearing from You, Lord, and I value what You say to me so much that I will write it down. I want to cherish Your words in days to come.” When we demonstrate that attitude, He often responds by speaking.

In our final post, we will recap what is acceptable contemplative prayer procedure and what is not. I will also mention a couple more practices which I believe we should not indulge in.

Contemplative Prayer (Part 1) — Meditation
Contemplative Prayer (Part 2) — Listening to God
Next — Part 4, Conclusion

inner peace

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

names of God, KJV

 

The Names of God,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

What About Contemplative Prayer? (Part 2)

In our last post, we saw that contemplative prayer incorporates meditation — on the Lord Himself, on His Word, and on the things He does. We discovered that meditation involves not only pondering these things, but also dialoguing with the Lord about any questions we have.

Another aspect of contemplative prayer is quieting our lips and minds so that God can speak to us. In Psalm 46:10, the Lord instructs us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” We need to calm down in our thoughts, so that the Holy Spirit can speak to our spirit. He may do that through words or visions (pictures He impresses upon our spirit).

Because a few Christians have gotten off into doing unbiblical stuff, the part of contemplative prayer which involves being quiet before the Lord has caused fear, and therefore criticism, among some believers. This is really a case of “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

Eastern religious practices involve using breathing and relaxation techniques to bring the mind into emptiness or an altered state, so that one can receive “revelation.” That’s exactly what we don’t want to do. God did not create our minds to be left empty and open to whatever.

The only altered state of mind we should actively seek is mentioned in these two verses:

Romans 12:2“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You: because he trusts in You.”  (“Stayed on You” means to be focused, or fastened, on the Lord.)

We don’t need special relaxation exercises in order to become calm enough to hear God. Getting quiet before the Lord is a bit of a discipline, but only in the sense that if our minds are distracted or wandering, we keep “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Here are some biblical ways to quiet yourself so God can speak:

  1. Meditate on one of those three things we already mentionedthe Lord, His Word, or His mighty acts.
  2. Read a passage in the Bible. Then wait for Him to talk to you about it. This is God’s “breathing technique.” 2 Timothy 3:16 literally says, “All Scripture is God-breathed….” Let Him do the breathing, not you!
  3. Worship — actively. You can also play worship music in the background to help sense His presence with you, but keep it soft enough so that it won’t distract you.
  4. Invite Him to speak. “What’s on Your heart today, Lord?”
  5. Ask the Lord a question; give Him time to answer. “How do You see this?” “What do You want me to do?”
  6. Pray softly in tongues. Keep your spiritual ears tuned to hear Him while you pray.

When we quiet ourselves before the Lord, although we should want to hear Him speak, there will be times when He does not say or reveal anything. We can still enjoy just being with Him. His Presence is enough. Indeed, lovers often spend time together without needing to say anything. It is the same between us and the Lord. Our primary goal should not be to receive revelation from Him, but simply to be near Him.

Next time we will talk about journaling as a part of contemplative prayer.

Contemplative Prayer (Part 1, Biblical Meditation)

Next: Part 3, Journaling 

intercessor handbook, prophetic intercession

 

 

The Intercessor Manual,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

prophetic intercession

 

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

What About Contemplative Prayer? (Part 1)

contemplative prayerI’ve sometimes been asked whether contemplative prayer is OK to practice. A few Christian teachers have condemned it as occult, with strange claims of what they think is going on. In this series, we’ll examine what contemplative prayer is, whether it is biblical, and what isn’t all right to do.

You may be asking, “What in the world is contemplative prayer? I’ve never even heard of it!” In a nutshell, it is getting quiet before the Lord, giving Him time to speak, rather than doing all the talking about whatever is on your heart or mind. “Soaking prayer, “meditative prayer,” “practicing the presence of God,” and “basking in the Lord’s presence” are alternative terms meaning basically the same thing.

People who fear contemplative prayer usually are convinced that Eastern religious practices are being implemented. Some of their concern stems from hearing of extremes. You will always have some folks who mix what is biblical with strange, out-of-bounds practices. While we can’t prevent others from going off in weird places, neither should we let their behavior deprive us of a truly viable form of prayer.

Let’s start by talking about a buzz word for those who fear contemplative prayer: meditation. Meditation is part of both Christian and pagan practices. Whether it is legitimate depends on what you are doing.

The Bible talks about meditation. When Isaac first met Rebekah, he was spending the evening hour in a field meditating (Genesis 24:63). The Hebrew word translated “meditate” there means to muse or be thoughtful. Some translations say Isaac was thinking; some say he was praying. It was probably a mixture of the two. He was waiting expectantly for the household steward to return home from a far country with a bride for him, but there was a possibility that he would show up empty-handed! No doubt Isaac had many hopes and concerns, which he was bringing before the Lord.

I spend a lot of prayer time “thinking before the Lord.” I also ask Him questions about things I wonder about. I invite Him to give me inspiration or understanding. Conversation with the Lord is a part of contemplative, or meditative, prayer.

The Bible speaks of three things we are supposed to meditate upon:

  • The Lord Himself
  • The Word of God
  • The Lord’s mighty works.

Meditating on the Lord:

… My mouth shall praise You with joyful lips when I remember You upon my bed and meditate on You in the night watches. — Psalm 63:5, 6

My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD. — Psalm 104:34

The word for meditation in Psalm 63:6 means to murmur, ponder, mutter, study, and utter, while the word used in Psalm 104:34 means contemplation (hence, “contemplative” prayer).

Meditating on the Lord means to think about His nature — His character attributes, His majesty, His goodness, His beauty. A great way to do this is by finding His names in the Bible, because He uses these to reveal Himself to us. Pick a name of God and think on it. Ask God to remind you of stories in the Bible which illustrate that particular character quality — His mercy, truthfulness, or faithfulness, for example.

See my webpage, The Names of God, for a free alphabetical listing of more than six hundred names of God as found in the KJV Bible. If you would like the list with their Bible references, I have that as an inexpensive book for you as well.

Meditating on His Word:

This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. You shall meditate in it day and night, so that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.Joshua 1:8

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2

My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I might meditate in Your word.Psalm 119:148

In Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2, the word for meditate is the same one used in Psalm 63:6, meaning to murmur, ponder, mutter, study, and utter. So, this includes not only thinking on the Scriptures, but speaking them.

In Psalm 119:148, “meditate” means to ponder, converse, commune, utter, pray, and muse. Here, we are taught not only to speak and think about a verse or passage of Scripture, but to pray it, dialoguing with the Lord about it.

Meditating on God’s Word is an important part of contemplative prayer. If you’ve never practiced it, my article, How to Meditate on God’s Word will help you. I have been so blessed in doing this. It is a guaranteed way of hearing from the Lord and increasing your spiritual understanding.

Meditating on the Lord’s works:

I will meditate also of all Your work, and talk of Your doings.Psalm 77:12

I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation.Psalm 119:99

I remember the days of old: I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands.Psalm 143:5

Again, in Psalm 77:12 and 143:5, the Hebrew word for meditation means to murmur, ponder, mutter, study, and utter. In Psalm 119:99, it means devoted reflection, meditation, and prayer.

Thus far, we see that meditation is a God-pleasing part of contemplative prayer. Next time, we’ll look at another biblical component — quietly waiting in God’s Presence.

Contemplative Prayer (Part 2, Listening to God)

interecessor training

 

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

intercessor training

 

 

Your Intercession Questions Answered, by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

Finding God in the Waiting

If we were to take a survey to find out how many Christians would like to hear God personally speak to them, I would imagine the vast majority would say, “Of course I want that!” The percentage would plummet, though, if we asked the same people how many actually do hear Him on a regular basis. Why is that?

Some, unfortunately, have been indoctrinated with the false notion that God no longer speaks to us personally. Others have never been taught how to recognize the voice of God. Still others have bought into the lie that they are unworthy to hear God, that they are some kind of second-class believers in God’s eyes. The truth is, God has promised in hundreds of verses throughout the Bible to help us know His will for our personal lives, to give us wisdom and revelation, and that we will know His voice.

John 8:47 says, “He who is of God hears God’s words; you, therefore, do not hear them because you are not of God.” That means, if you love Jesus, you can hear God. You may not recognize that He is speaking to you, but He really is, and having trouble hearing Him is fixable. If you need some help in recognizing how He is speaking to you, I’ve written an article series on the subject. You will also find that information in my book, Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God.

Besides simply not discerning that God is already speaking to us, there may be specific hindrances getting in the way — things we can do something about.

We aren’t giving God the quality time He desires to spend with us. Time is one of God’s love languages. James 4:8 promises us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you….” He speaks to those who make Him their priority. Yes, He can and does communicate with us at random moments throughout the day. But we are more likely to hear Him then if we have already cultivated a listening ear during a time set aside solely for intimate waiting on Him.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have the first idea how to wait on God.” Here are some suggestions to help you:

  • Choose a Bible verse, read it over and over, and ask God to speak to you through it. You’d be surprised at all the new insights you will get as you do that.
  • Ask God questions. Then give Him time to answer you. He may not speak immediately. He might pop the answer into your thoughts later in the day, or even months down the road, but at least you have given Him the opportunity. I have found that God often doesn’t volunteer what we want to know: He waits for us to ask.
  • Think about Jesus.
  • Think about a character quality of God — His mercy, His goodness, His faithfulness, His justness, His purity.  Then praise Him for that quality.
  • Peacefully pray in tongues. As you do that, the Holy Spirit will often bring inspired thoughts, including interpretation of what you are praying, to your consciousness.

Our brain cells are overloaded with other things. Too much news media, social media, video games, or other ear and eye stimulators can so preoccupy us that it is really hard to hear the Lord above all the noise.

Wrong motives for wanting to hear God. Do we spend quiet time with God because we love Him, or only because we want revelation? That’s a selfish motive. It becomes all about us and what we can get out of God, instead of about giving ourselves to Him.

Sinful heart issues harden us to His voice. If we deliberately ignore what He is saying to us, rebelliously do something other than what we know He is directing us to do, or willfully live in sin, His voice becomes gradually fainter. God may even eventually quit speaking. He usually continues to speak for a while before that happens, trying to turn us back in the right direction. And, because He is so merciful, if He can’t reach us by speaking through other avenues, He will still try to turn us from our wrong ways through our circumstances. Remember Balaam and the angel who stood in his way (Numbers 22).

The good news is, even if the Lord has become silent, once we repent, the lines of communication open up again. I didn’t quote all of James 4:8 a little earlier. There is a condition for hearing attached to the rest of the verse: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Repentance goes a long way toward restoring and clarifying our hearing.

While never hearing God is not normal and should be examined for the reason, it’s important to know that every Christian goes through periods when God seems to be silent, through no fault of ours. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are out of God’s will or doing something else wrong. These are times of growing in faith by learning to trust God in the silence. God uses silent seasons to cause us to seek more diligently for Him. They are a normal part of Christian life. But they are temporary. Continue seeking His company and listening for Him. He will eventually begin speaking again.

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World,
by Lee Ann Rubsam