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September 30, 2011
Silent prayer seeks a communion that is beyond words.
posted by UrL Scaramanga
| Comments (12)
Related Tags: Communication, Dependence on god, Devotional life, Experiencing god, Growth, spiritual, Jesus christ, Power, Prayer, Spiritual Disciplines, Video, Waiting
I was with her until she said, "Think of a prayer word". Excuse me? Where did she get that idea? She gives the example of Psalm 131:2 but doesn't give the surrounding scripture. The previous chapter is all about presenting petitions and then waiting - albeit a long time - for God to answer. I can find no instance in Scripture of any repetition of a word or words in prayer other than this: Mat 6:7 "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." In fact, when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (check out the prayer Jesus teaches them in Luke 11:1-4) He never mentioned silence at all. The term 'meditate' is also not ever used in the Bible in reference to the emptying of the mind but always in reference to meditating on something specific i.e. thy word, thy works, thy statues, thy laws, thy precepts, etc.
I wonder why Mindy isn't teaching a course on "What the Bible Says About Prayer".
Posted By: elegance | September 30, 2011 5:21 PM
Yes, the voices we hear in such times of listening may, or may not, be God's. There are lots of voices that make their way into our heads in such times, and just listening isn't the way to discern the true from the malevolent.
Posted By: SallyB | October 1, 2011 11:18 AM
The verse, "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10, doesn't imply the emptying of the mind. If one is still, the mind doesn't cease to operate. In this case, 'be still' implies relinquishing control. 'and know' implies conscious activity in the mind.
Posted By: elegance | October 1, 2011 4:13 PM
Elegance, you might want to do a historical study on the practice of what is now known as Hesychism. This approach to prayer has a long, proven track record in the history of Christian spiritual practice. It should not be divorced from any of the other spiritual disciplines; however, or from the whole life and liturgy of the Church. One important factor left out in this video, but maintained in the Eastern Orthodox Christian practice of this spiritual discipline is not attempting to practice it apart from accountability to a spiritual father (or mother), i.e.,someone spiritually mature and recognized as gifted for spiritual direction, usually one's priest or a monastic.
Sally B's point is a good one, and it is precisely for this reason that a mature believer (themselves under spiritual authority) and grounded in the whole life of the Church must give oversight and help in discernment in this kind of practice. The most common "word" used is what is known as the "Jesus prayer." There's some information here for those who may be interested:
Posted By: Karen | October 2, 2011 3:18 PM
Karen, I don't doubt that you mean well and that there is long precedent in the Catholic/Orthodox Church of mixing pagan practice with Biblical practice. However, if one is going to identify with Evangelical Christianity, which Mindy and Willow Creek do, then there needs to be a definite line between Biblical (God's laws) and pagan (man's attempt to do things in his own wisdom). If the Bible forbids a practice that some early 'church fathers' or even a 'spiritual father or mother' suggests I do, I am showing a fundamental lack of belief in the Bible as the final authority if I go there. Mature Christians who walk with the Lord daily; who have walked through the fire and flood with Him; do not need to make-up a word to fellowship with Him. If this kind of stuff is necessary, why is it never mentioned in the Bible?
Posted By: elegance | October 2, 2011 5:46 PM
Elegance, you are right to point out that practicing the presence of God or silent prayer is not the emptying of the mind of pagan meditation. I think this would be evident if you were to examine and compare the two practices more deeply, not just respond out of what seems to me to be, frankly, knee-jerk prejudice. I'm sorry if I'm misjudging you, but I was also Evangelical for 40 plus years, I understand the Protestant myth of the post-Constantine supposed "pagan infiltration" of the Church (not denying here that among many of the people who came into the Church when Christianity was legalized that there was a lot of syncretism, but I categorically deny that this is what the Fathers of the Church were teaching--these are the same Fathers who defined what is considered orthodox Christology, Trinitarian theology, and who officially recognized and identified what all modern Christians accept as the historic Canon of Holy Scripture). I also have a close relative who is into the pagan New Age "goddess" stuff, so I know from experience that in terms of the historic Christian practice and the pagan practices--whatever may be the superficial resemblances for those observing from a distance--in reality "never the twain shall meet!" That's a common misconception for those unfamiliar though, as is the common misreading of the Scriptural injunction against "vain repetition" in prayer. A synonym for "vain" is "meaningless." Are the truths of Scripture or is Jesus Name meaningless? As I've pointed out under other posts at this site, if repetition per se is what is being prohibited here, then the Jewish liturgy by which Jesus and the disciples worshipped God in Temple, home, and synagogue would have been off limits as well!
As this video shows, there are some Evangelicals who also realize that there are some very fundamental differences between Eastern esotericism (e.g., Hinduism) and the historic Christian disciplines of prayer, no matter what seem to be some superficial resemblances for those who understand neither in any depth. Bottom line is I think you don't see this practice in Scripture (or understand that it may be implied by Scriptures such as that cited in the video) because of the particular philosophical filter through which you read Scripture, not because it isn't, in fact, there.
Posted By: Karen | October 2, 2011 7:17 PM
So lets go back to Mindy's "Think of a prayer word." How about if I choose the word, "church" - okay, I'm going to say "church, church, church, church...." until I'm in communion with God, right? Oh, but I should be careful lest I end up communing with spirits other than God? This is why I need a 'spiritual guide'? And the spiritual guide is going to know the difference on my behalf in what way? And we are told to pray in this fashion in what Scripture?
Karen, I went to the Jesus Prayer site you suggested. Even there, when one is repeating this phrase, "Jesus be merciful to me a sinner" 400 times a day, a warning exists about connecting with the wrong spirit. How could repeating a Biblical truth lead one to a demonic contact? Now if I repeat any phrase 400 times in one day, no matter how true the statement is, it will become a meaningless repetition. If this is not what Jesus spoke of, then what was He speaking of? Nowhere in the Bible are we warned that in proper prayer practice are we in danger of communing with evil spirits. The Lord's prayer certainly contains no danger.
Posted By: elegance | October 3, 2011 8:25 AM
"How could repeating a biblical truth lead to connecting with a wrong spirit?"
Even Satan took Scripture and twisted it to his own purposes. Scripture is good, right? How could this happen, then? I think there's an analogy here. Because we are human, even with proper spiritual disciplines, Satan can try to use them for his purposes even as we are trying to use them to draw closer to God. (Screwtape Letters comes to mind.) This can happen because spiritual warfare exists, and we are susceptible to sin's temptation because of our pride. For example, even if we succeed through the use of various spiritual disciplines in avoiding some of the more obvious sins, there is the ever present danger of being proud of our accomplishments and falling into the deadliest sin! Hence the importance of proper balance and oversight the use of all such disciplines.
I think Mindy's examples of words are where the Orthodox practice and her video part ways to an extent. Her example and yours I think are still too conceptual and abstract to do justice to the true practice of this kind of prayer, which is always to draw us near in our awareness to the presence of the *personal* God--true prayer is always personal communication. All true personal communication is two-way, by definition. This type of prayer is designed to help us do the listening part of communication with God. As the site I linked to shows, more often these "words" within Orthodox Christian practice are short prayers drawn from Scripture. If there is a single word used only, likely it would be "Jesus." Again, this discipline is not supposed to be a *mindless* repetition (even when the number of repetitions gets very high), but a continual calling of the attention back to an immediate awareness of the presence of God and to a listening attitude before God. There would be an analogy here with physical exercise as well. In order to strengthen a muscle, we do reps with weights or resistance bands. We start out small and work up to more reps and greater intensity as we gain strength. If practiced correctly, this kind of prayer is working the "loving and humble attention muscle" of the mind and heart.
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." (Isaiah 26:3)
Posted By: Karen | October 3, 2011 9:17 AM
(cont.) Let's not also forget Psalm 136!
You are also right, though, Elegance, that for most Christians like you and me, untrained in this regard, repeating something this frequently would indeed quickly become meaningless repetition because our attention "muscles" are very feeble (and our spiritual sensors for detecting and responding to the presence of God very dull). Consequently, our mouth or mind would go on autopilot after a while, while our attention in reality would slip away to other things. That's why its best to limit the practice to relatively short periods of time and work up slowly under the oversight of an experienced and godly mentor.
Posted By: Karen | October 3, 2011 9:36 AM
One final comment about the meaning of "know" in "Be still and know that I am God." It seems to me the kind of "knowledge" this is talking about is not simply knowing more of the facts of what Scripture says *about* God, i.e., God's laws! To "know that I am God" in this sense demands an experiential encounter with God. So I think Mindy is using it more correctly than not. It means "knowing" Him in the personal sense, as in living personal contact. From my own experience, I never learned more about the facts of what Scripture says about prayer than when I was Evangelical, but I have actually done far more praying (and still way too little) as an Orthodox Christian! Also, it seems to me we can be fooled into confusing an increasing head knowledge of the contents of Scripture with real intimacy with God. But this intimacy in reality is not quantitative (as in I know an increasing number of facts about God, because I know more of what His law says in the Scriptures, etc.), but qualitative (Job 42:1-6), as in I finally understand the real import and meaning of those Scriptures because I have really experientially encountered God. If our "knowledge" of "God's laws" in His word, does not ultimately lead us into this experiential encounter and communion of love with and in Christ which is God's will for us (John 17:2-3, 25-26):, it is also empty and without meaning (John 5:39-40). Certainly, we must search the Scriptures, but this spiritual discipline (like the different disciplines of prayer, public worship, service to others, etc.) is also not an end in itself. The proper object of all such spiritual disciplines is a real, experiential communion of love with and in Christ, through which our hearts are transformed into His likeness. Being diligent in the study of Scripture (a good thing in and of itself) can also be exploited by our enemy into distracting us from the very purpose of those same Scriptures, which is to lead us into a life transforming personal encounter with the One who inspired its authors.
Posted By: Karen | October 3, 2011 10:50 AM
Elegance, "1 Corinthians 8:4-8, 1 Corinthians 25-27"" is applicable in this case.
however, that being said,
Karen, "1 Corinthians 10:20-21, and Revelation 2:20"
What is right for one and okay, is, perhaps, one that is not right for another, and is not okay.
Paul's position for believers is/was relevant to the situation and context of what believers are faced with on a daily basis.
In this case with regards to the pagan sacrifices for those who came out of that system that may hold a special place of "interests" which, considering the sensitivity of the locals, is pretty much a good idea that they avoid the food sacrificed to demons.
Which, is what they are, the pagan god's are demons...so, yeah...and though we're free to do as we please, we also should take in consideration those who don't feel as free as we feel...we must accept the limitations due to spiritual senstivities which we don't want to trip another with our own sense of "I can do as I want."
Therefore, in this case, for Elegance, she may see this methodology as something very similar to a practice that sets off the alarm bells in her head, and.that.must.be.respected.
I understand where you're coming from Karen, but we, all of us, come to Christ with a long baggage train of past practices which we're so afraid will derail us in our walk with G-d that sometimes...it feels like we're walking on tacks.
I have to remind myself of this, and sometimes I forget, and have to be reminded.
as for the prayer itself...I think it could do with a lot more explanation than what she gives in the short amount of time.
Posted By: sheerahkahn | October 3, 2011 11:15 AM
Sheer, you and I agree there is a need for much more instruction than what is provided in this video, yes. But, of course, the purpose of these video clips is not extensive instruction, but to start discussion, and it certainly achieved that here for a couple of us, anyway! :-)
Elegance, I do appreciate the questions and probing. Always good to take the opportunity to learn and process. I'm sure your questions and comments reflect the perspective of a lot of other readers as well.
Posted By: Karen | October 3, 2011 8:47 PM
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