May 9, 2006

Jesus Against Contemplation?

"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Why do some reject traditional ways of praying that include contemplation? Contemplation has been around for centuries and practiced among many catholics and protestants alike. Yet, many argue that contemplation is too eastern and unbiblical. The verse above comes from the sermon on the mt, Mt. 6:7-8. I've personally heard this verse used against contemplation and traditional prayer. The problem with this is the mis-interpration of the verse, the mis-interpretation of contemplation, and this is a full buy in to enlightenment thinking.

In the context of the verses above Jesus seems to be speaking about the motivation for praying, especially in repetition. It would be absurd to say that we are never allowed to repeat our prayers (even over and over again) in light of Luke 18:1-8. In context, Jesus wants the person praying to realize that the power of prayer rests not in the words (thus avoid using empty, vain repetitions), but in God. So, don't pray thinking that it is the words that will effect change, rather pray knowing that it is God that effects change..."your kingdom come, your will be done."

Contemplation is not about empyting one's head as many eastern religions teach, but the exact opposite. Contemplation and the prayer traditions that follow are about filling one's mind, thus contemplation is loving God with one's mind. Some that stand against contemplation are also standing against concentration. In out culture today, concentration is hardly valued if at all, so it's not suprising that a prayer form that needs concentration is so disliked. Maybe, it's laziness that motivates the despising of this prayer tradition.

Much of Evangelicism and Christendom today is expressed in enlightenment terms, thus whatever does not fit into this enlightenment/modernist model is not Evangelical or Christian. Contemplation is tied closely to mysticism in the church, therefore when the Reformation rolled around, we threw out the baby with the bath water...even if it was good. One such thing we lost was contemplation. Contemplation realizes that our words and thoughts do not always express what we need and who God is, therefore contemplation is a way of experiencing God deeper using the language we have. Those who are against prayer traditions like contemplation hold strongly to this dead view that God cannot be experienced, therefore any use of proof texting is useful.

Contemplation has been around too long to just write off with proof texting, and is too valueable to lose due to laziness.


gavin richardson said...

i find it amazing how many things that we have done away with. contemplation, silence, solitude all seemed to be Christ practices, and he always said "i know the Father." figured if he knows the Father then i'm with him.

to boot, i guess the desert fathers & mothers were all cooky.. wait, sometimes they seem that way. what i think the problem is that those people who are closest to God (according to walter brueggeman) have an imagination beyond others of how the world could/should be. i think that scares people who can't grab a vision, so why not do the all american thing, we'll trash their reputations.

JoeBum said...

i like that from brueggeman, i'm guessing you got that from prophetic imagination...which i have yet to read, but it is definitely on the list.

Richie said...

I like the contemplation thing.

Isn't it sorta funny that Christ said to not pray like the pharisees and then gives us an example how to pray. THEN, what does the church do? They turn his example into a FORM PRAYER! LOL

Anyway, contemplation allows for one to listen and digest what God has spoken through his Word and to our hearts. I believe God will speak, either inside our hearts and yes, even audibly if necessary.

I am the worst about listening during prayer but when I am not in 'prayer mode' I do ask God to show me things.

Daniel said...

Hey Gavin, was that actually from Prophetic Imaginnation? The reference would be helpful for an article I'm writing.

gavin richardson said...

sorry to be belated in getting back to the conversation. i think i actually first heard this from a talk of his that i attended in january. but yes, it is reflected in prophetic imagination. it's probably said differently which means it's probably said better than i have given it.

Anonymous said...

You have an outstanding good and well structured site. I enjoyed browsing through it » »

Anonymous said...

Looking for information and found it at this great site... Dora the explorer party games before best bontril empty hour one stomach taken

Anonymous said...

I have been looking for sites like this for a long time. Thank you! »

Anonymous said...

Looking for information and found it at this great site... Europe marketing user guest book email Pic lcd interface cruises Call center manager cingular wireless midland texas Online keno downloads buy fiorinal online no prescription meridia parts jeep Simlup simcard simvastatin zocor teen pussy hosting provider