This section is concerned with the accusation that Contemplative Prayer is about emptying the mind, and therefore not biblical.
We explore what the Bible says about this form of Christian discipline.
Is Contemplative Prayer Biblical?
Contemplative Prayer and the Bible
There are numerous passages in the bible that advocate being still before God. The Psalms are particularly rich in this teaching. Psalm 46 v10 says “Be still and know that I am God”. Try looking in a concordance to pick out other passages on this subject.
What about emptying the mind?
There is an urban myth that contemplative prayer is about emptying the mind, but this is absolutely not what it is about. To be still in God’s presence means to focus on him in the quiet and the stillness, and to hand over our worries and anxieties into his hands.
Jeannie Gouyon, a classical writer on the subject, exhorted people to read the bible and hold onto His presence. We are therefore to focus on His presence which is not at all the same as emptying the mind!
I remember some time ago reading an article about the Russian people at the end of a winter. Even in these days of global warming the temperature is very cold during the winter period. On the first warm day in spring the writer described people going into the park and sitting on a bench just lapping in the warmth from the sun. They weren’t thinking about anything in particular but they were enjoying the presence of the sunshine, the noises of spring, the birds singing in the trees and the scent from the new grown grass and flowers. This is a natural form of contemplation, and illustrates the fact that contemplative prayer is not about emptying the mind.
In case some are concerned about Jeanne Guyon’s credentials, as she is classed as a 'mystic', her writings influenced people like John Wesley, and the founder of the China Inland Mission, James Hudson Taylor. These teachings and the practice of contemplative prayer have played a significant role in the lives of many Bible-believing Christians. So, to answer the original question, yes contemplative prayer is biblical.
I am sure that most Christians from whatever background have been awestruck by a new insight in the bible. It is natural to pause and be still in much the same way as a lover gazes at his beloved or a traveller is awestruck by a beautiful scenic view or a magnificent piece of architecture. This wonder at biblical revelation, or of God’s love, is a natural and simple form of contemplative prayer. Engaging God in the stillness is not a passive discipline but is an active response of adoration which is an aspect of the Christian’s relationship with God.