During the first week of October, Rick Warren made a bold move, revealing his true affinity toward contemplative (centering) prayer. The majority of people who saw this will probably not have recognized the significance of this endorsement, which has led us to put out this communiqué. It was done in a simple Twitter posting on Rick Warren’s Toolbox Twitter account, where a “Tweet” told followers to go to Rick Warren's Pastors.com website where a step-by-step process in centering prayer (i.e., contemplative prayer) is given. The message told followers to click over to the website for “easy steps” on how to practice “centering prayer.”
A few days after this article by Stacy Smith was posted on the Pastors.com website, it was removed. However, no explanation was given as to why it was there in the first place and why it was removed. We believe our article will answer both of these questions.
The Pastors.com article states:
Centering prayer is an ancient form of prayer that is a combination of prayer and meditation. The practice was revived in the 1960s and 70s by three Cistercian monks.
While the article goes on to give some of the steps to centering prayer, one thing the article does not reveal is the spiritual background of these three monks. Because of our work at Lighthouse Trails exposing the dangers of contemplative spirituality, we are well acquainted with the writings of two of these monks: Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington (the 3rd is William Meninger, also a contemplative).
The Pastors.com article states that mystical prayer was “revived” by these three men, who played a primary role in bringing contemplative prayer from the Catholic monasteries to the average layperson. This “revived” spirituality is the very same spirituality that is being heralded in the evangelical/Protestant church known as “spiritual formation.” Rick Warren obviously recognizes this, which is why his Twitter post pointed readers to these men and to their centering prayer. As we examine the spiritual outlook of Keating and Pennington, the logical conclusion will be that Rick Warren has a strong affinity with the same spirituality.
First of all, it is vital to understand that the mysticism practiced by occultists and those in eastern religions is the same mysticism practiced by contemplatives. That can be a hard statement for some to swallow. How can someone like Brennan Manning, who talks about God’s love and His grace, be encouraging people to engage in an occultic practice? Well, obviously, many of Christianity’s major contemplative figures don’t believe they are doing anything wrong. They believe they are teaching a good thing, certainly not something equated to occultism. But even the mystics themselves acknowledge that this is so. Listen to these quotes:
The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics. (contemplative mystic Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism, p. 7)
This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality. (contemplative teacher Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 18)
Isn’t it interesting that one of evangelicalism’s most popular contemplative teachers, Ruth Haley Barton, was trained at Tilden Edwards’ Shalem Institute. This is another example of how the prayer of “advanced mystics” is indeed the same as that being spread throughout Christianity today through the spiritual formation/contemplative prayer movement.