With new people still discovering this issue it’s fitting to point out again why it is the Lord might wish to involve me. I happen to be one whom God, in His mercy and sovereignty, chose to regenerate, deliver me from the religious bondage of apostate Roman Catholicism, and later call me to the unspeakable privilege of being among the pastor-teachers Jesus would send out during this time of rapidly expanding apostasy within mainstream evangelicalism.

That said, you’ll see below RZIM continues dismissing the results of my own personal study into Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) as well as that of others in what is called below “various ‘watch’ groups.” Unfortunately RZIM is still equivocating with words as they go on defending Ravi Zacharias’ claim that Roman Catholic monk Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)—a superstar of CSM—”One of the greatest saints of recent memory.” But this does not involve a mere source quote because the statement clearly means Zacharias accepts Nouwen as a regenerated Christian.

As I said before, I now believe it’s very important for readers to see for themselves the official RZIM position on CSM and obviously, being that Nouwen was a Roman Catholic mystic he rejected Sola Scriptura. It’s also beyond question that Nouwen was also a very well-known teacher of corrupt Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP) whose own highly subjective personal ”experience” in the deceptions of CCP—transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terms—finally led him to write the following:

Today I personally believe that Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her way to God. (Sabbatical Journey, 51)

And so I now repeat; what you’re about to read from RZIM—and published with permission— is a very sad case of either being unwilling, or in ignorance unable, to exercise spiritual discernment.

Dear AM Reader,

Thank you for your recent email. I appreciate your writing to me, and I am happy to clarify my use of Augustine and Luther with regards to what is being called “contemplative prayer” for lack of a better term. But, first, let me help you to understand how I define “contemplative prayer” and why I would include these two church fathers as “contemplatives.” As I have understood contemplative practices within Christianity throughout the history of the church, what is being discussed and understood here goes back to the monastic tradition of the Church. The monastics marked their days with prayers throughout the day as a part of their corporate worship (the marking of the hours), as well as focused on devoted times of private prayer. Both, Augustine and Luther practiced prayer in this kind of monastic tradition – of course Luther was an Augustinian priest, and part of an Augustinian monastery founded in honor of St. Augustine. Had the Catholic Church not excommunicated him, he would have remained within the Catholic (meaning “whole”) church.

Of course, there is a tradition of “Christian mystics” who focused on the more “ecstatic” experiences with God, much like our contemporary charismatic traditions focus on today – the more experiential and supernatural gifts of the Spirit. St. John of the Cross, St. Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and many others are a part of this more “mystical” tradition. But, this is not the same as Eastern practices of meditation that are practiced by Buddhists, and that many are alleging are making their way into the Christian church. I also believe that many misunderstand Luther’s Reformation as a complete repudiation of everything that had gone before in the Catholic church. Luther had many specific critiques about the Catholic Church – and they were serious, indeed. But, he did not repudiate many of the devotional practices that he would have been nurtured on and practiced himself.

In saying this, what is being termed “contemplative spirituality” or “contemplative prayer” today is simply this desire to recover these ancient practices of prayer and Christian devotion. There may very well be groups out there who are combining Eastern and Western practices of contemplation – the Eastern versions focusing more on a sense of “emptying oneself” which we would not agree with. But, this is not the case with all who are trying to recover these practices for their daily devotional life. As I described to Mr. Silva, and to others who have asked, the word in Hebrew for “meditate” has the sense of “chewing” on the word. The ancient practice of Lectio Divina for example, is exactly this – it involves taking a passage of Scripture and having it read two or three times, and then reflecting on what is being heard through the Scripture. This is what the Bible speaks of when it talks of “hiding God’s word in our heart” and “meditate on God’s Word day and night.” It’s not simply memorizing verses, although that surely is a part of meditation. But, it is also taking those words from Scripture and allowing them to do their transformative work in our hearts and lives so that we come to reflect the character and person of Christ more and more.

As an organization, RZIM is not in any way connected to, or endorsing the “contemplative spirituality movement.” We quote widely and broadly in our writings, and in our messages. We use quotes that enhance an argument, or advance a point, and while we have been accused of endorsing wholesale or carte blanche what that author or speaker stands for, that is simply not the case. We quote from Nietzsche and Ghandi – and yet no one is accusing us of being atheist or Hindu supporters. We quote from Oscar Wilde – and yet we are not being accused of supporting debauchery or supporting the homosexual lifestyle. Why is it then, if we quote from Henri Nouwen, or Richard Foster, for example, are we being accused of being in cahoots with “contemplative spirituality?” I’m not saying this is what you are doing in asking your questions of me, but Mr. Silva and others have made this claim. I would encourage you to examine our Vision and Mission Statements on our website: www.rzim.org and then decide, if in fact, we are not committed to biblical Christianity.

Now, to directly address your concerns, I did not cite Martin Luther to say that he is in support of “contemplative spirituality” but rather to note what he does say, and how he does describe prayer. This is exactly what I wrote: I would encourage you to examine the writings on prayer in Martin Luther, for example. See his works, “The Table Talk of Martin Luther”, “The Sermons of Martin Luther” (specifically “Epistle Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Advent”), and his “Treatise on Good Works.” I’m simply citing these works as examples of Luther’s views on prayer – views and writings that have been cited in the works of individuals like Richard Foster. So, if Foster is citing Luther couldn’t it be the case that Luther has some excellent things to say about the practice of prayer? In the same way, many authors have cited St. Augustine as having said, “True, whole prayer is nothing but love.”

I did an extensive Google book search for exactly where Augustine said this, and found – to my surprise – that the direct quote is that “Prayer is love.” Thomas Hardy has written a book called, St. Augustine on Prayer which seems to be a compilation of manuscripts from many of Augustine’s sermons that talk about prayer as love. It is also Augustine who said, “Love, and do as you please.” Why would Augustine say this? Because, Augustine understood what the Lord said when he summed up all the Law and the Prophets in the command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second is like unto it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31). If we love, as God desires us to love, then we can do as we want because proper love will lead to the fulfillment of the law. See 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8 for Paul’s words on this, as well.

But, even with citing that Augustine said this about prayer, why is this a problem? What is wrong with prayer not simply being the words we pray to God, but also being the offering of our very lives in worship and service, in love, to the God who made us, and to the world which so desperately needs the gospel message? There are many wonderful Christian individuals in this world who have no language skills – or who are not able to have coherent thoughts either through profound mental handicaps or through mental illness – are we going to say that the only way they can “properly” pray is through words? Of the Holy Spirit it is said that he offers prayers “with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26-27). There are many times in my own prayer life that words are not able to express what I want to express to the Lord – is this, then, contemplative prayer as it is being defined by various “watch” groups? I do not believe that it is.

I trust this answer will clarify your concerns. If it does not, I would encourage you to write to me again and discuss this further. Most important, however, is that you examine our website, and the ministry of Ravi Zacharias for over twenty-five years now. He has been, and continues to be a faithful witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – giving “reasons for the hope that is in us” – to skeptics, cynics and seekers alike.

Sincerely in Christ,

Margaret Manning

Speaking Team/Associate Writer

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