Vineyard Endorsed Contemplative Prayer

I found this article which was written some years ago and feel it goes along with some of the articles and conversation we have had here in the contemplative/emergent area.

 The article can be read in its entirety here, as I am only posting below what I feel is relevent for this topic.

A Visit to the Vineyard Church (Anaheim, CA)

The message was on contemplative prayer and it was deeply influenced by Roman Catholic spirituality. The speaker, who is a pastor emeritus in a Vineyard church, described four types of prayer: crisis prayer, evangelical prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit” prayer (calling upon the Holy Spirit to demonstrate “kingdom power”), and contemplative prayer. He described the latter as “gazing at length on something” and as “coming into the presence of God and resting in the presence of God.” He described contemplative prayer as lying back and floating “in the river of God’s peace.” The speaker described sitting on a couch “in the manifest presence of Jesus.” He quoted St. John of the Cross: “It is in silence that we hear him.” 

The Vineyard speaker recommended the writings of the late Thomas Merton (a Catholic priest who converted from the Anglican Church), who wrote a book on contemplative prayer and whose voice is influential in the “centering prayer” movement. Merton spent the last 27 years of his life in a Trappist monastery devoted to Mary (Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky) and promoted the integration of pagan practices such as Zen Buddhism and Christianity. The titles of some of his books were Zen and the Birds of the Appetite, The Way of Chuang Tzu, and Mystics and the Zen Masters. For three years, Merton lived as a complete hermit. 

The Vineyard speaker described personal revelations that he had allegedly received from God. He claimed that on one occasion Jesus said to him, “Come away, my beloved,” and he obeyed by staying in a monastery for some days. He mentioned at least two occasions in which he has spent time in monasteries. The speaker claimed that there are five benefits from contemplative prayer: (1) An abiding sense of peace, (2) prophetic revelation, (3) love that is felt, (4) personal transformation, and (5) power ministry. He used several Catholic “saints” as examples of the benefit of contemplative prayer, and there was no warning whatsoever about their false gospel, their blasphemous prayers to Mary, or any other error. In fact, he recommended that his listeners read the lives of the saints. He mentioned St. Catherine of Siena and said that Christ appeared to her and placed a ring on her finger signifying her marriage to Him. He claimed that Catherine experienced the benefit of contemplative prayer by being able to exercise supernatural healings. He mentioned “St. Anthony,” one of the fathers of the deeply unscriptural Catholic monasticism. Anthony spent 20 years in isolation, and after that, according to the Vineyard pastor, the “saint’s” ministry was characterized by “signs and wonders.” 

The growing emphasis on Catholic spirituality in evangelical and charismatic circles is very dangerous, but it is the outgrowth of the ecumenical philosophy which has torn down the walls of separation between many Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church. When Ronald Atwood left the Episcopal church and was ordained a Catholic priest in the St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in Oakland, California, in December 1984, he cited Thomas Merton as one of his influences. Atwood testified that the practice of Catholic-style contemplative prayer “led him to seek spiritual direction from a Catholic priest” (The Christian News, Jan. 7, 1985). 

After the sermon, the Vineyard speaker gave an invitation for the people to come forward to receive personal ministry by the workers. He first led the congregation in repeating silently to themselves, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” He said, “Receive his presence that is coming upon you.” He said, “Holy Spirit, I pray for your merciful presence to rest on each of us.” The people were urged to pray, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner,” but the gospel was never given. There was no explanation of why sinners can receive mercy or what sin is or what it means to receive mercy. Nothing was clarified; all was vague religiosity. A Roman Catholic would have interpreted the invitation within the context of his sacramental gospel and would doubtless have “received Jesus” again just as he has been taught to do repeatedly but without coming to the once-for-all experience of the new birth.

Note by me: I can attest to the fact this “movement” is alive and well and growing in the Vineyard Churches today. I don’t understand when it is as plain as the nose on the face this movement has nothing to do with Christianity, and everything to do with Catholicism and eastern religions, why, why, why do they continue to practice it as Christianity. If they want to convert to another religion, why don’t they just do it, and leave Orthodox Christianity alone?