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(Originally printed in the Spring/Summer 2006 Issue of the MCOI Journal beginning on page 12)

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. . . (Col. 4:2 NASB).

Many thanks and credit go to Kim Treweek for the painstak­ing work of transcribing the entire Be Still DVD and providing the transcript. I also am indebted to her for some vital pieces of related research that she passed on to me.

NOTE: This article is an evaluation of the Be Still DVD, and not an at­tack on the participants who appear to be genuinely sincere in their assertions. However, as instructed throughout God’s Word, we are told to test all teachings carefully (1 Thes. 5:21). This DVD presents ideas and practices that seem to be rooted, at least in part, from the Contemplative Prayer movement started by three Trappist1Founded in 1664 at La Trappe Monastery in France, Trappist monks are typically austere and take a vow of silence. monks: Thomas Keating, Basil Pennington, and William Meninger.2 See “Contemplating Contemplative Prayer: Is It Really Prayer? This is no surprise since the main person on the DVD, Richard Foster, endors­es methods taught by Keating and others involved in Contemplative Prayer. Other than Foster, DVD participants include Dallas Willard, Max Lucado, Beth Moore,3Editor’s note: Ingrid Schlueter of VCY America contacted Beth Moore and, upon review of the concerns and information, Beth Moore issued a public retraction which we applaud. Henry Cloud, Peter Kreeft, and others.4Before faith in Christ, over a period of many years, the author attended silent Quaker meetings and practiced Eastern meditation—Hindu, Tibetan, Zen, as well as New Age hybrids—the methods and concepts of which are incorporated in some aspects of Contemplative Prayer.

Raising Questions

One the one hand, Be Still tells us that biblical meditation is:

“reflective thinking on a biblical truth, so God is able to speak to us through Scripture.”

 But later the narrator states:

“Christian meditation is the practice of being in the presence of God. Its ultimate goal is to seek holy God and receive His guidance and grace.”

One wonders why we are not receiving “guidance and grace” through conventional prayer, Bible read­ing, worship, and contemplation done in the usual fashion-that is, thinking about and pondering on God’s Word using our mind as the Holy Spirit leads through standard Bible study. Have Christians been missing something all along?

Silence Is Better

A more apt title for this DVD might be An Ode to Silence, because silence and being physically still are put on a higher plane than just plain talking to God. Seeking “being in the pres­ence of God” by being still and silent is given as advice through­out the DVD and is presented as absolutely essential to being a “spiritually healthy” Christian. However, Christians are already in God’s presence through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and through our relationship with Christ. We have access to God’s throne in Christ. Using words in prayers is not going to damage or undermine this relationship. During prayer, a Christian can be convicted by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit often speaks to us through God’s Word, so we can also “hear” God without hav­ing to be still and silent.

Be Still, full of music and scenes that will stir those watch­ing, sets up a false dichotomy from the very beginning. Just be­cause we are a busy society and can get too caught up in activi­ties, does not mean that sitting in complete silence in order to hear God is the answer. It may be true that we need to carve out time for devotions and prayer, but it does not follow that busy lives demand the form of “prayer” the DVD is advocating. However, the DVD repeatedly emphasizes this with scenes of people rushing here and there contrasted with a still lake or other peaceful scenes. Hopefully, Christians watching this will be able to set aside the visual manipulation and compare what is being taught with God’s Word. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught that to hear God we must be physically still and silent. The verses used for this in the video are taken out of context and do not sup­port this credo.

The title and theme of the DVD are based on Ps. 46.10 (“Be still and know that I am God”). Beth Moore even says that:

“God’s Word is so clear that if we are not still before Him, we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow in our bones that He is God.”

In reality, Psalm 46 is God rebuking men for not recognizing His power and might. He is telling the nations and Israel to hush up, cease striving, and recognize the power and sovereignty of God.5See article, “Meditation and Psalm 46:10 In fact, the words be still are ren­dered “cease strivingin the NASB, “calm down” in the CEV, “Stop [your fighting]in the HCSB, and “desistin Young’s Literal.

The DVD also draws on Psalm 62 where David says that his soul waits “… in silence for God only … .” Is David waiting in Contemplative Prayer mode to hear God’s voice? Not at all. David is talking about recognizing that only God can save. The focus is on fully trusting in the Lord-not on the silence; nor does the passage indicate that David is praying.6See The Pulpit Commentaries: Psalms 62

From New Concepts of God … To Progressing In Sleep

Many dubious claims are made as though they are estab­lished truths. These declarations should be vigorously scruti­nized. For example:

New Concept of God, Calvin Miller, author of Into the Depths of God: Where Eyes See the Invisible, Ears Hear the Inaudible and Minds Conceive the Inconceivable, tells us that silence “gives us a new concept of God.” What does he mean by this? Our concept of God is based on knowing Christ and on the Bible, and the idea of a new” concept of God is rather dis­turbing. We should immediately want to know why silence gives us a new revelation about God and wonder why we need a new concept of Godin the first place!

Lectio Divina, described by Foster as “spiritual reading” of the Bible, has its own section on Be Still.7The Meaning of Lectio Divina is –  a sacred reading and sometimes called “praying the Scriptures” – is defined and practiced differently by various Christian groups. Although one source, “Divine Reading: Using Lectio Divina in Your Sermon Preparation” claims its origins are unknown: While the exact origin of Lectio is unknown, we do know that it was a spiritual practice used as early as the 4th century as a result of Origen’s theology of reflecting on God’s Word to find hidden meanings. Others alleged it was practiced by the “Desert Fathers” and in monasteries. One definition de­scribes it as “a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God” A Roman Catholic site states Lectio divina is a reading, on an individual or communal level, of a more or less lengthy passage of Scripture, received as the word of God and leading, at the prompting of the Spirit, to meditation, prayer and contemplation” – The majority of teachings that I’ve run across usually involve choosing a Bible passage and reading it silently and very slowly several times, noticing a portion that speaks to you, repeating that portion aloud over and over but without thinking about it, and then “listening” for what God is saying through the text to you, and then often ending with a prayer. This can be done alone or with a group. It differs from conven­tional Bible reading and study since Lectio Divina is not based on thinking about or analyzing Scripture, but rather it uses Scripture to lead one into an eastern-style meditation, i.e., a state achieved by bypassing or turn­ing off the mind. In recent years, forms of Lectio Divina have become increasingly linked with Contemplative Prayer. This footnote is not meant to be an exhaustive description, but merely a brief overview The method taught here appears to use God’s Word as a mystical and subjective tool rather than reading the Bible as the objective Word of God, let­ting the text speak for itself, and then allowing the personal ap­plication to flow from that. The Holy Spirit aids Christians as we read and study the Bible in the normal fashion; in other words, we can derive both comprehension of the words and at the same time experience God’s presence without practicing a technique. We should not be looking for personal messages in the Bible, but rather personal applications of the message. In teaching that one must read the Bible in a distinctive way in order to get a personal message from the text, Be Still makes a false dichotomy between head and heart, a mistake common on this DVD.

Being healed? Katherine A. Brown-Saltzman, a nurse and Executive Director at the UCLA Healthcare Ethics Center, states that as we slow down,

“physiologically everything begins to shift, …[….]…breathing changes, our mind quiets, and we can actually get to this state of, where our body can heal in a much better way, because it’s not fighting all of this, right?”

 Will we be healed employing this type of prayer over other prayers? The audience is left to wonder. It also begs the question of whether our goal in prayer should be its physiological effects. Visiting web sites where Brown-Saltzman is listed, I came away disturbed finding that one of her focuses in healing is guided imagery.8See “Replenishing the spirit by meditative prayer and guided imagery” and Science Direct — “Replenishing the spirit by meditative prayer and guided imagery

“Silence is one of the great spiritual disciplines” (Dallas Willard). We need to ask, “According to whom?” To find any support for this teaching, one must go to the Mystics and as­sume that they have the authority to dictate what the disciplines are. Mystic Jacob Boehme’s advice on silence is described as an:

“effort to bring the mind to a complete state of stillness” so that one’s consciousness could reach “an almost com­plete suspension of the reflective powers and the surface-consciousness, and a strange and indescribable silence.”9F.C. Happold, Mysticism, A Study and an Anthology; Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1964, p 75

Meister Eckhart (1260-1328), a German Dominican friar and Mystic much quoted by Contemplative Prayer proponents, wrote of having a Divine Birth” through remaining still and silent so that God could speak.10F.C. Happold, Mysticism, A Study and an Anthology; Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1964, pp 76-77, 246. Like many mystics, Eckhart had some dubious theol­ogy such as the belief that God is remote and unknowable: “God is not light nor life nor love nor nature nor spirit nor semblance nor any­thing we can put into words,” 244; and he expresses an identification of man’s soul with God: The soul “becomes so one with God that she herself would say she is God,” 244 While it is true that being silent allows the mind to focus during prayer and Bible study, it is not the si­lence that brings on God’s “voice,” but rather, it is in God’s Word that we find God’s “voice.” Communication with the Lord is not composed of silence, though it may be done silently. Commu­nication is composed of our thoughts and words, whether done silently or aloud. The Bible is in words; Jesus prayed in words, Jesus taught us to pray using words. If God had remained silent, we would have no Bible! 

Breathing technique. One of the more disturbing things is said by an unidentified woman who states that you should sit still, breathe slowly, and then:

“As you inhale, thinking of the Holy Spirit breathing life and peace into your body. And as you exhale, remember the verse to cast all your cares upon him.”

 This is reminiscent of many Hindu meditation practices based on the belief that inhalation causes the person to breathe in a cleansing spiritual energy or “divine breath” (prana)11Hence the term pranayama for breathing techniques done in yoga while exhaling is to get rid of negativity. This implies a person can receive some kind of peace from the Holy Spirit by breathing a certain way. God’s Word teaches that the Holy Spirit indwells believers at the point of salvation; we have access at every mo­ment to the peace given by Christ.12Jn. 14:27; Rom. 5:1, 8:6; Eph. 2:14; Phil. 4:7 Inhaling cannot cause the Holy Spirit to do anything! The Holy Spirit is not composed of physical particles we can breathe and is not at our command. Additionally, breathing in such a way over a period of time can induce self-hypnosis.

Thin places. Another disquieting comment comes via a story told by Dr. Jerry Root, professor at Wheaton College. He relates an account from Mystic Evelyn Underhill about a friend of hers who heard that the Scottish town of Iona is a “thin place” because the roots of Scottish Christianity are there. Iona “is a thin place because there is not much between God and Iona.” However, according to the Bible, no physical space is closer to God than any other. After man’s sin in the Garden, the whole earth, created good by God, became corrupted by sin re­sulting in death and decay. 13Gen. 3:17,18; Rom. 8:19-22 A “thin place” cannot exist in the biblical view. Dr. Root follows this account by stating: “And all of life, properly looked at in some senses, is a thin place,” and he quotes C. S. Lewis about awakening to the presence of God in the world He created. This comment, however, doesn’t really correct the error of the first one. Why even bring up this unbiblical concept of a “thin place” to make a point about God’s omnipresence that can be made directly from the Bible itself? Relaying the tale and referencing Underhill give this mystical concept an undeserved credibility.

Advancing spiritually in sleep. Not since I was a New Ager have I thought I could “advance spiritually” in my sleep! But Richard Foster states on this DVD that you can:

“Brother Lawrence, in his wonderful book, ‘The Practice of the Pres­ence of God,’ said those who have the gale, he means the wind of the Holy Spirit, go forward, even in sleep. Isn’t that wonderful, that we can move forward in our spiritual life in our sleep? I often try, as I am entering sleep, to just give myself to God: My heart, my mind, my thinking, my dreams, whatever they might be. And then you wake up in the morn­ing and you have advanced in the Spirit. You see? That is part of Contemplative Prayer.”

It is not clear what Foster means by being “advanced in the Spirit.” Secondly, how would this occur during sleep? After salvation, we are gradually being conformed to the image of Christ;14Rom. 8:29; Col. 3:10 this is part of the sanctification process and, perhaps, this is “advancement.” However, the Scriptures re­veal this is a conscious process, done through cooperation with the Holy Spirit and obedience to Christ.15Phil. 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:2; Jn. 14:21, 23, 15:10; 1 Tim. 6:14; 1 Jn. 2:3, 3:24, 5:3

“Dedicated to our beloved buddy … who showed us how to be still.”  This mysterious statement appears at the end of the first section. Who is the “beloved buddy?” Is it Thomas Keating-one of the founders of the Contemplative Prayer movement?

Are Christians Missing Something?

Missing Out?  There is a wistful note to the DVD-a yearning-as though people are not satisfied with knowing Christ and need something more. The quotes and comments on the DVD emphasize a mystical longing for God, but in a way that implies we can’t know Him satisfactorily through His Word or through Christ. While it is true that we cannot know God com­pletely, and that we should long to be closer to Him, we are not hampered from knowing God or being close to Him by not being silent and still as the DVD suggests. Rather than focusing on how we can know God through Christ and the Bible, there is an assumption that we are missing out on something, and that customary and consistent prayer and Bible study are insufficient. This undermines the standard prayer life and Bible reading of most Christians.

Subjective reading of the Bible. Foster advises viewers to read over a Bible passage once and then in a second reading highlight whatever seems to jump out at you. In the third reading, read only the highlighted passage and remind yourself of this portion during the day. He called this “Contemplative Prayer.” Biblical applications can be personal, but the original meaning is the same for everybody! The Bible should be read for original meaning first with application flowing from that; otherwise, a personal application is worthless.

Max Lucado says that we can read the Bible with two approaches, “One for inspiration, one for information” and that for inspiration, “We find the passage the Holy Spirit has targeted for us.” While it is certainly true that Christians can find a specific passage that guides them, shouldn’t this happen through conventional Bible reading and study? This method of looking for the magical phrase of the day causes one to miss out on the riches and depths of God’s Word. Why give viewers a false choice between information and inspiration? They can-and do-happen simultaneously! Why would God give us His Word but fail to tell us that reading it in the normal manner is insufficient?

Introduction to more troublesome aspects of the Contemplative Prayer Movement. Although the DVD does not go into the depths of Contemplative Prayer as do its main proponents, introducing this term and concept could easily lead people to search out the writings of Keating, Pennington, and others who advocate even more troublesome practices such as specific breathing techniques, repetition of a word or phrase (which is rooted in Eastern practice), and teachings such as Pennington’s New Ageism that “God is known in pure consciousness rather than by some subject-object knowledge.”16M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living: The Way of Centering Prayer ; NY: Image, Doubleday, 1988, p 95 Be aware that Contemplative Prayer is a movement; it is not just a few people here and there giving private views on prayer. There has been a concerted effort by the leaders of this movement to spread these ideas to Christians and non-Christians;17M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living: The Way of Centering Prayer ; NY: Image, Doubleday, 1988, pp 191-2. Pennington writes of teaching Contemplative Prayer to Hindus in a Jain temple. Referring to this and other times of meditating with those of “many different traditions,” he states that he experienced a “deep unity” with them and adds: “When we go beyond the portals of the rational mind into the experience, there is only God to be ex­perienced” — p. 192 but until now, these teachings were a mere trickle into the evangelical church via Richard Foster and a few others. This DVD makes it more likely that these beliefs will now flow more freely into the evangelical church.

Sense of urgency. The DVD repeats how important it is not to pray, but rather to practice Contemplative Prayer, thus making a distinction between the two. At one point, the narrator says:

“The practice of contemplative prayer can be a vital part of our everyday lives, but we must make time for it.”

Foster tells us that Contemplative Prayer “ushers” us into the more abundant life that Jesus talked about. Dallas Willard says that Contemplative Prayer is “interactive relationship with God.” Beth Moore exclaims:

“I want to be in the Tent of Meeting, I want to be in that place where the cloudy pillar of God’s glory falls, I want to sit back and listen long enough that perhaps the God of all creation might just speak to me.”

A sense of urgency is given (ironically enough for this DVD!) that Christians must practice Contemplative Prayer in order to really, truly be close to God and in order to “hear” Him. Well, hasn’t God spoken already? We have His priceless words in the Bible. And as believers, we can go before the throne of God through our faith in Christ.18Heb. 10:19-22

The mistake of Mystics. Several references are made to Madame Jeanne Marie Guyon (1648-1717). Mme. Guyon was part of the Quietist movement in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This movement was partially related to Miguel de Molinos, a Spanish priest who lived in Italy, and had roots in the Mysticism of Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

“According to Molinos, the goal of Christian experience is the perfect rest of the soul in God. Such a condition is possible when a person abandons himself completely to God and the will is totally passive. Mental prayer rather than any external activity is the means to the state of absolute rest with God.” Mme Guyon, after her husband’s death, “came under the influence of Molinos’ thought and by 1680 felt herself so close to God that she received visions and revelations.”19“Quietism, General Information,” R G Clouse, Elwell Evangelical Dictionary,

Quietism was a reaction against the hardline doctrines of counter-Reformation Catholicism, and the Roman Catholic Church did not support this movement. Like most Mystics of the time, they attempted to cultivate a spiritual state believed to bring them closer to God. However, the Bible informs us that God is not a distant Presence Who requires manmade techniques to bring us close to Him, but rather it is Christ Who brings us near to God.20Eph. 2:13; Heb. 4:16 The Quietists and Mystics made the mistake of thinking that an experience must occur in order to be close to God.

Many of the Quietist Mystics, such as Guyon and Frances de Sales, are discussed in an online Quaker article, “Friends’ Theological Heritage: From Seventeenth-Century Quietists to A Guide to True Peace.”21Dianne Guenin-Lelle, Quaker Theology #6, Spring 2002, The article’s goal is to:

“to re-establish an historical link between Friends theology and practice of silent worship and the Quietist movement of seventeenth-century Europe.”

The article continues:

“The most evident connection between Quakers and seventeenth-century Quietists is the nineteenth century text A Guide to True Peace or the Excellency of Inward and Spiritual Prayer Compiled Chiefly from the Writings of Fénelon, Guyon, and Molinos, compiled anonymously by two Quakers. In this study, we will examine the contributions of the three authors Fénelon, Guyon, and Molinos … […] … in order to rediscover the distinct connection between Friends theology and this particular mystical tradition within Christianity.”22 Dianne Guenin-Lelle, Quaker Theology #6, Spring 2002,

Because Foster is Quaker and a leading influence on evangelicals in the area of Contemplative Prayer, an observation of this link to Quietism is reasonable.23Having myself attended Quaker meetings off and on over a 23-year period before becoming a Christian, I see the similarity of the mysti­cal aspects of Contemplative Prayer and the practices of silent meetings amongst Quakers, as well as a parallel between Contemplative Prayer ideology about hearing God and Quaker historical teachings . Not all Quakers have silent meetings, however

Dr. Bill Schneidewind. Dr. Schneidewind is listed for credit under “Biblical Support” on the Be Still DVD.24Dr. Schneidewind has a Bachelor’s from George Fox University which is a Quaker school, an MA from Jerusalem University College, and his Ph.D. is from Brandeis University He is currently Professor of Biblical Studies at UCLA and Chair of the Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. An Amazon Publishers Weekly review of his book, How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel (May 10, 2004), states:

“Thus, Schniedewind contends that the historical narratives of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, in addition to the Pentateuch and some of the prophetic writings, can be dated to Hezekiah’s reign rather than to an earlier Solomonic period or to a post-exilic Persian period. Schniedewind’s provocative thesis will likely generate some controversy, but it will be well received among those who accept the historical revisionism of Israel Finkelstein and others.”

Who is Finkelstein? In a Christian Research Journal article, distinguished historian Paul Maier discusses Finkelstein’s theories and others like it.25“Archeology: Biblical Ally or Adversary?” Vol. 27, no. 2, 2004; article online at Maier writes that Finkelstein is part of a group of scholars that “sees little or no correlation between archaeological and biblical evidence and thus no reliable history in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament).” Maier goes on to call Finkelstein “a revisionist archaeologist” who wrote a book that:

“controverted traditional Jewish and Christian views of both the historical reliability of the Hebrew Bible and how it came to be.”

In other words, Finkelstein writes against the historical evidence for the Bible, and Schniedewind is apparently in this camp. Because of Schneidewind’s role on the DVD, and because of his extremely unorthodox views on the Old Testament, the need for discernment of the Be Still teachings is even stronger.

The Veil Has Been Torn

Are the methods taught on this DVD intended to invoke a certain spiritual experience and feeling? The danger is that when one seeks an experience or a feeling, especially if one employs certain techniques, the person will almost certainly get results.26In my 15 plus years of experience doing Eastern and New Age medi­tation before trusting in Christ, I can vouch for these experiences seeming very spiritual and peaceful This will be interpreted as God, but there is no guarantee that it will be God. Foster, himself, warns in one of his books that Contemplative Prayer is for more mature believers, and that “we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm” where we may encounter “spiritual beings” who are not on God’s side. He suggests a prayer of protection in which one surrounds oneself with “the light of Christ,” and to say “all dark and evil spirits must now leave,” and other words to keep evil ones at bay.27Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home ;NY: HarperCollins, 1992, pp 156-57 Naturally, the Bible does not teach us that we must pray for protection before praying!

At the moment of Christ’s death, the veil of the temple was torn in two-from top to bottom. This was a supernatural act recorded in three of the Gospels.28Matt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45 This marvelous act is referred to in Hebrews, which tells us that the torn veil is really the torn flesh of Christ-the true High Priest-broken for us so that access is open to all who have been made righteous through faith in Christ.29Heb. 10:12-22 There is no curtain between God and us that requires a stillness or silence so that God can “break through” to us. This curtain has been torn once and for all time through the atonement. Communion with God springs naturally from our reading and study of His Word and from prayer as it is patterned in the Bible

Our Blueprint for Prayer

Since Christians have access to God through Christ, why is it necessary to cultivate a deep silence in order to be close to God? Since we as believers “hear” God through His Word, why do we need techniques to hear God’s “voice?” God provided the Canon of Scripture, which is:

inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3.16-17)

The Biblical model of prayer should be our guide. Colossians 4:2 instructs: “Never give up praying. And when you pray, keep alert and be thankful” (CEV). The NASB tells us: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (emphasis added). Christians are to be alert and watchful in prayer, not shrouded in a mystical veil of silence fabricated by man.Ω

Before trusting Christ, Marcia Montenegro was a professional astrologer and was involved in Eastern and New Age practices for many years. Through her ministry, Christian Answers for the New Age, Marcia speaks around the country and on radio, and writes on New Age and occult topics. She has a Masters in Religion from Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC, and serves as a missionary with Fellowship International Mission, Allentown, PA. Based in Arlington, VA, she is the mother of an adult son and author of SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids, (Cook, 2006). She is also co-author of Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret (MCOI Publishing, 2020) with Don and Joy Veinot You can find her online at: CANA or on Facebook at Christian Answers for the New Age

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