A few months ago we alerted our readers to the problematic theology behind the LCMS’s special prayer events. We posted these concerns on July 27 and July 28. Now we have the Commission on Ministerial Growth endorsing an ancient and heretical practice of mystical centering prayer. Here is what was sent out from the International Center of the LCMS this morning.
Encouragement for Busy Church Leaders, Sleep During Meditation
“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.” Psalm 42:8 (ESV)
There are times during meditation and extended prayer such as Centering Prayer that we can lose awareness. When we regain awareness, it is as if we are waking up from a period of sleep. We have no recollection of what happened during the period of unconsciousness. This experience initially was of concern to St. Teresa of Avila, 17th century Christian mystic. She wondered what might have happened while she was not able to consciously monitor her experience. Was the blank time a result of being too undisciplined? Was it sleep? Was it of God, or was it a time when her mind was taken over by the Devil?
Teresa discussed her concerns with her spiritual mentor, none other than St. John of the Cross. Their standard became, “You shall know them by their fruits”. Her experience, and that of the nuns in her care, was that the result of these times seemed to be spiritually and mentally beneficial. Teresa came to understand these periods as one stage of prayer, which she described in her classic roadmap of prayerful experience, The Interior Castle.
Brain wave studies seem to suggest that the meditative state differs in some respects from sleep. So it may well be that a blank period during meditative prayer is not sleep at all. Of course it could be sleep, but it could also be a meditative state that philosophers have referred to as “consciousness without an object”. If we are in a mental state with no content, there is nothing to remember. When we come out of it, it is as if we are waking from sleep. So if this is happening in your prayer life, might you just as well be taking a nap? Not according to the research. Experiments have found that meditation results in greater mental clarity than an equal period of napping, even when sleep deprived. People often need time after a nap to return to full mental clarity. This is not true for meditative states.
So, if you happen to have seemingly blank periods in your meditative prayer time, you may be able to tell whether it is sleep or a meditative state by how you feel coming out of it. If you conclude that you are napping, you may want to examine your quality or quantity of sleep at night.
Reprinted by permission. Copyright 2006 Psyche & Spirit. (All rights reserved.).
If this all seems odd to you it should. If you do an internet search on “centering prayer” you will find plenty of helpful critiques of this less than orthodox practice.
This is another example of how there is poor doctrinal supervision in the LCMS. This endorsement of this Buddhist-like mystical prayer is coming right out of the International Center. President Kieschnick has created an environment in the LCMS which has allowed this sort of thing to go on even in the highest levels of synod.
(We thank several of our readers for alerting us to this matter.)