More Problems with Prayer in the LCMS ““ Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support Endorses “Centering Prayer,” by Pr. Rossow

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.)

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


More Problems with Prayer in the LCMS ““ Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support Endorses “Centering Prayer,” by Pr. Rossow — 85 Comments

  1. Norman #39,

    You are confusing what eccliesiastical supervision is. It is not corporate supervision as in supervising a board or commission. It is supervising the doctrine and practice of the synod through church discipline to make sure we are keeping the Gospel pure and living moral lives in Christ.

    President Kieschnick has full authority to do that but does not exercise it. Instead, he appoints a committee to give him more secular authority in the church.


  2. Dutch and Jim,

    Yes, that was Pastor Muench’s entire response. I provided him with the link to the thread in case he wanted to comment. I can only conclude from his response that he is either undiscerning or doesn’t understand what centering prayer is, neither of which bodes well for those to whom he has be tasked to serve.

  3. Hi Pastor Silva. It’s good to hear from you. Glad you’re chiming in, and thanks for all your hard work.

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pastor Ken Silva, he is an excellent apologist whose website, Apprising Ministries, is one which I often frequent:

  4. Scott,
    I hope you didn’t think I doubted you, that was so not my intent, forgive me if I offended you by it.
    I was being sarcastic in my post about the reply you received. If the “all inclusive” theory now pertains to prayer, as I posted in #41, how far a leap is it, for the Lord of various understandings & approaches? Not much of one. Just one tiny toe going forward.

    When I can watch Roman Catholic friends, be allowed/welcomed to partake of the Sacrament, in a LCMS church, when I see pantheists engaged to speak LCMS universities & events, & our own President shares a stage, all our doctrines & authors of them, thrown over for fad-like flattering speakers, me thinks….not long. These things cannot occur if the bold stance in the ELCA, in reference to the innerrancy of Scripture, is spoken but not acted upon, words are cheap, actions speak volumes!! It says quite a bit to us, at this point!

    These things, are not just based on my experience, but the frantic & tearful calls I take from others as well. This fight is hard, it’s hurtfull, & when the line is held, much damage is inflicted. Knowing how painfull this is, to your average Joe or Jane member, how sorry & sad does that response look?

    If there are those, who hold the Divine Office, are doing this, (do they ever), and bring this into their congregations, let’s be mindful… of those consequences, those who fight this pay & pay they do, in great numbers. It is a dear price, your article on the “left foot of fellowship”, explains it well. Let’s pray, none depart the Faith in it’s wake, departing the LCMS is better than departing from THE FAITH. What a choice, so many, are being forced to make….and for what?!

  5. In his response to Scott Diekmann, Rev. Muench wrote: “When I chose to use this particular article, I did not consider it to be embracing mysticism,…”

    In fact, Rev. Muench chose to use this particular article that in its very first paragraph embraces mysticism of lost awareness in centering prayers: “This experience initially was of concern to St. Teresa of Avila, 17th century Christian mystic.”. Rev. Muench chose to use this particular article that then goes on to explain the mystical aspects of prayer which “Teresa came to understand… as one stage of prayer, which she described in her classic roadmap of prayerful experience, The Interior Castle.”

    Rev. Muench: “…but rather, that it offers some suggestions for the strengthening and vitalization of personal prayer and meditation,…”

    In fact, Rev. Muench chose to use this particular article that offers only one suggestion and it is NOT “for the strengthening and vitalization of personal prayer and meditation”: “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.

    Rev. Muench: “…understood as Luther suggests the Psalmist is presenting in Psalm 119, summarized by Oratio (prayer), Meditatio (meditation), and Tentatio (temptation).”

    In fact, Luther does not suggest how to identify (or induce) blank mental periods in prayer. Instead, in his “Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio” (Excerpted from Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther’s German Writings 1539, in Luther’s Works, American Edition, Vol. 34. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960, pp. 285-288), Martin Luther does suggest a correct way of studying theology:

    “Moreover, I want to point out to you a correct way of studying theology, for I have had practice in that. If you keep to it, you will become so learned that you yourself could (if it were necessary) write books just as good as those of the fathers and councils, even as I (in God) dare to presume and boast, without arrogance and lying, that in the matter of writing books I do not stand much behind some of the fathers. Of my life I can by no means make the same boast. This is the way taught by holy King David (and doubtlessly used also by all the patriarchs and prophets) in the one hundred nineteenth Psalm. There you will find three rules, amply presented throughout the whole Psalm. They are Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio.

    After discussing the rules, Luther concludes:

    “There now, with that you have David’s rules. If you study hard in accord with his example, then you will also sing and boast with him in the Psalm, ‘The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces’ [Ps. 119:72]. Also, ‘Thy commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep thy precepts,’ etc. [Ps. 119:98–100]. And it will be your experience that the books of the fathers will taste stale and putrid to you in comparison. You will not only despise the books written by adversaries, but the longer you write and teach the less you will be pleased with yourself. When you have reached this point, then do not be afraid to hope that you have begun to become a real theologian, who can teach not only the young and imperfect Christians, but also the maturing and perfect ones…

    “If, however, you feel and are inclined to think you have made it, flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it—if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears. Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, ‘See, See! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.’”

  6. Carl, that was spectacular! 100%-A+ for you! Rev. Muench’s words were chosen very carefully & with forethought. He knew what was being printed, he knew all about the background, and his response to Scott, is rather typical, sad, but typical.

    Old ploy: use as many words as possible, to say as little as possible, and always, always, accept NO culpability what so ever! (like a politician or marketing exc.)

    It is almost verbatum, to the response my husband got when calling out our last pastor & board of elders, on bringing & embracing this type of “divinational meditation” into our last church. Gee, I wonder, did our last Pastor (small, rural LCMS congregation) shoot from the hip, or had he heard it somewhere else & been directed in how to respond…… things that make ya go….yak.

  7. #58,
    I laughed so hard & loud, my sons just asked if this was a Mr Bean clip!!! Ah…no, it’s not love. Just the Lutheran site Mummy reads. I keep hearing the Mission Impossible theme (TV show, not movie) playing as I write! Oi vey…what days are these!

  8. Frank Gillespie :“Expect the LCMS to post soon (if not sooner) about faith tools like the spiritual labyrinths and other meditativistic experientiality jargon.”
    Carl, this is already being promoted with youth workers at all levels. Setting up stations so that youth may meditate and journal about how they felt about their experiences is one of the hot new trends. This really shouldn’t be a surprise when so many emergent church leaders (whose practices and rituals frequently focus one’s attention inward on feelings instead of on Christ alone) are consulted as to how to conduct youth ministry.

    Do you have documentation that this is being promoted in the LCMS? I would be interested in checking it out. Thanks!

  9. Rick,
    There is quite a bit of documentation, just depends on if you are looking into youth or congregational level.

  10. @Rick #60

    There was a discussion of a labyrinth in the chapel of Concordia St Paul on LQ in March of 2005.
    One comment in the thread is reproduced here. For more, search the LQ site using labyrinth, Concordia.

    “Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 – 2:24 pm: Edit Post Delete Post Print Post
    [names removed]
    The photograph did show the labyrinth as you described it, on the floor in the center of the chapel. The chapel seating there has been turned in with the altar in the center since at least 1997, which would have been my first year there, I believe that was done while Rev. Gerald Coleman was the campus pastor. In fact, at one time, the altar was stored away and only brought out on Wednesday mornings when Holy Communion would be celebrated. If I remember correctly, that did change and the altar was left out all week after Rev. Coleman left, but the seating arrangement has remained the same. The labyrinth has to be a relatively “new” addition to the chapel, most likely this year. I do know that the University is without a campus pastor, since their budget crisis in the summer and fall of 2002 when they began construction of the new library and Rev. Robert Benke was let go as campus pastor. That decision might explain why even more questionable things have occurred there. Frankly, I’m not suprised, from my own experiences there as a student.”

    [This is one of the places that some people hope will have Lutheran music taught and Lutheran teachers supplied for our schools.] I have asked a 2009 graduate if the thing was still there and how it was explained.

  11. Hi Rik,

    The SED of the LCMS openly promotes Centering prayer and Labyrinths (amongst other mystical practices) which can be found at their website here. The following is a quote from the link above. (A simple websearch provided that page. Indeed, here is a link to the materials offered by an LCMS church, Resurrection Lutheran Church, teaching Centerning Prayer and the Lectio Divina. I am sure more can be found if one wanted to do the web search.)

    PRAYER & SPIRITUAL FORMATION RETREATS – Like Jesus, we are called to “withdraw to lonely places to pray.” These retreats help us to quietly listen to God as He speaks to us in His Word, and then to respond with a life of discipleship and service.The purpose of these retreats is to enrich and nourish your spiritual journey toward a greater awareness of God’s presence and love in your life, to nurture a passion for Jesus and a life of service, to build up the community of believers – the congregation, and to provide time for Sabbath rest.


    Level 1 – An introduction to prayer and spiritual formation. Participants will be led through a variety of prayer and meditation practices, and have the opportunity to experience them individually and with other attendees.

    Topics Include:

    •A Place for Prayer
    Teaching the value of special places and times reserved for prayer and spiritual growth.

    Ancient Prayer Forms
    Learning the patterns and practices of other Christian traditions including the Lectio Divina, Examen, Jesus Prayer, Centering Prayer, Spiritual Direction, Praying The Bible, etc.

    Prayer Disciplines
    Silence, Abundance, Gratitude, Journaling, Dreams, Fasting, Healing Prayer, Sabbath Retreats, Prayer Lists, Prayer Partner, The Labyrinth.

    Prayer For Inner Healing
    Learning to forgive as we have been

  12. Luther’s Table Talk XC
    God delights in our temptations, and yet hates them; he delights in them when they drive us to prayer; he hates them when they drive us to despair. The Psalm says: An humble and contrite heart is an acceptable sacrifice to God. Therefore, when it goes well with you, sing and praise God with a hymn: goes it evil, that is, does temptation come, then pray: ?For the Lord has pleasure in those that fear him;and that which follows is better: and in them that hope in his goodness, for God helps the lowly and humble, seeing he says: Thinkest thou my hand is shortened that I cannot help? He that feels himself weak in faith, let him always have a desire to be strong therein, for that is a nourishment which God relishes in us.

  13. @Dutch #55
    No Dutch, I wasn’t offended.

    Carl, Thanks for digging up the Luther quote. I was hoping somebody else would chime in on that.

    More evidence of mysticism and other “novel” prayer techniques in the LCMS? Here’s a link that somebody just sent me today: This was a seminar that occurred in Texas in July called “Reclaim! recovering and restoring the healing ministry of Jesus in the LCMS. Oddly, I never knew we’d lost it.

    “It’s time to reclaim the healing ministry of Jesus in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. For three exciting, informative, and experiential days, St. John Lutheran Church’s School of Praying for Healing will present a non-charismatic approach to praying for healing.”

    Guest speakers included DP Larry Stoterau, and Rev. Steve Stutz speaking on soaking prayer. You can listen to Chris Rosebrough here if you’re not familiar with soaking prayer:

  14. Handy tip to remember:

    When some approach to praying is described as “a non-charismatic approach,” you can be pretty certain it is a kooky charismatic approach.

  15. Well, as the man says, “It ain’t your grandfather’s church.” So whaddaya expect, already? The question is: If it ain’t my grandfather’s church no more, WHOSE church is it, anyway? Now that’s something to think about.

  16. Johannes,
    You know who’s church this is, it’s why we post here. My Grandpa knew, it’s what he taught all of us, kids. Odd, that was so willingly thrown over. It belongs to the Author of the Faith, ya know…Christ? The sad thing is, we know that, but it seems they who dwell in the high places, have forgotten how to practice that belief & seem to have forgotten Who’s Church, it really is.

  17. Johannes,
    Lavender popes, velvet elvis’, marketing excs, and positive experience life coaches, oh my. The la la land of PT Barnum’s & snake oil men, that’s who it belongs to at the moment, and who have designs on keeping it that way. “give ’em what they think they want, and they’ll pay any price to keep it.”
    How far did that get Warren & Saddleback…wonder if they met their “need” today.
    “Soak the flock red, so you stay in the “black”. Purpose driven, ahh….but to who’s purpose? Not anyone I know, or believe in.

  18. @Scott Diekmann #69
    @Carl Vehse #68

    • How to pray for extended times for chronic diseases — Reclaim retreat

    Scott, Carl,
    The Mansfield Texas “Reclaim” thing is rather sad.

    Pastor Bill & Sheila Dasch, there, have a son with leukemia.
    (He must be in his 20’s by now.)

    During the year before this ‘retreat’ was advertised, he was at Houston Medical Center quite awhile. (Prayers were requested on m2m.)

    Some months after the retreat, he was reported to have a relapse.
    I don’t know the present situation.

    Bill Dasch was an Associate at St Mark, Houston, when I was a member there, and some time after. When I met him, his reputation was “10 minute sermon, 3-4 fishing stories or other jokes”. Later on he gave some pretty good sermons.
    His doctorate is earned, in Education with emphasis in counseling.

    Art Duttchen called my attention to the retreat.
    Art was a self-described charismatic Pastor.

  19. @Dutch #73

    If you remember, one of Jerry’s earliest commands was, “Get out your checkbooks.” I truly don’t believe we could contribute more money than he could spend if we wanted to. And there is the intervening district layer to soak most of it up. He led the way in building that, I believe, so he has only himself to thank for it. His PLI confederates know how to spend, too.

    FTM, we have some pretty elaborate mausoleums built by (claiming to be) confessionals in Texas, too. Power corrupts, even on a smaller scale.

  20. The baneful effects of the charismatic influence are more widespread than I had thought. If anyone wants details, see me in FW. Can’t post them here.

    This stuff poses a danger to the church, and to those outside the church that is very great, and downright frightening.

  21. Helen,
    Oh…do I ever remember. The ones who tithe, will do so (no matter what, but to whom is elective), they know Malachai 3:8-11. The ones who don’t tithe, don’t care about said verses, and won’t tithe no matter what. Those who are in the know, as far as this muck & mire are concerned, know Malachai 3:8-11, does not mention any “synod” nor progressive “missional-outreach” program.
    This centering prayer/contemplative prayer, is more dangerous than that. The encourages seducing spirits, divination if you will, yep…that is really what this is. That price,when paid, comes more dear than any monolith Synod could build, or knock down for that matter. Johannes is right, this isn’t just briars, this is a fatal fall,… a cliff.
    Perputrated by those charged with protecting & guarding the flock, from just such a fall.
    I teach my boys:

    “He who holds the purse strings, holds power over nations”

    “Power corrupts, absolute (concentrated) power, corrupts, absolutely.”

    “When you control the flow of information, you control a people”

    Not only are the above violated by this current oligarchy, but those who cry ‘fie, my lord, fie” are either vilified or rendered mute. How Emergent of them. Thanks St Louis, I can put more Bibles in hands who have never held one, than I can pay for bricks in the next museum. At least, those who receive their 1st Bible, will know what the Scriptures say, those who run this Synod have departed from said same. The irony, many pay the dearest price for the Book our current governing Synod so willingly throws away.

  22. @Claudia #78
    I will be at the Lutheran Concerns meeting in Fort Wayne (FW) on January 17-18. I hope to meet a few of the Brothers, Sisters, Cousins, Aunts and Uncles of John the Steadfast there.
    If anyone wants the details of what I alluded to, I will share them. Sorry about being so mysterious–it was unintentional. Perhaps the Webmeister can post the details of this conference.


  23. Johannes,
    Wish better half & I could be there, would love to finally meet you & so many well loved other brothers. I have a bottle of Pepcid w/a bow on it for you. LOL
    I just thought, per description, it behooved, it should be, the more testosterone laiden that should attend that event. Hence the trepidation of Feb.’s event. Let us know what one would have to do, to gain entrance into the Curmudgeon Club, w/card, -t shirt, mind you. My better half is rather interested. In a by proxy sort of way. I do so enjoy our bantor, a most Happy New Year to ya!
    As always, In Christ,

  24. @Norm Fisher #80
    There is no meeting on the 17th, but a few of us will be there that day. Makes for not falling asleep during the presentations. On the other hand, if anyone want to meet, schmooze, and banter away, I’m always ready. The Curmudgeon Club hasn’t called an official meeting yet, as far as I know, but that may happen. As a past president, I’m kind of out of the loop.




  25. Last year, the Lutheran Bible Institute in California (LBIC), had Tony Campolo, a Baptist, speak on “The Power of Prayer” at Concordia University Irvine ( I didn’t go, but I did check Campolo’s web site and I learned that he is one of those who promotes centering prayer. Later, I asked the Rev. Dr. Stephen Mueller, chairman of CUI’s theology department and he said they had nothing to do with it. I thought they should have had veto power over such an event, but he assured me they did not. Thus what I say here should NOT be taken as a criticism of CUI’s theology department, which, from what I hear, is pretty sound.

    LBIC has some kind of agreement with CUI. I do not know the details.

    I missed the announcement from July and only now learned that the synod is promoting centering prayer.

    I first heard about centering prayer from an article that Don Matzat wrote against it when he was the host of “Issues, Etc.” It was being promoted by the LWML and AAL. That article can be found at .

    Labyrinths are a different topic, but I do know of one LCMS church that has an outdoor painted one (I stopped by to take a look at it several years ago). This church was Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in La Mirada, CA. At , it is listed as Fountain of Life Lutheran Church, so I don’t know if that is a mistake or if the church has changed its name or if the labyrinth is still there. Shortly after I read about the labyrinth in one of the Pacific Southwest District’s weekly emails, our pastor needed to take a Sunday off (for vacation or something, I don’t remember what the reason was) and the only person he was able to find to do pulpit supply was the pastor who had recently retired from the church with the labyrinth. I told my pastor that I was suspicious about this man, but that I didn’t have any hard evidence. In his sermon, he used this quote,

    He drew a circle that shut me out
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
    But love and I had the wit to win;
    We drew a circle that took him in.

    (apparently by Edwin Markham, whoever he is)

    In context this seemed to me to be an endorsement of David Benke’s sin at the Oprahfest at Yankee Stadium. Later, that pastor showed up on a list of David Benke supporters posted at the web site.

    After the service, I asked him if he had had anything to do with the labyrinth at his former church. He said he had and that it was paid for by a member of that congregation in memorial of her son, who had died of AIDS. I had done some research before he came and learned that the fellow he had instruct the congregation in the use of the labyrinth had been interviewed on a radio program called “Gay B.C.” On that program, he talked about the fact that he was a secular Jew and his homosexual lover in Berlin. The pastor responded that he didn’t know the guy was a homosexual. The most important reason that this fellow should not have been invited to instruct the congregation in how to use some “spiritual tool” is that he was NOT a Christian. I hope there don’t know of any other LCMS churches that have labyrinths.

  26. Does anyone have an update on the LCMS official outlook on centering prayer, labyrinths, etc. at this time? Has anything changed since this was first posted? It is of concern to me. Thanks!

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