Good Stuff Found on the Web — Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 2

A week ago I brought to your attention part one of Frank Gillespie’s series on his experience at one of the South East District’s seminars on Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Formation. Frank has now posted the second in the series that’s pretty scary reading .. the fact that this is happening within the LCMS. Frank is transcribing the audio from the presentation so that he correctly quotes the presenter.

A few low points:

When the issue of translations came up someone asked what the presenter’s preference was he responded that the NIV is his preferred translation but that he also likes to have his copy of the Message close by. The presenter said “the Word has power so whatever translation you can understand” is the one you should use.

I don’t know about you, but I would not have “The Message” in my list of bibles to use


The presenter then said “the appointed text then goes on to verse sixteen, I don’t mean to skip over the Lord’s Prayer, but we’ll try to pick it up at verse sixteen

The fact that a discussion on how to pray the presenter skips right past the Lord’s Prayer …. ?


One of the more unusual statements was when one of the participants said that singing helped her focus a bit and helped her to deal with her distractions. The presenter responded [18:03] with “yes, singing. Sometimes we will have musicians and they bring their guitars and we’ll be singing together, and that really helps and moves us. I don’t know what you do at your contemporary service but I love when they have a time of prayer and praise at the beginning, about twenty minutes of singing, it really does move you into worship and prayer, it’s powerful. Ours, (his congregation) we sing, in the beginning of our normal service, it’s a traditional service, and somehow, the old German Lutheran Hymns just don’t do it for me in getting me into worship. I’m not against them by the way but I need more.”

The old German Lutheran Hymns just don’t do it for me” …… ?


When questioned [1:16:45] on if we can trust what comes from our minds and how we hold what we think might be right up to the doctrines of the church the presenter said this:

“That’s a hazard in our church body because we do place high value on correct interpretation and, and I’m not putting that down, I think that the truth of doctrine of our church and understanding of texts is kind of a foundation upon which we build on. But when go into prayer on a text we’re not sitting there studying our notes first so we get it right. This is not about getting it right. If we believe that the Holy Spirit is in charge here, I think the Holy Spirit the one getting it right for us. He’s uses all our knowledge and background and Scripture and all that but that can be (correct interpretation and doctrines) a tremendous distraction to “am I really understanding it correctly here?”

Some things just are beyond comment … so anything that jumps out at us while reading scripture is from the Holy Spirit? Does the devil have no power in our world?


When one of the participants said [2:38:30] that she would never teach her child to confess his sins to a pastor but rather she would tell him to go talk with her spouse a certain slack jawed yokel was heard defending both corporate and private confession and absolution when those with a masters of divinity failed to do so. The presenter ended up saying:

“I wouldn’t want to debate right and wrong because both are right. I would respect where ever each person is at in the room around this issue because it’s not right or wrong, God’s forgiveness is valid what ever way. I would just say that if this is something that might be helpful and if you’d like to experience it. I have found the experience, I don’t do this all the time, but the experience of private confession for me there is a power and I can’t explain it other than I know that the Holy Spirit is there.”



Head on over to Putting Out the Fire to read more.


About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Good Stuff Found on the Web — Prayer And Spiritual Formation Workshop Part 2 — 19 Comments

  1. I was not at the retreat but according to the Retreat Preparations file from this page on the SED site Rev. Arthur M. Umbach or a member of the Spiritual Life Team facilitates the retreats. Rev. Umbach is the Director of Spiritual Life. I do not know who is on the Spiritual Life Team. This page indicates that Robert Mulholland is a significant influence. I am not familiar with him or his books but guess others here are.

  2. Alex,
    Those are great, but really frightening links. Did you happen to browse through the section Forms of Personal Prayer? They get more creepy as you go along. Check out the
    Praying in Color! It sounds just like automatic handwriting!!!!

  3. “The fact that a discussion on how to pray the presenter skips right past the Lord’s Prayer …. ?”

    The motive behind why the Lord’s Prayer was skipped over was eluded to on the first night when reason was given for the why the Apostles HAD to develop these new prayer forms that were lost by the church. I don’t think everybody heard the comment but I did write what was said in my notes and brought the issue up when the presenter sat with me for lunch. That conversation is the subject of post 4. I promise that I’m not trying to string anyone along here but rather I think that conversation and the presenter defending his position deserve special treatment.

  4. “Praying in Color” reminds me of mind mapping.

    I’ve been mind mapping Genesis as I’m reading it. That means, although I am not an artist at all, I’ve been creating drawings to summarize the chapters as I’m reading – my note taking strategy. So I’m thinking there are aspects of Praying in Color, that is the actual drawing process which is useful. Humans think in pictures and images. I suspect that in between the drawing part of the book are very questionable things though. But the drawing part — I’m not sure that’s dangerous.

  5. Mary Ellyn,
    Mapping, is used in creative writing, mathmatics, etc. But…this isn’t really what praying in color is.
    If you read just the first bit, and see what she did, that isn’t really mind mapping, it is adding a degree of spiritual formation & that makes it more like automatic handwriting. Your in essence “engaging” God (His Spirit) to “form” or channel your prayer. EW!

    The title of this book & program is
    Praying in Color, Drawing a New Path to God.

  6. I went to the website — a quick scan said there were problems, but I liked the drawings. It was the ‘drawing’ that catch my attention — not all the other spiritual stuff. That’s definitely concerning! ‘Drawing’, just like some people journal in words is the part that I think may not be a problem. People keep prayer journals — why not draw in addition to words.

    My son is horrible when comes to taking notes (he’s a 7th grader) when he’s reading, however if he “maps” (makes a web, draws, whatever you want call it) then he successfully remembers and it helps him expand on what needs to be written down and recalled.

    I’m EWy on most of her book from what I can see both at her website and at Amazon where you can peek inside the book.

  7. Mary Ellyn,
    Taking notes, using mapping, is very different than “drawing a new path to God”. Kids are using their minds, to form ideas for a purpose, when this is used academically.
    That is NOT prayer. When we add the “spiritual aspect” it changes dramatically!

    Christ Himself, spoke often on prayer, in parables, and in teaching us how to pray. That isn’t even taking into account Paul, Peter, John, or anyone after the Gospels. Just Christ, and what He taught us. Where is Christ or what He taught us in this? You will only find you, as He is now dependant on you, to elevate yourself. That is aScriptural. Shame on them for the host of things the SED encourages! For shame!

    How does what “Praying in Color, Drawing a New Path to God” do good for a child of Christ?
    You don’t even need to BE a child of Christ to use this, look at the testamonials! It the “invoking or channeling” the god of your understanding. That, is automatic writting.

    Guns, for example, are not dangerous. If they are laying on a table, they are a mere object. They can do no harm, unless they are picked up.
    But, if one picks it up, with the intent of using it for a purpose that is not “good” it is the most dangerous thing to life. So is this, dangerous to the life we know in Christ & what He taught? YES!
    New Paths to God? Taught by whom & what background? The more I hear of this, the more I understand the personality of those who teach such….HERESY.
    If Christ said He is the Way, why would I practice, LET ALONE TEACH OTHERS, a false “new or improved” path? S Macbeth, does that. Look through the links & descriptions that Alex provided. Read, click, read & play a bit. What about any of those links doesn’t scream,
    “danger, danger, will robinson!”?
    And this, is a DISTRICT ENCOURAGING ALL THIS. Praying through Color is just ONE way. Look at the rest. Google & browse. Scary stuff, and no one is saying boo, let alone…

  8. Truly I just liked the drawing – promoting the book is not what I am interested in at all.

  9. Mary Ellyn,
    If you can draw, kudos, what a wonderful gift!
    I’m not trying to do anything, but help you see, that this is not the way to use it or let someone teach this as “prayer”.
    Prayer is such a blest honor & privilge for us!!!! When the temple curtain was torn in twain, all the verses & chapters written in Scripture pertaining to prayer or how we should pray, does this even remotely resemble, if not teach “another” or “different Gospel” in regards to prayer, I don’t know what a better example would be.
    It is hard to see, as many say, “I know what He meant”, but just because they can say that, doesn’t mean they still aren’t selling “serpent oil” or aren’t selling the best most viable lie in history…”did God really say…”

  10. Dutch,

    You are correct that this book has false theology in it but Mary Ellyn has said she is not endorsing the book. If someone wants to draw pictures when they pray I think that is OK. It is not necessary but OK. If they think those pictures bring them the voice of God, you are right, that is wrong but I think Mary Ellyn is past that.


  11. Thank you Pastor Rossow — I can’t draw, but I can doodle. I know clearly the means that God uses in Word and Sacrament.

  12. Pastor Rossow,
    I know, Mary Ellyn isn’t doing this, however, by now we know here at BJS, by this dialogue, others do these things & much worse. And at times, those who do, defend their practice or the practice of others. See Pastor Louderback, on Mollie’s Women’s Laity thread.

    Until will are willing to say “no, stay away from this” as long or as loud as we can, wherever we are or find it, as long as we have to….posting these facts, really “does” nothing to improve, correct, rebuke, admonish, or encourage, anyone.
    Let alone an entire district who counsels & encourages what they do in the link Alex provided. Talk, fine, but at some point, we must choose to “do” or at least say NO MORE.

  13. Dutch,

    You are right that there are some who read BJS who might fall into this error. I just wanted to make sure that you heard Mary Ellyn’s rejection of this error.


  14. On a positve note, it was good to see the LCMS generally get away from the NIV. Although I would rather have seen them adopt the NASB over the ESV, the NIV is one of the poorer translations out there, in my opinion. However, I don’t want to be like the fundamentalists that say, “KJV or nothing,” as if KJV is the directly inspired translation.

    The stuff in the above article is scary. Our feelings, experiences, and emotions are tainted with our sin, so relying on them is dangerous. My grandmother died a few years ago, and I asked the Methodist minister to “go heavy” on the Gospel. I nearly laughed when he asked me, “What does the Gospel mean to you?” This is the result of the kind of stuff promoted above. It’s called the subjective Gospel.

  15. “This is not about getting it right. If we believe that the Holy Spirit is in charge here, I think the Holy Spirit the one getting it right for us. He’s uses all our knowledge and background and Scripture and all that but that can be (correct interpretation and doctrines) a tremendous distraction to “am I really understanding it correctly here?”

    Can any of us imagine a teacher, a surgeon, a pilot, a cop etc. etc. thinking this way? “Oops! I didn’t get it right! I didn’t undertand the procedure correctly! Sorry, man.”

  16. “Head on over to Putting Out the Fire to read more.”

    I did.

    In the discussion of Lectio Divina, the article said:
    “The presenter told us [1:12:30] that youth were very open to learning new prayer forms and “youth directors could really have fun with this one.”

    I’m concerned, because I know that a lot of material for children teens are directly marketed toward that age group, and many adults never realize what is truly being taught to their kids.

    Perhaps this could be material for another month: Beware of what is being directed toward LCMS youth in the name of “Lutheranism.” Even if you (or your pastor) is keeping such things away from the youth of your congregation, it is making an inroads into the syod (and the future of our synod). Has any of this crept into your church library? Just some thoughts.

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