PRISCILLA SHIRER AND CONTEMPLATIVE/CENTERING PRAYER

Apprising Ministries reminded you recently in Beth Moore Attacks The Protestant Reformation that both Moore and Priscilla Shirer were part of the Be Still…And Know That I Am God DVD, which is a veritable ode to a form of meditation in an altered state of consciousness known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP).

And as I’ve mentioned before, this so-called prayer is the very crown jewel of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), which itself is actually a romaticized version of neo-Gnostic Roman Catholic mysticism.

You probably know that this CSM is being promulgated throughout largely pretending to be Protestant evangelicalism under the guise of so-called Spiritual Formation e.g. that taught by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, along with his trusty spiritual twin, and Southern Baptist minister, Dallas Willard along to give this asceticism-lite neo-Pietism a thin veneer of scholastic respectability.

In fact both Foster and Wilard were also involved in the Be Still DVD released in 2006 by 20th Century Fox featuring:

contemplatives [such] as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Calvin Miller and Priscilla Shirer, along with some names that may surprise you? Max Lucado, Beth Moore. An acknowledgement list at the end includes Brennan Manning and Dr. Charles Stanley.
(Online source)

The Biography section of Shirer’s tellingly titled Going Beyond Ministries tells us:

Priscilla Shirer is a BIBLE teacher.  Through the expository teaching of the Word of God to women, her desires to see women not only know the uncompromising truths of Scripture intellectually but experience them practically by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Priscilla is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, with a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies. She has been a conference speaker for major corporations, organizations, and Christian audiences across the United States and the world. (Online source)

So we can see Shirer is educated, though from what I seen of her work, we’ll have to agree to disagree concerning her supposed “expository teaching of the Word of God.” We’re also told that Prisiclla Shirer was mentored by the man-centered motivatonal speaker Zig Ziglar:

she received a request to facilitate a Bible study at Ziglar Training Systems in Dallas, Texas. It was that day that she met international motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, who became not only her friend but also her mentor. She was asked to come on board as one of the company’s motivational speakers and corporate trainers. (Online source)

Shirer is also the Daughter of Dr. Tony Evans, [and] Follows In Her Father’s Footsteps:

When Priscilla Shirer steps into a pulpit, you don’t have to wonder if she’s related to Texas pastor Tony Evans. She carries his mantle with grace… When 35-year-old Priscilla Shirer stepped onto the platform at LifeWay’s Deeper Still conference in Orlando, Florida, last September, she was dressed stylishly yet casually, as a woman her age might be if she were going out shopping or to visit a friend. But there was nothing low-key about her message–or her presentation of it. (Online source, bold mine)

You may recall my discussing the Deeper Still conferences of LifeWay, which is the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), in Beth Moore And Lifeway (SBC) Head Deeper Still Into Deception. More on what I mean by that, and how it ties into the subjects of CSM and CCP in a moment; first in the article cited above, which originally appeared in Charisma Magazine associated with the charismatic movement, we’re also told by SBC Bible teacher Beth Moore:

“[Priscilla] is quite possibly the most gifted communicator I have ever witnessed,” says consummate Bible teacher Beth Moore, who has ministered alongside Shirer and Kay Arthur at Deeper Still events for the last three years and has been on a ministry circuit for more than 15… (Online source)

And in addition we learn:

Shirer considers it an honor to teach nationwide alongside Moore and veteran Bible teacher Kay Arthur–whom she sees as mentors–in the Deeper Still conferences, which draw tens of thousands of women per event… Shirer believes she is becoming a bridge between conservative and charismatic audiences as well. About eight years ago, God began to bring people into her life who “were led by the Spirit of God, heard the voice of God, expected the power of God, believed in miracles from God–those kinds of people who had a radical faith and were willing to take risks,” she says. (Online source)

Being a Southern Baptist pastor (for now), it’s this kind of highly subjective individual experience that is my concern here; and all the more so as we read:

Shirer went to speak at an event and was dismayed when she discovered that only about 50 women were present. But the event turned out to be life-changing–one of the most powerful spiritual encounters of her life. “It was one of the first times I can recall actually feeling the presence of God in a tangible way,” she says. “It reminded me … of what Isaiah may have been talking about in Isaiah 6 when he said, ‘The train of God’s glory filled the temple.’”

Shirer says God reminded her that day that He would rather be with 50 women who are serious about honoring His presence and going with the flow of what He wants to do than with 4,000 women who are worried about the program. Shirer’s inner revival led to the official launch of her Dallas-based ministry, Going Beyond Ministries. (Online source)

Notice that her “Dallas-based ministry” comes from “Shirer’s inner revival,” which you’ll see involves the Lord “speaking” to her:

In her case, God was speaking to her about going to “the place of abundant living–an experiential relationship with God.” “He said: ‘Priscilla, you’ve been at this mountain long enough. There is a new place that I want to take you to,’” Shirer says. In light of God’s challenge, Shirer naturally desired to “go beyond” personally. (Online source)

It’s Spiritually Dangerous To Go Beyond Holy Scripture Like The Roman Catholics Mystics

As soon as you hear someone claiming to teach in the Name of Jesus Christ use the term “go beyond” it should immediately arrest your attention. Go beyond, what; invariably it’s going beyond Scripture. Here’s the bottom line: In the Bible we know we hear God’s Voice; but as soon as we go beyond into “inner,” i.e highly subjective, experiences we then open a door that is leading so many today into the spiritual deception of this spurious CSM—the romanticized Counter Reformation spirituality of apostate (at best) Roman Catholic mystics—as taught e.g. by Foster and Willard.

You’re about to see this has slowly been happening to Priscilla Shirer herself. We begin with the below from Shirer’s Going Beyond Ministries website; under Ministry FAQs is a question that concerns the aforementioned Be Still DVD asking, “What is ‘contemplative prayer?’” The answer (seen below) gives us much reason for concern:



(Online source, click number 6)

As someone whose background is Comparative Religion, for years now, I’ve studied meditation from primary sources from a whole variety of religious backgrounds. And in addition I’ve also been covering the rise of the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emerging Church aka Emerging Church, which has CSM at the rotten core of its Liberalism 2.o “big tent” Progressive Christianity it’s now calling Emergence Christianity. So for this reason I’ve then had occasion to study the so-called “contemplative tradition” of Christianity from its own sources for the better part of five plus years now.

Shirer’s spokesperson is right when they say that the words “contemplative prayer and meditation can be controversial”; however, they begin to jump the track when they go on to tell us that “as believers” we need to “try to understand their place in our faith.” Contemplative prayer—also known as Centering Prayer—and mediation in an altered state of consciousness, were never part of the faith of genuine Christian believers; it originated with apostate hermits in the third century. [1] Next time I’ll show you that what’s said below is, at best woefully naïve; or, at worst, more than a bit disingenuous:

Just to be clear, we believe in prayer. And the type we are referring to is the kind described in the Word of God. The kind where believers in Jesus Christ can engage in communion with God in which we speak to Him and by the Holy Spirit, He speaks to us. We are convinced that the Bible describes prayer as a two-way street. Clearly, Scripture teaches us that prayer does involve meditation in which the believer chooses to “listen” to God by contemplating and concentrating on Scripture and God as He is revealed therein.

This is what separates Christian meditation from all other types. The Christian has much to gain from the command of God Himself that we “meditate on [the Scriptures]” (Joshua 1:8), “draw near to listen” (Eccl 5:1) and “be still” (Psalm 42:10) so that we can see God far more clearly then we can in the normal frantic rhythm of life. Quiet meditation (on Scripture) and the discipline of listening is a real part of prayer that I believe Scripture clearly promotes and encourages. By participating in the “Be Still” project, we by no means meant to convey our agreement with the theological viewpoints and positions of other participants yet we did believe (and still do) in the over-arching theme of the resource and that is why I agreed to do it. (Online source)

I have no reason to doubt that Priscilla Shirer et al believe prayer is important; however, that said, nowhere in Scripture do we find contemplative prayer taught, such as promulgated in that “Be Still project.” As far as the quote of the Scripture “Be still,” and I believe they mean Psalm 46:10, as you’ll see in Does Psalm 46:10 Teach Contemplative/Centering Prayer?, the answer is: No, it doesn’t. Mystics always point to that verse, ripping it from its context, as a proof-text for their transcendental-lite meditation CCP; but in context God is telling us not to strive with Him, but rather, to trust Him.

We’re then told about the Lord’s command for “[q]uiet mediation” upon Scripture”; and as pastor, I personally encourage those in my local church to do just that because it is a means of grace ordained by God. However CCP, and some supposed “discipline of listening” while doing so, is not; no matter how much Priscilla Shirer and others may “believe” the Bible “clearly promotes and encourages” such things. And despite the disclaimer that they didn’t mean “to convey” agreement, it’s simply beyond question the Be Still project was openly advocating contemplative prayer; to be in it was to promote CCP.

This is patently obvious, as we can see from a pro-contemplative prayer article “Be Still” Invites Viewers to Discover Contemplative Prayer carried by the mainstream evangelical website Crosswalk.com:

a new DVD, ”Be Still,” aims to help you discover the time-honored practice of contemplative prayer… “Be Still” creator Amy Reinhold wanted to pursue the project with her husband Judge (who narrates the film) after they experienced the power of contemplative prayer in their small group Bible study…

You can engage in contemplative prayer anywhere at any time, either by yourself or with others. Essentially, “Be Still” mentions, you become a portable sanctuary as you do… The modern Christian leaders interviewed on “Be Still” also discuss some Christians throughout history – such as Francis of Assisi, C.S. Lewis, Evelyn Underhill, Madame Guyon, and Brother Lawrence – whose practice of contemplative prayer inspires them.
(Online source, bold theirs)

Lord willing, another time we’ll deal further with the mystics mentioned above; suffice here to note the Be Still DVD has an entire section on the Contemplative Figures Throughout History, where they are presented as positive examples of “prayer.” Next we’re informed that Shirer’s “a proponent of the Christian encountering God in a fresh way that is relevant to his or her life,” whatever that is. Shirer’s ministry then tells us that it believes “this can occur when we wait for God quietly with our Bibles outspread before us. As we ponder His Word, the Holy Spirit applies it to the circumstances of our lives”.

This would be true; if, that was all we were talking about, but as you’ll begin to see next time, clearly it isn’t. And Shirer’s spokesperson is correct when they say that proper Biblical meditation ala Reformation theology would not be “mystical.” They go on:

In the New Age movement and Eastern religions the goal of meditation is to reach a state of “nothingness” or “emptiness” by clearing the mind. In Christianity, the focus of meditation is to fill the mind with thoughts of God as one ponders (the Hebrew definition of “meditate” from the Old Testament) the Scriptures and God Himself.

Practically speaking, the disciplines of solitude and silence have made a big difference in the life of this busy mother of two who, like so many others, is caught in the frantic pace of dinner dishes, errands and the demands of work and ministry. Priscilla has found a sweet peace in making time to be still in God’s presence. Taking Jesus’ own example to “depart to a lonely place to pray”(Mark 1:35) causes her to turn off the distractions that seek to steal her attention from Him and focus on God as He is revealed in His Word. (Online source)

The approach of New Age and Eastern meditation is somewhat different than the Christian version, which was adapted from Eastern religions because they are pantheistic (all is God); however, the goal of “transformation” remains the same. You need to understand “the disciplines of solitude and silence” refer to the mystic practice of meditation in an altered state of consciousness; it doesn’t simply mean to go somewhere alone and sit without saying any words. That’s just the pretending to be Protestant make-over CCP, which CSM advocates also refer to as “wordless prayer,” has been given in recent years.

Although Jesus did spend time alone, meditation in an altered state of consciousness was not part of the Judaism of His day; He didn’t practice it or teach it. We can learn this from the Scripture itself; in fact, Luke tells us that one time Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Note carefully what the inspired text tells us next: And he said to them, “When you pray, say” (Luke 11:2). If wordless CCP was as important as CSM proponents say it is, here was the perfect place for Jesus to teach it.

Notice, however, that the Master did not; and as a result, neither did His Apostles.

Colour 2010 GUEST SPEAKER Priscilla Shirer from Hillsong Church on Vimeo.

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Endnotes:

[1] I cover this in more depth in Origin Of Contemplative/Centering Prayer.

See also:

PRISCILLA SHIRER PROMOTING CONTEMPLATIVE/CENTERING PRAYER

CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY OF RICHARD FOSTER ROOTED IN THE EASTERN DESERT AND THOMAS MERTON

CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY/MYSTICISM AS METHODOLOGY FOR SPIRITUAL FORMATION

THE TERMINOLOGY TRAP OF “SPIRITUAL FORMATION”

DONALD WHITNEY AND SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES: SPIRITUALITY WITHOUT BOUNDARIES

DISCIPLINES TO DECEPTION IN SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

SOUTHERN BAPTIST SOUL SHAPING RETURN TO RELIGIOUS BONDAGE