In doing my research for my "special project" (hint hint) I've come across contemplative spirituality A fascinating page that deals with the growth of contemplative spirutality in American Christianity and has some great information. Here is an article on contemplative prayer:
Is Contemplative Prayer Christian Prayer?
Topics: Contemplative Prayer
The origin of contemplative prayer and its spread from catholic mystics into protestant circles was recently discussed in a revealing article published by a number of media outlets (click here)
While contemplative prayer has been taught over centuries by Catholic mystics like St. Bernard, St. Teresa of Avila and Thomas Merton, its most recent revival came through people like the Rev. Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk, and the Rev. Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest who died in 1996.
Its spread to non-Catholic corners has been spurred by Protestant thinkers like Richard Foster, a Quaker teacher; the Rev. Rick Warren of "Purpose-Driven" fame; and Brennan Manning, a former Catholic priest popular among evangelicals.
"This is really a very old Christian form of prayer which does not use words or active intellectual meditation," said Sister Marianne Burkhard, who leads a class in contemplative prayer at Holy Family Catholic Parish. "It is what is often called the 'receptive form of prayer' which cultivates stillness and interior silence."
The head of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria's tribunal isn't surprised that Protestant interest in contemplative prayer has grown.
"It's really a Christian prayer," she said. "It was developed mostly before the Reformation and it's based on Scripture. You can practice this from whatever denomination you come from. (Protestants) have found that this spirituality coming from the old Catholic tradition or even the newer one is very compatible with their own expression of their own denominational faith."
Foster, Warren, and Manning - common names in many evangelical circles. But is the type of prayer promoted in the article above really "Christian"? The Westminster Catechism, a product of the protestant reformation defines prayer this way:
Q. 98. What is prayer?
A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.
Contemplative prayer, on the otherhand, is thought to be a way of obtaining knowledge of God by emptying one's mind and receiving/experiencing:
Burkhard defined contemplative prayer as "the growing and deepening knowledge of God."
"At some point, you realize you're starting to understand faith better or that you get insight into your life or the difficulties of your life, so that contemplation is often something that works slowly in you. At some point, you realize, 'Oh my goodness, I have really learned a lot and see things differently.'"
Contemplative prayer is usually preceded by centering prayer, Burkhard said, a period typically lasting 20 minutes during which the person praying clears away active thinking.
"You try to get away from all your thoughts and emotions and perceptions and images that float constantly through our minds," Burkhard said. "The teaching is that you choose a word which is called the 'sacred word,' which can be something like 'Jesus,' 'Mary,' 'Let go,' 'Listening,' anything that is simple and signifies my intention to be present to God."
The person praying then silently says that word in order to "let these other thoughts go," the sister said.
How is it that one knows without thinking or understands by repetitious utterances which have no meaning? The method may give the individual a temporary inner peace or calm the emotions, but the Bible, received through faith, is the means for knowing God.
How did we come to know God except through the Gospel, revealed in His word? [1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.]
We can only know God as He makes Himself known to us. God has communicated Himself in person, words and propositions which have been recorded for us in Scripture. He is not silent but has accommodated Himself to our lowly capacity that we might apprehend His purpose. Our faith is not based in any speculation or man-made philosophy but is based on the historic Christian faith which is recorded in the completed canon of Scripture. The Scriptures are without error (inerrant and infallible) in the original manuscripts, and represent the supreme and final authority for our faith and practice. The Bible is our guide in all matters regarding doctrine, church practice, counseling and individual behavior. We should, therefore, always be reforming our thoughts of God in order to be more God-honoring & consistent with the Word of God. The Scriptures were written by divinely inspired humans and are Godss revelation of Himself to everyone. (Exodus 24:4;Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21) - Monergism